Ellen G. White Writings

<< Back Forward >>

«Back «Hit «Prev. Pub.   Next Pub.» Forward»

Ms 109, 1909

Ms 109, 1909

Foundation Principles of Healthful Dressing

NP

1909

Compiled from previously published and unpublished sources.

As followers of the meek and lowly Jesus, we would not discourage the exercise of correct taste, neatness, and order in dress. While we are to guard against needless adorning and display, we are in no case to be indifferent in regard to our outward appearance. All about our persons and our homes is to be neat and attractive. In our dress we should ever seek that which is simple, comfortable, convenient, and appropriate. The youth are to be taught the importance of presenting an appearance above criticism, an appearance that honors God and the truth.

There are those who are careless of their apparel and are always harping on pride in dress. They think it a virtue to be untidy and to dress without order and taste. They class decency and neatness with pride and excuse themselves for their neglect of apparel, even upon the Sabbath, under pretense of carrying out that separation from the world which the Word of God requires of His people.

If these persons had an engagement to meet a friend honored by the world, and they wished to be especially favored by him, they would exert themselves to appear in his presence with the best and neatest apparel they could obtain. Yet when they meet upon the Sabbath to worship the great God, they think it is of no consequence in what dress they appear, or what is the condition of their person. In His house, which is as the audience-chamber of the Most High, where heavenly angels are in attendance, they assemble with but little respect or reverence. All who meet upon the Sabbath to worship God should, if possible, have neat, well-fitting, comely garments to wear in the house of worship.

Dress, An Index of Character

The dress and its arrangement upon the person are generally found to be an index of the man or woman. Christians are judged by the fruit they bear. While many are today making it their chief study to follow the ever-changing fashions of this world, we should be diligent in fashioning our characters after the Pattern given us in the Word of God. Our habits of eating, drinking, and dressing have a direct bearing upon our spiritual advancement.

To Shun Extremes

Christians should not take pains to make themselves a gazingstock by dressing differently from the world. If the world introduces a modest, convenient, healthful mode of dress, which is in accordance with the Bible standard, it will not change their relation to God or to the world to adopt it. But if, in following out the dictates of their faith and duty in respect to dressing healthfully and modestly, they find themselves out of fashion, they should not change their mode of dress in order to be like the world. They should manifest a noble independence, and a moral courage to be right, even if all the world differs from them. Christians should shun extremes, humbly pursuing a straightforward course, irrespective of censure or of applause. They should cling to the right for its own merits.

Not the Main Question

Neither is it best to make the subject of dress the main question in your religion. There is something richer to speak of. Talk of Christ; and when the heart is converted, everything that is out of harmony with the Word of God will drop off of itself.

While my writings are pointed and plain on the subject of simplicity in dress, I do not carry it on the front. It is not to be made of greater importance than the solemn, testing truth for this time.

Christian Women as Leaders

It is lamentable fact that many professed Christian women take the lead in patronizing the fashions of the world, and those who make no pretensions to religion follow in their footsteps. Some who are in humble circumstances, in their efforts to keep pace with the ever-changing styles of dress, endure privation and work far beyond their strength in order to retain their place in fashionable society. This temptation is so strong that some, in trying to gain their object, are guilty of dishonesty and theft. Many are led to ruin by the desire for self-adornment.

Professed Christians, who have by their example opened the door of temptation to their weak sisters, will have a fearful account to meet in the day of final reckoning. Inexperienced ones, charmed with the respect paid to those who dress stylishly, become so infatuated that nothing is too precious to exchange for artificial decorations.

If Christians women would lead out in the good work of reform, and set the example of dressing with neatness and simplicity, there would be a universal reform in dress. If they would work from a high and elevated platform, they would bring their eating and dressing into conformity with the laws of their being and into obedience to their moral obligations to God. There would be less money, less brain-nerve power, less physical strength squandered for artificial decorations to the sacrifice of natural beauty. We should then have more practical wives and mothers, and there would be a very happy change in many families that are now wretched because of their incorrect ideas of life.

