In our last class, we reviewed the historical account of dress reform, and the vision received by Sis. White from Heaven on this subject. Join us as we conclude with part two of this survey:
–The Second Dress–
When the Lord took away the reform dress, He told them that they could adopt a dress, a simple, unadorned dress that would be longer; that was one of the things they objected to, but not as long as the worldly dress was. It was to clear the filth of the street by a few inches. The dress reached around five or six inches from the floor. The dress was to be plain and unadorned. She warned them that when this second dress was given there wasn’t any particular pattern for it, but that they were to be sure that the limbs were amply clothed as they had with the other dress.
Let’s read the Lord’s appeal to our sisters on this matter:
“If all our sisters would adopt a simple, unadorned dress of modest length, the uniformity thus established would be far more pleasing to God, and would exert a more salutary influence on the world, than the diversity presented four years ago.” – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, pg. 640
See, the problem that came over this dress, the Lord let it rest a little while and then four years later He said, “We’ll take away that dress. You don’t have to wear it.”
As our sisters would not generally accept the reform dress as it should be worn, another, less objectionable style is now presented. It is free from needless trimmings, free from the looped-up, tied back overskirts. It consists of a sack or loosefitting basque [jacket or blouse] and skirt, the latter short enough to avoid the mud and filth of the streets . – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, pg. 640
See, she didn’t say just exactly how short. It would be shorter than the dress of the world, but not as short as the one they had before.
The material should be free from large plaids and figures, and plain in color. The same attention should be given to the clothing of the limbs as with the short [reform] dress.
Will my sisters accept this style of dress and refuse to imitate the fashions that are devised by Satan and continually changing? – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, pg. 640
Well, they did, to an extent, and were glad for those who did accept this second dress that was given. But you notice that in it the limbs were clothed as they had been in the other dress. There were no tight skirts. The main difference was that the pants were taken away and the dress was allowed to be a little longer. Since that is what they had objected to.
Now, in the years that went by, some of the people began to wonder if they shouldn’t go back to that dress. And in the appendix of The Story of Our Health Message is Sister White’s answer to that. It would be well for you to read carefully this appendix, because in it is the answer to many of the questions as to why it was taken away and why it should not be accepted back again.
Because that which was given as a blessing was turned into a curse, the burden of advocating the reform dress was removed – Pg. 10 of 15 MS 167, 1897
See, the Lord took it away and some of them, as I say, wanted to go back to it, but she told them, “No, this wasn’t the time to do that.” In another article written at the same time, you find this interesting statement where she says:
Follow the custom of dress in health reform, but do not again introduce the short dress and pants unless you have the word of the Lord for it. – Letter 19, 1897
That is the same year as this appendix was written. This is letter 19, 1897. It was written the same year that this article was written. This is a manuscript written in 1897.
“Do not again introduce the short dress and pants unless you have the Word of the Lord for it.” – Letter 19, 1897
So even though we know that this was God’s ideal at the time it was given, we are not to go back to that, in following out dress reform today… Get down your references for study. The chapters to read on this matter: Volume 1, beginning on page 456; Volume 1, beginning on page 521; and Volume 4, page 628. Those are the three chapters that cover the matter of dress. Most of what is said in the Spirit of Prophecy on dress, is in these three chapters. After Volume 4, you will find very little written on the matter of the dress reform. The Lord gave us the light, and He expects us to follow it out in our living today.
But going back a little bit now to these different styles of dress, now that we have had this story, I would like us to read a little bit from our books on these different styles of dress. Volume 1, page 459. She describes this first dress, the style of the day, and the problems with it:
The length of the fashionable dress is objectionable for several reasons:
1. It is extravagant and unnecessary to have the dress of such a length that it will sweep the sidewalk and street.
2. A dress thus long gathers dew from the grass, and mud from the streets, and is therefore unclean.
3. In its bedraggled condition it comes in contact with the sensitive ankles, which are not sufficiently protected, quickly chilling them, and thus endangering health and life. This is one of the greatest causes of catarrh and of scrofulous swellings.
