An Appeal to the People in Its Behalf.
We are not Spiritualists. We are Christian women, believing all that the
Scriptures say concerning man's creation, his fall, his sufferings and woes on
account of continued transgression, of his hope of redemption thro' Christ, and
of his duty to glorify God in his body and spirit which are his, in order to be
saved. We do not wear the style of dress here represented to be odd,--that we
may attract notice. We do not differ from the common style of woman's dress for
any such object. We choose to agree with others in theory and in practice, if we
can do so, and at the same time be in harmony with the law of God, and with the
laws of our being. We believe it wrong to differ from others, unless it be
necessary to differ in order to be right. In bearing the cross of adopting the
reform dress, we are led by a sense of duty. And although it may appear
objectionable to those who are governed by fashion, we claim that it is the most
convenient, the most truly modest, and the most healthful style of dress worn by
We have counted the cost of appearing singular in the eyes of those who feel
compelled to bow to fashion. And we decide that in the end it will pay to try to
do right, though for the present we may appear odd in the eyes of those who will
sacrifice convenience, comfort, and health, at the altar of fashion.
We have also looked at the fact that our course in this matter of dress will
cause our friends disagreeable feelings, and have taken into the account those
things which excited their feelings of prejudice against the reform dress. When
among strangers, we are supposed to be Spiritualists, from the fact that some of
that class adopt what is commonly called "the short dress." And the question is
frequently asked, "Are you Spiritualists?" To answer this question, and to give
the reader some of the reasons why we adopt so unfashionable a style of dress, is this little tract given. We are well aware that some of
those who espoused the cause of Spiritualism, over the moral worth of whom a
shade of uncertainty has been cast, by the extravagances and immoralities among
them, have adopted the short dress, and that their zeal in so doing, under the
peculiar circumstances, could but disgust the people against anything of the
How could it be otherwise? The people are shut up to fashion. They do not
understand the benefits of our style of dress. And it is all the more
objectionable to them as it resembles, in some respects, that worn by some
doubtful Spiritualists. We most certainly bid ladies who have embraced
Spiritualism a hearty welcome to all the blessings and benefits of a convenient,
healthful, and (being of a proper length, and neatly and properly fitted and
made,) truly modest dress, and wish they were as consistent and right in other
In the existing state of things, the people may regard the adoption of our
style of dress as a bold step on our part, showing more independence than good
taste. They may censure us. They may deal in wit and sarcasm in reference to our
dress. They may even utter bitter speeches on account of our course in this
thing. But our work shall be, by the grace of God, to patiently labour to
correct their errors, remove their prejudices, and set before them the reasons why we
object to the popular style of woman's dress; also some of the reasons why we
adopt ours. We object to the popular style of woman's dress,
1. Because it is not convenient. In doing housework, in passing up and down
stairs with both hands full, a third hand is needed to hold up the long skirts.
See that lady passing up to her chamber with a child in her arms, and both hands
full, stepping upon her long skirts, and stumbling as she goes. She finds the
popular style of dress very inconvenient. But it is fashionable, and must be
If she goes into her garden to walk or to work among her flowers, to share
the early, refreshing morning air, unless she holds them up with both hands, her
skirts are dragging and drabbling in dirt and dew, until they are wet and muddy.
Fashion attaches to her, cloth that is, in this case, used as a sort of mop.
This is exceedingly inconvenient. But for the sake of fashion it must be
In walking upon the streets, in the country, in the village, or in the
crowded city, her long skirts sweep the dirt and mud, and lick up tobacco
spittle, and all manner of filth. Careless gentlemen sometimes step on these
long dresses, and, as the ladies pass on, tear them. This is trying, and
sometimes provoking; and it is not always convenient to mend and cleanse these soiled and torn garments. But they are in harmony
with fashion, and all this must be endured.
In travelling in the cars, in the coach, and omnibus, fashionable dresses,
especially when distended by hoops, are sometimes not only in the way of the
wearers, but of others; and we charitably think that, were it not for the
overruling power of fashion, measures would be taken to do away with their
We object to the popular style of woman's dress,
2. Because it is not healthful. To say nothing of the suicidal practice of
compressing the waist so as to suppress natural respiration, inducing the habit
of breathing only from the top of the lungs; and not to dwell particularly upon
the custom of suspending unnecessary weight upon the hips, in consequence of too
many and too long skirts, there is much that many be said relative to the
unhealthfulness of the fashionable style of woman's dress; but we suggest at
this time only the following:
(a) It burdens and obstructs the free use of the lower limbs. This is
contrary to the design of God in securing to woman the blessings of activity and
(b) It frequently shuts her indoors when her health demands that she should
enjoy exercise in the pure, invigorating air of heaven. If she goes out in the light snow, or after a shower, or in the dews of the
morning or the evening, she bedrabbles her long skirts, chills the sensitive,
unprotected ankles, and takes cold. To prevent this, she may remain shut up in
the house, and become so delicate and feeble that when she is compelled to go
out she is sure to take cold, which may result in cough, consumption, and death.