In following the fashions, women are bending their shoulders to accept a cross heavy to bear. Should Christ demand of them so heavy a cross, so great a sacrifice, they would feel that it were indeed a burden unbearable. But Christ requires of His followers no cross so heavy as the one they subject themselves to in being the slaves of fashion.

Obedience to Physical Laws

God in His wisdom has established natural laws for the proper control of our dress, our appetites, and our passions; and He requires of us obedience in every particular. Our Creator made no mistake in fashioning the human body. God, who created everything that is lovely and glorious in nature, understood how to make the human form beautiful and healthy. The modern improvements upon His plan are insulting to the Creator. They deform that which He made perfect.

Many seem to think that they have a right to treat their bodies as they please; but they forget that their bodies are not their own. The Creator who formed them has claims upon them that they cannot lightly throw off.

Every violation of nature’s laws results in disease. Any course of action in eating, drinking, or dressing, that injures the fine human machinery, interferes with God’s order. Every needless transgression of the laws of our being is virtually a transgression of the law of God and is sin in the sight of Heaven.

Women especially are the victims of various maladies which might be lessened, if not entirely prevented, by right habits of living. A large share of their sufferings are attributable to their manner of dressing.

Reaction of the Mind on the Body

Every wrong habit which injures the health of the body reacts upon the mind. Many care-worn, nervous, anxious women are so because they have cheated themselves of the pure air that makes good blood, and the freedom of motion which sends the blood coursing through the veins, and gives live, health, and energy. Women, of all persons, need strength of mind and body to grapple with the ills and anxieties of life; but most of them are so weak and nerveless that they are conquered and crushed by them instead.

Circulation of the Blood

Perfect health depends upon perfect circulation. A good circulation purifies the blood and secures health, while a poor circulation renders the blood impure and induces congestion of the vital organs.

The dangers resulting from compression of the waist are not realized by the majority of women, although many able pens have treated upon the subject. It may be claimed that tight-lacing is now nearly or quite abandoned; but it is true today that the clothing of most women is worn too tight for the proper action of the vital organs. When the waist is compressed, the circulation of the blood is impeded, and the internal organs, cramped and crowded out of place, cannot perform their work properly. It is impossible, under such circumstances, to take a full inspiration. Thus the habit of breathing only with the upper part of the lungs is formed, and feebleness and disease are often the result.

In this way, women have done themselves untold injury; their power to do good in the family and in society is greatly lessened; and if they are mothers, their children are robbed of vitality.

Every garment worn should be so loose that in raising the arms, the clothing will be lifted also.

Protection of the Lower Limbs

The limbs, because farthest from the center of circulation, should have even more covering than any other portion of the body; yet they are often not suitably protected, while over the vital organs, where there is naturally more warmth than in other portions of the body, there is an undue proportion of covering.

If the limbs are properly clothed, fewer skirts are needed; and these should not be so heavy as to impede the motion of the limbs, nor so long as to gather the dampness and filth of the ground; and their weight should be suspended from the shoulders.

The dress should fit easily, obstructing neither the circulation of the blood nor the free, full, natural respiration. The feet also should be suitably protected from cold and dampness.

Clad in this way, a woman could take exercise in the open air, even in the dew of morning or evening, or after a fall of snow or rain, without fear of taking cold. Exercise in the invigorating air of heaven is necessary to the healthy circulation of the blood. It is the best safeguard against colds, coughs, and the internal congestions which lay the foundation for so many diseases.

How Consumption Is Often Contracted

Many suffer from pulmonary disease, not because they have inherited it, but because of some carelessness on their part—by breathing impure air, eating improper food, or dressing unhealthfully. If they would live much in the open air, taking full, deep inspirations, and if they would dress and eat in accordance with the principles of health, they would soon improve. Such persons should take special pains not to allow the extremities to become chilled.

It is essential to health that the chest should have room to expand to the fullest extent, so that the lungs may be enabled to take full inspirations of air. Many have died of consumption who might have lived their allotted term of years had they dressed in accordance with the laws of their being. The strength of the system is in a great degree dependent upon the amount of pure, fresh air breathed. If the lungs are restricted, the quantity of oxygen received into them is also limited, the blood becomes vitiated, and disease follows. Confinement indoors and consequent deprivation of the invigorating sunlight and the exhilaration of exercise in the pure, open air complete the ruin begun by wrong habits of dress, and feebleness and premature death are the result.

