Ellen G. White Writings

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The Health Reformer

January 1, 1877

Proper Dress

By Mrs. E. G. White

At this season of the year, particular attention should be given to the best manner of dressing ourselves and our children to secure physical health. This is necessary in obedience to the exhortation of the apostle to present to God our bodies holy and acceptable in his sight. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”

It is not possible to render to God acceptable service while we are suffering under disease. Children need the daily lesson that life and health are not to be trifled with. These are blessings not to be abused. The mind should not be dwarfed to meet the common standard. We should strive to fulfill our mission according to the will of God, in blessing others and glorifying his name. Our Redeemer has bought us with a dear price. “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”

In order to fulfill the claims that God has upon us, we should study his will more earnestly, and the approval of the world less. Many professed Christians are so absorbed in their efforts to gratify their children by dressing them in a manner to keep pace with fashion, that they have but little time or thought to devote to the inward adorning, or to the matter of dressing in a manner to meet the approval of God.

Christian parents have grave responsibilities resting upon them in training their children. They should impress them with a high sense of their obligations to God, and the bearing that their dressing and eating will have upon their lives. A careful consideration would reveal to parents the fact that much of the fatigue and labor, under which they are wearing and growing old, are not burdens that God has bound upon them, but which they have brought upon themselves by doing the very things the word of God has told them not to do. “Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

But few parents are educating their children by precept and example to form lovely characters and secure the inner beauty, the meekness and lowliness of Christ.

Many lives have been sacrificed in conforming to the demands of fashion. And few sense the fearful responsibility this incurs. When hoops were in fashion, we were pained to listen to the arguments of many professed Christian women for the necessity of wearing them for the health. They could walk better and work better. Little girls were seen imitating their mothers in fastening upon their little forms something to distend their dresses like hoops. The mothers argued their healthfulness, why should not they wear them? Children conformed to this fashion. The hoops distended the skirts that they could not fall naturally about the form and give warmth to the body. The extremities were chilled. Thousands of innocent victims were sacrificed to the hoop fashion.

True dress reform regulates every article of dress worn upon the person. In order to equalize the circulation of the blood, the clothing should be equally distributed upon the person, that equal warmth may be preserved in all parts of the body. The limbs, being remote from the vital organs, should have special attention. The extremities should be guarded from cold and chilliness by a bountiful amount of clothing. It is impossible for women or children to have health when their limbs and feet are habitually cold. If there is too little blood in the limbs, there will be a superabundance of blood in other portions of the body. There are usually worn over the chest, where there is naturally the greatest amount of heat, from four to six coverings. Over the lower part of the waist there are, in addition to these coverings, bands, plaits, overskirts lapped and puffed. All these extra coverings induce heat. The lower limbs are only furnished with two thicknesses of light material, while the feet are covered with thin flannel stockings, and cloth shoes. With the present style of woman's dress it is impossible to preserve an equal circulation of the blood. The limbs being insufficiently clad, the blood is not induced to the extremities. Our Creator has formed the limbs with large veins and vessels to contain a large proportion of blood, that the limbs may be sufficiently nourished and proportionately warm with other portions of the body. But fashion robs the limbs of coverings, and the life current is chilled from its natural channel and thrown back upon its internal organs. The many coverings over the chest and lungs induce the blood to these parts, and the animal heat thus retained weakens and debilitates these delicate organs, causing congestion and inflammation. The head, lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys have too much blood, while the limbs have not enough for warmth and proper development. The result is, the blood-vessels in the limbs contract because they are not filled and cannot contain the due proportion of blood which nature designed they should, and they are always chilly. Because this chilliness is habitual, it is not noticed by children who are thus unhealthfully dressed. These children, who are disciplined to conform to fashion, are not well proportioned. Their slender, fleshless limbs testify to the abuse they have suffered. Fashion has robbed their limbs of their natural plumpness.

The limbs of our children should be thoroughly and sensibly clad with as many coverings as other portions of the body. First should be the long under-drawers reaching to the ankle. Next the warm flannel stocking reaching to the knee, fastened by elastics to the waist. Over these should be the warmly lined pants made tapering, or gathered in a band at the bottom, and fastened about the ankle. Warm boots with thick soles should cover the feet. The limbs and feet of little girls should be as warmly and thoroughly clad as those of the boys, that they may exercise in the open air without running the risk of taking cold.

I would appeal to parents to devote less time to ornamenting their children's clothing, which only fosters in them a spirit of vanity, and to so instruct them that they may secure good constitutions. And then they can dismiss doctors with their drugs, and see their children enjoy good health, sound morals, and standing independent for a sensible, healthful dress in defiance of the fashions of our times.

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