It may be said that she can reserve her walks till the sun has gathered up
all this dampness. True, she may, and feel the languor produced by the scorching
heat of a midday's summer sun. The birds go forth with their songs of praise to
their Creator, and the beasts of the field enjoy with them the early freshness
of the morning; and when the heat of the sun comes pouring down, these creatures
of nature and of health retire to the shade. But this is the very time for woman
to move out with her fashionable dress! When they go forth to enjoy the
invigorating air of the morning, she is deprived of this rich bounty of Heaven.
When they seek the cooling shade and rest, she goes forth to suffer from heat,
fatigue, and languor.
(c) It robs her of that protection from cold and dampness which the lower
extremities must have, to secure a healthful condition of the system. In order
to enjoy a good state of health, there must be a proper circulation of the blood. And to secure a good circulation of the current of human life,
all parts of the body must be suitably clad. Fashion clothes woman's chest
bountifully, and in winter loads her with sacks, cloaks, shawls, and furs, until
she cannot feel a chill, excepting her limbs and feet, which, from their want of
suitable clothing, are chilled, and literally sting with cold. The heart labours
to throw the blood to the extremities, but it is chilled back from them in
consequence of their being exposed to cold, for want of being suitably clothed.
And the abundance of clothing about the chest, where is the great wheel of life,
induces the blood to the lungs and brain, and produces congestion.
The limbs and feet have large arteries, to receive a large amount of blood,
that warmth, nutrition, elasticity, and strength, may be imparted to them. But
when the blood is chilled from these extremities, their blood-vessels contract,
which makes the circulation of the necessary amount of blood in them still more
difficult. A good circulation preserves the blood pure, and secures health. A
bad circulation leaves the blood to become impure, and induces congestion of the
brain and lungs, and causes diseases of the head, the heart, the liver, and the
lungs. The fashionable style of woman's dress is one of the greatest causes of
all these terrible diseases.
But the evil does not stop here. These fashionable mothers transmit their diseases to their feeble offspring. And
they clothe their feeble little girls as unhealthfully as they clothe
themselves, and soon bring them to the condition of invalids, or, which is
preferable in many cases, to the grave. Thus fashion fills our cemeteries with
many short graves, and the houses of the slaves of fashion with invalids. Must
this sad state of things continue?
We object to the fashionable style of woman's dress,
3. Because, under certain circumstances, it is, to say the least, not the
most modest, on account of exposures of the female form. This evil is greatly
aggravated by the wearing of hoops. Ladies with long dresses, especially if
distended with hoops, as they go up and down stairs, as they pass up the narrow
door-way of the coach and the omnibus, or as they raise their skirts, to clear
the mud of the streets, sometimes expose the form to that degree as to put
modesty to the blush.
Having noticed some of the wrongs of the popular style of woman's dress, we
now wish to show in reference to the reform dress that,
1. It is convenient. No arguments are needed to prove that our style of dress
is most convenient in the kitchen. In passing up and down stairs, the hands are
not needed to hold up the skirts of our dresses. Being of a convenient length,
they take care of themselves, while our hands are better employed.
We can go out into the untrodden snow, or after a fall of rain, and, if our
feet and limbs are entirely protected, all is dry and comfortable. We have no
fears of taking cold as we trip along, unburdened by trailing skirts, in our
morning walks. We can, in spring and summer, walk and work among our flowers
without fear of injury from the dews of early morning. And then, the lower
portions of our skirts, not having been used as a mop, are dry, and clean, and
comfortable, not compelling us to wash and clean them, which is not always
convenient when other important matters demand time and attention.
In getting into, and out of, carriages, in passing old trunks, boxes, and
other ragged furniture, and in walking over old, broken sidewalks, where nails
have worked up an inch or two above the surface of the plank, our dresses are
not exposed to a thousand accidents and rents to which the trailing dresses are
fated. To us, this is a matter of great convenience.
2. It is healthful. Our skirts are few and light, not taxing our strength
with the burden of many and longer ones. Our limbs being properly clothed, we
need comparatively few skirts; and these are suspended from the shoulders. Our
dresses are fitted to sit easily, obstructing neither the circulation of the
blood, nor natural, free, and full respiration. Our skirts, being neither numerous nor fashionably long, do not
impede the means of locomotion, but leave us to move about with ease and
activity. All these things are necessary to health.