4. The unnecessary length is an additional weight upon the hips and bowels.
5. It hinders the walking, and is also often in other people’s way. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 1, pg. 459
That is particularly on the length of the dress and the unhealthfulness of that. Then the next paragraph says:
There is still another style of dress which is adopted by a class of so-called dress reformers. They imitate the opposite sex as nearly as possible. They wear the cap, pants, vest, coat, and boots, the last of which is the most sensible part of the costume. Those who adopt and advocate this style of dress carry the so-called dress reform to very objectionable lengths. Confusion will be the result. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 1, pg. 459
So there we have a description of these two classes of dress, and how, from the health standpoint, they fail of carrying out God’s plan… Now, this matter of clothing the limbs. I feel that this is one of the most important features that is touched on.
Women should clothe their limbs with regard to health and comfort. Their feet and limbs need to be clad as warmly as men’s. Testimonies for the Church, – Volume 1, pg. 459
And that is repeated again on page 461:
There is but one woman in a thousand who clothes her limbs as she should. Whatever may be the length of the dress, their limbs should be clothed as thoroughly as are men’s. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 1, pg. 461
And she makes some suggestions how they could do it back then that we can adapt today. Now, I would like us to notice in Volume 4, the references on what I was describing to you, as the reason why the Lord took away the reform dress. We need to have these reasons very clear in our minds; why He took away this particular style of dress.
“‘Why has this dress been laid aside, and for what reason has dress reform ceased to be advocated?’ The reason for this change I will briefly state here. … Fashion had so strong a hold upon them that they were slow to break away from its control, even to obey the dictates of reason and conscience. And many who profess to accept the reform made no change in their wrong habits of dress, except in shortening the skirts and clothing the limbs.” – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, pg. 635
That was the number one reason we found, that fashion had such a hold on them they didn’t want to give up the worldly dress, because they loved to be in fashion. They just accepted a couple parts of it and went right ahead with the fashionable part of the world’s dress:
Nor was this all. Some who adopted the reform were not content to show by example the advantages of the dress, giving, when asked, their reasons for adopting it, and letting the matter rest there. They sought to control other’s conscience by their own. If they wore it, others must put it on. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, pg. 635
Now, you notice as we mention these different things, we are getting principles aren’t we? Principles that are to guide us in our attitude toward dress reform today, and this is a very important principle. They forgot that none were to be compelled to wear the reform dress. That was true back then when God gave them a particular style of dress. That surely would be true today, wouldn’t it? None are to be compelled.
Still others, who were apparently the most zealous reformers, manifested a sad lack of order and neatness in their dress. It was not made according to the approved pattern.
Some who wore the dress sighed over it as a heavy burden. ‘Anything but this,’ they said. If we felt free to lay off this peculiar style, we would willingly adopt a plain, untrimmed dress of ordinary length. The limbs could be clothed as warmly as before, and we could secure all the physical benefits, with less effort. It requires much labor to prepare the reform dress in a proper manner.’ Murmuring and complaining were fast destroying vital godliness. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, pg. 637
These are the reasons why God’s people failed to take hold and accept these reforms…
–Make It Plain–
Now, coming to our attitude toward this today… Dress reform does apply more to women’s dress, that is true. The health features mentioned, of course, expect whatever principles apply. But I have felt this way. I think that our men need to understand several things about this. There are two things you might think of. Because it is a historical study and that is one reason for bringing it into this class. You might say the main reason. The historical facts are presented, and we need to understand. We need to understand the historical background, so that we are prepared with the right answer when the critics come; that we are fully settled in our own minds that God did the thing right, and we need to understand how He did it and what He did. You will get the picture more clearly with this history given. And as you read in these various chapters, you will get the picture more clearly, so you will know how to meet the critics. That is the first thing and all of us need to understand that, men and women alike, don’t we?
Then there is another angle that I feel is very important for our young men to understand some phase of dress. We are not going into many details of how we can do it today, like some of the girls might like to study out, but women dress for men. Isn’t that right? There are a lot of things we wouldn’t do if there weren’t any men in the world. And that is right. It’s right for us to desire to please our fathers and brothers and husbands. There is nothing wrong about that. If our men do not understand these principles of dress, might they be a hindrance to a Christian woman that wanted to dress in the right way? Most women who try to accept dress reform have to meet that hurdle, with husbands who are not Adventist or with some who are that don’t understand the principles. So I feel from that standpoint it is well for our young men and our older men to understand what the Lord has said on the matter of dress. It will help you in helping your wife as she tries to carry out these principles. It will help you, young men, in evaluating the young woman that the Lord may want to be your companion for life, if you understand these principles of dress, and understand those who are trying to carry them out, in the things that they are doing in their dress today.
