Ellen G. White Writings

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Life and Health

May 1, 1905

Physical Effects of Improper Dress

Mrs. E. G. White PHJ May 1, 1905

Women are subject to serious maladies, and their sufferings are greatly increased by their manner of dress. Instead of preserving their health for the trying emergencies that are sure to come, they, by their wrong habits, too often sacrifice not only health, but life, and leave to their children a legacy of woe, in a ruined constitution, perverted habits, and false ideas of life. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 1

One of fashion's wasteful and mischievous devices is the skirt that sweeps the ground. Uncleanly, uncomfortable, inconvenient, unhealthful,—all this and more is true of the trailing skirt. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 2

It is extravagant, both because of the superfluous material required, and because of the needless wear on account of its length. And whoever has seen a woman in a trailing skirt, with hands filled with parcels, attempt to go up or down stairs, to enter a railway train, to walk through a crowd, to walk in the rain, or on a muddy road, needs no other proof of its inconvenience and discomfort. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 3

Its weight makes it unhealthful. Besides, as it gathers dampness from the dew, the rain, or the snow, it chills the ankles, which are often insufficiently clad, and thus causes colds or more serious illness. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 4

Even worse is its uncleanliness. Dragging through the filth of the street, it is a collector of poisonous, deadly germs. Many a death from diphtheria, tuberculosis, or other contagious disease, has been caused by the germs brought into the home on a trailing skirt. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 5

Another serious evil is the wearing of skirts so that their weight must be sustained by the hips. This heavy weight, pressing upon the internal organs, drags them downward, and causes weakness of the stomach, and a feeling of lassitude, inclining the wearer to stoop, which further cramps the lungs, making correct breathing more difficult. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 6

Of late years the dangers resulting from compression of the waist have been so fully discussed that few can be ignorant in regard to them; yet so great is the power of fashion that the evil continues. By this practise women and young girls are doing themselves untold harm. It is essential to health that the chest have room to expand to its fullest extent, so that the lungs may be enabled to take full inspirations. Compression, by making it impossible to take a full breath, leads to the injurious habit of breathing with a part of the lungs only. When the lungs are restricted, the quantity of oxygen received into them is lessened. The blood is not properly vitalized, and the waste, poisonous matter which should be thrown off through the lungs, is retained. In addition to this, the circulation is hindered; and the internal organs, cramped and crowded out of place, can not perform their work properly. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 7

Tight lacing does not improve the form. One of the chief elements in physical beauty is symmetry, the harmonious proportion of parts. And the correct model for physical development is to be found, not in the lay-figures displayed by French modistes, but in the human form as developed according to the laws of God in nature. God is the author of all beauty, and only as we conform to his ideal shall we approach the standard of true beauty. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 8

Another evil which custom fosters is the unequal distribution of the clothing, so that while some parts of the body have more than is required, others are insufficiently clad. The feet and limbs, being remote from the vital organs, should be especially guarded from cold by abundant clothing. It is impossible to have health when the extremities are habitually cold; for if there is too little blood in them, there will be too much in other portions of the body. Perfect health requires a perfect circulation; but this can not be had while three or four times as much clothing is worn upon the body, where the vital organs are situated, as upon the feet and limbs. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 9

The combined evils of tight lacing, long, dragging skirts, and an unequal distribution of the clothing, have caused an amount of suffering that is beyond estimate. No woman who values health, and who understands the effect of these practises, will follow any one of them. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 10

To dress in the manner described hinders the free use of the limbs, and many who thus dress, gradually give up healthful exercise. After going through all the details of an elaborate toilet, they are not inclined to exert themselves. The lack of vigorous exercise, especially in the open air, soon tells on the health. The system becomes weakened and relaxed, and the complexion sallow; and health and beauty disappear together. The sufferers may resort to cosmetics to restore the complexion; but these can not bring back the glow of health. And the physical condition that makes the skin dark and dingy, depresses the spirits, and destroys cheerfulness. A multitude of women are nervous and care-worn because they deprive themselves of the pure air that would make pure blood, and of the freedom of motion that would send the blood bounding through the veins, giving life, health, and energy. Many women have become confirmed invalids when they might have enjoyed health, and many have died of consumption and other diseases when they might have lived their allotted term of life had they dressed in accordance with health principles, and exercised freely in the open air. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 11

Sensible Dress for Women

In order to secure the most healthful clothing, the needs of every part of the body must be carefully studied. The character of the climate, the surroundings, the condition of health, the age, and the occupation of the individual must all be considered. The best under-clothing is the well-known combination suit. In cold climates the suit should be thick and warm, and should extend to the ankles and wrists; in very cold weather a second suit may be added. The feet should be protected from cold and dampness by warm stockings, and by easy-fitting, thick-soled shoes. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 12

When the limbs are properly clothed, only one or two skirts will be needed. 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. They, too, should be attached to an under waist, thus suspending the weight from the shoulders, and relieving the abdomen from all pressure. Every article of dress should fit easily, obstructing neither the circulation of the blood nor a free, full, natural respiration. Everything worn should be so loose that when the arms are raised, the clothing will be correspondingly lifted. No heavy draperies should be worn on the back, to induce heat and congestion in the sensitive organs that lie beneath. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 13

Women who are in failing health can do much for themselves by sensible dressing and exercise. When suitably dressed for outdoor enjoyment, let them exercise in the open air, carefully at first, but increasing the amount of exercise as they can endure it. By taking this course many of them might regain health, and live to take their share in the world's work. PHJ May 1, 1905, par. 14

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