Some who are threatened with consumption will overcome the disease. Some, yes, many, will be healed through faith in the mighty Healer. “Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me,” the Lord says, “and he shall make peace with Me.” [Isaiah 27:5.] Others will be healed through proper eating, drinking, and dressing, and through living largely in the open air. To those who are suffering with this disease I would say, Live out-of-doors all you can. Take exercise regularly. Keep busy. Keep your heart free from all jealousy and evil surmising. Be cheerful, and ask God to help you to improve as fast as possible.

Weight on the Hips

Another error in the dress of women of the present day is that of wearing their skirts so that the weight is sustained by the hips alone. This heavy weight, pressing upon the bowels, drags them downward and causes weakness of the stomach and a feeling of lassitude, which leads the sufferer to incline forward. This tends further to cramp the lungs and prevents their proper action. The blood becomes impure, and the pores of the skin fail in their office; sallowness and disease result, and beauty and health are gone. Ladies may resort to cosmetics to restore the tint of the complexion, but they cannot thus bring back the glow of health. That which renders the skin dark and dingy also clouds the spirits and destroys cheerfulness and peace of mind. Every woman who values health should avoid hanging any weight upon the hips. The shoulders should be made to sustain the weight of every article of clothing upon the person.

Bands About the Waist

The habit of fastening the skirts about the body with bands is decidedly injurious to health; for exactly where these bands girt the waist are nerves and large blood vessels which carry the blood to the limbs. These veins and nerves should not be pressed upon, but allowed the most perfect freedom to fulfil the purpose for which nature designed them. God gave appropriate space for the free action of every organ of the body. He formed us in such a way that every muscle could come into play without trespassing upon the function of any other muscle.

The clothing should be worn so as to give the most perfect freedom of circulation, respiration, and the exercise of every portion of the body. This will go far to prevent the weaknesses which prevail among women to such an alarming extent.

The Children’s Clothing

Many mothers show very little wisdom in the way they dress their children. They allow the dictates of fashion to rule them to the great detriment of the health of the little ones. They dress their little girls in such a way that their waists are compressed at an early age, and the limbs are left with but slight, if any, protection, when the forces of nature need every advantage to enable them to perfect the physical frame. Little boys also are dressed so as to leave the lower limbs with far less protection than the upper part of the body.

The limbs, being remote from the center of circulation, demand greater protection instead of less. The veins which convey the blood to the extremities are large, providing for the flow of a sufficient quantity of blood to afford warmth and nutrition. But when the blood is chilled from these parts, the veins contract, and the circulation is retarded. Not only do the extremities suffer from cold, but through lack of nutrition the limbs do not attain their natural development.

A Cause of Failure in School

Children often sit in the schoolroom for hours with cold arms and feet, as the result of improper dressing. Exposure of the limbs drives the blood from the extremities to the internal organs, and the children become cross and fretful. They do not succeed in their studies as they should, because the brain is surcharged with blood; and the limbs, being deprived of needed nourishment, do not develop properly.

In the Home

The mother’s dress should be simple, but neat and tasty. The mother who wears torn, untidy clothes, who thinks any dress good enough for home wear, no matter how soiled or dilapidated it may be, gives her children an example that encourages them in untidiness. And more than this, she loses her influence over them. They cannot help seeing the difference between her appearance and that of those who dress neatly, and their respect for her is lessened.

Mothers, make yourselves attractive, not by wearing elaborately trimmed garments, but those that are neat and well fitting. Let your apparel teach a lesson of neatness. You cannot afford to lose the respect of your children.

Let the children’s clothing be simple also, and such as can be easily made and frequently changed, that they may cultivate a love for cleanliness and order. Ruffles and ornaments are unnecessary, and their care consumes precious time, and brings useless worry, thus tending to create an atmosphere of gloom and sadness.

Responsibility of Parents

I am instructed to say to parents, Do all in your power to help your children to have a pure, clean conscience. Teach them to feed on the Word of God. Teach them that they are the Lord’s little children. Do not forget that He has appointed you as their guardians. If you do not act in harmony with the principles of health reform, how can you expect your children to grow up well and strong, with active bodies and clear minds?