The matter of dress touches a very vital thing in our hearts, and that’s pride. I want to share just a few references along that line. I might say this one thing first, before I go into that, and that is this. It is something that came to me several years ago, that was a great blessing to me in knowing how to relate myself to the reform dress given back there in Volume 1. What does that mean to us today? Is there anything about it, except just historically we need to understand it? Is there any other reason that we need to understand it?
I would like to put it this way, just as simply as I can. That was given to us as God’s ideal. It expressed what God felt was best from a health standpoint, a modesty, convenience, and simplicity standpoint. From all those standpoints it represented God’s ideal. If I have any prejudice against that dress, I need to get that out of my heart, don’t I? Because that is God’s ideal.
If according to this little reference that we have read, where it says to not introduce the pants and short skirt unless you have the word of the Lord for it – I don’t know what might be involved in that reference, but – it could indicate that the word of the Lord might come again on the subject of dress. I don’t know what the Lord is going to do to get the remnant people ready for translation, but there aren’t many of our people today who understand, and are carrying out or even trying to carry out many of the principles that need to be carried out in the matter of dress reform.
Some who have studied it long and earnestly wish they had some more light, wish they understood more of what God has said on this matter. It might be, someday, that the Lord will give us some more prophetic light on this subject of what to do today. If He did, would it be contrary to what He gave before? It might even be something similar to what He gave before, mightn’t it? Now, I don’t know that He is going to do it, don’t take that I am saying that He will give us more prophetic light on it. But if He should, it would not be out of harmony with what He gave before, and it might even include some of the features of the dress that He gave before.
So, from that standpoint, I need to have my mind fully defused of any thought or prejudice against the reform dress that God gave His people back in the 1860s. Then I need to study that dress in detail, and see why God asked them to do the different things that He asked them to do in that dress. Because there was a reason for it. And then take those principles and ask God to help me to apply them to our present time, to follow the custom in dress today, applying these principles to it. I need to study through each one: the health standpoint, the modesty standpoint, the standpoint of adornment, and ask the Lord, “Now, Lord, how can I carry out this principle in the present style that is being worn today. What can I do today that will help me to be in harmony with your plan, and still not be just a gazing-stock, by wearing something that is so definitely out of line with what is being worn today.” Each of us must do that personally. Let’s get the thought clearly in our minds. That we are going to take this dress, we’re going to learn the principles that are in it, and apply it to our dress today.
Now, I wanted to read just one or two references on the thought that as much as we endeavor to carry out these principles and be in harmony, not be made a gazing-stock among those around us, that the Lord does tell us that there is a cross in the dress reform.
They cannot lift the cross… The reform dress is simple and healthful, yet there is a cross in it. I thank God for the cross and cheerfully bow to lift it. We have been so united with the world that we have lost sight of the cross and do not suffer for Christ’s sake. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 1, pgs. 524, 525
She goes on to say we are not to invent crosses, to make crosses, but when we accept God’s plan in dress reform, there will be a cross in it. I am so glad that on this same page she compares the dress reform to the ribbon of blue that the children of Israel wore around the bottom of their dresses. Whenever you saw someone with that ribbon of blue on their dress, you knew that they belonged to the children of Israel. It was different. It marked them as a peculiar people.
So God wants today that the dress reform that He has given us will make us look different. It should make us look different, as a king’s daughter looks from the common herd. That is the kind of difference that God wants, not as a gazing-stock, but different because we are carrying out Heaven’s principles. And you know folks, I think of one other thing about this dress. If God’s people had accepted it back then, it would have been, Sister White says, a barrier against the world:
“God designed the reform dress as a barrier to prevent the hearts of our sisters from becoming alienated from Him by following the fashions of the world.” – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 4, pg. 639
Just think what would have been if to become a Seventh-day Adventist you had to accept this dress. Suppose that were the plan today. Do you suppose that it might keep some unconverted people out of the church? Think that through. Think what a protection it would be to God’s people today, and how it would keep out of the church the worldly element that has become such a curse in the church today. When I think of it from that standpoint, I just wish many times, that our people hadn’t murmured and we had kept it. It would have kept our people in a much closer relationship to the Lord.
For a resource full of principles, to aid you in your journey to dress reform, order The Art of Dressing [book] from our End-time Store. Get a copy for yourself, your daughter, and a friend. By God’s grace you shall receive a blessing!
* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. & Sis. Helen Frazee.