Disease of some sort is the sure result of improper eating and dressing. If parents will give their children proper food and dress them healthfully, and if they will diligently teach them the Word of the Lord, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, with much prayer to our heavenly Father, their efforts will be richly rewarded.

Parents, God is in earnest with you. Wake up, and work diligently to prepare your children for the heavenly home. Keep the eye of faith fixed steadfastly upon the Lord, and do not allow yourselves to be turned aside from the path of duty. Take up your neglected work, and separate from every sinful practice. Take hold upon the Lord as your helper, and walk in the way of His choosing. Then He will be honored and glorified in your lives.

There is a sacred, solemn work before us. Those who will make God their trust will be enabled to bring up their children in such a way that they will be saved from the diseases that are brought on by intemperance in eating and drinking, and by wrong habits of dressing. And their children will rise up and call them blessed, because they were not permitted to form wrong habits.

“The path of the just is as the shining light.” [Proverbs 4:18.] Parents are to gather up the rays of divine light coming to them through the channel of health reform. The warning is given, “Be not envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.” [Proverbs 24:1.] To women as well as to men is this warning given, to lead them to avoid the evils of the fashionable world. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” [Psalm 111:10.]

Self-Denial

To live for God means self-denial in the matter of dress. Much money is spent in the adornment of the person that ought to be devoted to the proclamation of the truth for this time. A world has been committed us; and in the name of Christ Jesus I ask you, my sisters, to dress plainly and neatly, but not for display. Do not try to follow every fashion; get a good fashion, and keep it. Let all see that you have a nobler aim in life than following the ever-changing styles of the world, that you are preparing for the higher life in the kingdom of God.

There are many who spend upon dress large sums of money—money that ought to be used in feeding and clothing those who are suffering from cold and hunger. Many of those for whom Christ died have but little, even of the cheapest, most common clothing, while others are spending thousands of dollars in the effort to satisfy the never-ending demands of fashion.

While our sisters are buying and making up their own and their children’s garments, let them think of the work in the Lord’s vineyard that is still waiting to be done. It is right to buy good material and to have it carefully made; this is economy. But rich trimmings are not needed, and to indulge in them is to spend for self-gratification money that should be put into God’s cause.

Learn the lesson of self-denial, and teach it to your children. Every penny is needed now in the work that must be done. The necessities of the suffering must be relieved; the naked must be clothed, the hungry fed. And the truth for this time must be proclaimed to those who know it not. By denying yourselves of that which is not necessary, you may have a part in this great work.

The money spent in the adornment of dress is a misappropriation of God’s money lent us to use in the advancement of His work. When I see our people spending money for needless trimmings and furnishings, I think of Jesus. He might have come to this world adorned with the glory of His kingly power; but He chose a life of self-denial and sacrifice. He came to this world in the garb of humanity. Those who follow in His steps will remember that every dollar they can spare is needed in the work that God has said shall be done in this world.

To my sisters who are inclined to spend much in trimming their clothes, I would say: Deny self, and put aside the money thus saved, to send to the help of those who need help so much.

Making an Idol of Self

My heart aches as I am shown how many there are who make self their idol. Christ has paid the redemption price for them. To Him belongs the service of all their powers. But their hearts are filled with self-love and the desire for self-adorning. They give no thought to the words, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” [Mark 8:34.] Self-gratification is hiding Christ from their view. They have no desire to walk before God in meekness and lowliness. They are not looking to Jesus; they are not praying that they may be changed into His likeness. Their cases are represented by the man who came to the king’s banquet clothed in his citizen’s dress. He had refused to make the preparation required by the king. The garment provided for him at great cost, he disdained to wear. To the king’s demand, “How camest thou in hither not having on the wedding garment?” he could answer nothing; for he was self-condemned. [Matthew 22:12.]

The Inward Adorning

Those who cherish and flatter self, fostering pride and vanity, giving to dress and to their appearance the time and attention that ought to be given to the Master’s work, are incurring a fearful loss. Many who are clothed in beautiful outward garments know nothing of the inward adorning that is in the sight of God of great price. Their fine clothing covers a heart that is sinful and diseased, full of vanity and pride. They know not what it means to “seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.” [Colossians 3:1.]

Dressing in Harmony With the Profession

In every particular our dress is to be in harmony with the truth that we profess. My sisters, I ask that you bring your manner of dressing into conformity with the rules given in the Bible. Then the religious services that you attend will be indeed love-feasts, hallowed by the presence of Christ, and you will have means with which to help you poorer sisters.

Remember also that these sisters may need something more than the aid of your means. Help them with your suggestions, your tact and skill. Show them how to dress simply and yet tastefully. This is missionary work that is acceptable to God.

Will you not talk these things over together, and see what you can do toward economizing in dress, that you may have something with which to help your poorer sisters? You are members of the royal family. Your names are enrolled in the Lamb’s book of life. Will you not dress in harmony with the instruction found in God’s Word? My sisters, it is not dress that makes you of value in the Lord’s sight. It is the inward adorning, the graces of the Holy Spirit, the kind word, the thoughtful consideration for others, that He values.

Jesus requires of none of His followers the sort of slavery that fashion demands. He would free them from this self-imposed thralldom. He pities them as He sees them sacrificing health and the best interests of life upon this unholy altar. He invites them, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He presents His yoke in contrast with the galling one they have placed upon their own necks, and says: “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30.] Here is the secret of contentment and peace and happiness—obedience to the laws of nature and of God.

The true Christian, possessing the meekness and lowliness of Christ, is content with plain, convenient, healthful garments and seeks to live a life of usefulness and to conform his habits to the example of Jesus. Such a one will find the truest happiness, the reward of well-doing. Such a one will be lifted above the slavery of an artificial life into the freedom and grace of Christlike simplicity.

The Barren Fig Tree

Families that spend much of their time in dressing for display may be likened to the fig tree which Christ saw afar off. This fig tree flaunted its flourishing branches in the very face of justice; but when Christ came to look for fruit, He searched from the topmost twig to the lowest boughs and found nothing but leaves. It is fruit He hungers for; fruit He must have.

There is no use in telling our sisters that they must not wear this or that; for if the love of these vain things is in the heart, the mere laying off of the adornments will only be like cutting off the foliage from a tree. We must present the principles of truth, and let them work on the hearts of the people. We may pick the leaves from the tree as often as we please, but this will not cause the tree to die. The next season the leaves will come out again as thick as before. But strike at the root of the tree, and not only will the leaves fall, but the tree will die.

Those who accept the truth in the love of it will die to the world and will become meek and lowly in heart, like their divine Lord. Just as soon as the heart is right, the dress, the conversation, the life will be in harmony with the Word of God.

How Will They Meet the King?

In the night season I was in a company of people whose hearts were filled with vanity and conceit. Christ was hid from their eyes. Suddenly, in loud, clear accents, the words were heard, “Jesus is coming to take to Himself those who on this earth have loved and served Him, to be with Him in His kingdom forever.”

Many of those in the company went forth in their costly apparel to meet Him. They kept looking at their dress; but when they saw His glory, and realized that their estimation of themselves and of one another had been so largely measured by outward appearance, they knew that they were without the robe of Christ’s righteousness and that the blood of souls was on their garments.

When Christ came and took His chosen ones to Himself, these were left, for they were not ready. In their lives, self had been given the first place, and they had not made the necessary preparation to meet their Saviour.

I awoke with the picture of the agonized faces of these poor, deluded souls stamped on my mind, and I cannot efface that impression. I wish I could describe the scene as it was presented to me. O how sad was the disappointment of those who had not learned by experience the meaning of the words, “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” [Colossians 3:3.]

I long to be filled day by day with the Spirit of Christ. The treasure of His grace is of more value to me than gold or silver or costly array. When my sisters catch a glimpse of what Christ suffered in their behalf, that they might become children of God by adoption, no longer will they be satisfied with worldly pride and self-love, no longer will they worship self; but God will be the object of their supreme regard.

«Back «Hit «Prev. Pub.   Next Pub.» Forward»