Our limbs and feet are suitably protected from cold and damp, to secure the
circulation of the blood to them, with all its blessings. We can take exercise
in the open air, in the dews of morning or evening, or after the falling storm
of snow or rain, without fears of taking cold. Morning exercise, in walking in
the free, invigorating air of heaven, or cultivating flowers, small fruits, and
vegetables, is necessary to a healthful circulation of the blood. It is the
surest safeguard against colds, coughs, congestions of the brain and lungs,
inflammation of the liver, the kidneys, the lungs, and a hundred other diseases.
If those ladies who are failing in health, suffering in consequence of these
diseases, would lay off their fashionable robes, clothe themselves suitably for
the enjoyment of such exercise, and move out carefully at first, as they can
endure it, and increase the amount of exercise in the open air, as it gives them
strength to endure, and dismiss their doctors and drugs, most of them might
recover health, to bless the world with their example and the work of their
hands. If they would dress their daughters properly, they might live to enjoy
health, and to bless others.
Christian Mother: Why not clothe your daughter as comfortably and as properly
as you do your son? In the cold and storms of winter, his limbs and feet are
clad with lined pants, drawers, woollen socks, and thick boots. This is as it
should be; but your daughter is dressed in reference to fashion, not health, nor
comfort. Her shoes are light, and her stockings thin. True, her skirts are
short, but her limbs are nearly naked, covered by only a thin, flannel stocking
reaching to her muslin drawers. Her limbs and feet are chilled, while her
brother's are warm. His limbs are protected by from three to five thicknesses;
hers by only one. Is she the feebler? Then she needs the greater care. Is she
indoors more, and, therefore, less protected against cold and storm? Then she
needs double care. But as she is dressed, there is nothing to hope for the
future relative to her health but habitual cold feet, a congested brain,
headache, disease of the liver and lungs, and an early grave.
Her dress may be nearly long enough; but let it sit loosely and comfortably.
Then clothe her limbs and feet as comfortably, as wisely, and as well, as you do
those of your boy; and let her go out and enjoy exercise in the open air, and
live to enjoy health and happiness.
3. It is modest. Yes, we think it is the most modest and becoming style of
dress worn by woman. If the reader thinks otherwise, will he please turn to the first page,
and again examine the figure there represented, and then tell us wherein this
style of dress is faulty or unbecoming? True, it is not fashionable. But what of
that? Fashions do not always come from Heaven. Neither do they always come from
the pure, the virtuous, and the good.
It is true that this style of dress exposes her feet. And why should she be
ashamed of her well-clad feet, any more than men are of theirs? It is of no use
for her to try to conceal the fact that she has feet. This was a settled fact
long before the use of trailing skirts distended by hoops, giving her the
appearance of a haystack, or a Dutch churn.
But does the popular style of woman's dress always hide her feet from the
public gaze? See that lady passing over the muddy street, holding her skirts
nearly twice as far from the ground as ours, exposing, not only her feet, but
her nearly-naked limbs. Similar exposures are frequent as she ascends and
descends the stairs, as she is helped into, and out of, carriages. These
exposures are disagreeable, if not shameful; and a style of dress which makes
their frequent occurrence almost certain, we must regard as a poor safeguard of
modesty and virtue. But we did not design an exposure of this false modesty in
relation to woman's feet, but simply a defence of the style of dress which we regard, in every way, truly modest.
What style of dress can be neater, more modest, and more becoming girls from
the ages of five to fourteen years than ours? Stand those girls of fashion
beside these, and then say which appears the more comfortable, more modest, and
more becoming. The fashionable style is not as long as ours; yet no one laughs
at those who follow that style, for wearing a short dress. Their limbs are
nearly naked, while modesty and health clothe the limbs of the others. Fashion
and false modesty look upon these girls who have their limbs clad in reference
to comfort, modesty, and health, with horror, but smile upon those whose dresses
are quite as short, and whose limbs are uncomfortably, immodestly, and
unhealthfully exposed. Here come the cross and the reproach, for simply doing
right, in the face of the tyrant--Fashion. God help us to have the moral courage
to do right, and to labour patiently and humbly in the great cause of reform.
In behalf of my sisters who adopt the reform dress, Ellen White.
Greenville, Montcalm Co., Mich.
A Few Suggestions.
1. We recommend the reform dress to all. We urge it upon none. When Christian
women see the wrongs of the fashionable style, and the benefits of ours, and put it on from a sense of duty, and have the moral courage to
wear it anywhere and everywhere, then will they feel at home in it, and enjoy a
satisfaction and blessing in trying to do right.
2. But those who adopt the reform dress should ever bear in mind the fact
that the power of fashion is terrible; and that in meeting this tyrant, they
need wisdom, humility, and patience,--wisdom to speak and act so as not to
offend the slaves of fashion unnecessarily; and humility and patience to endure
their frowns, their slight, and their reproachful speeches.
3. In view of existing prejudices against the reform dress, it becomes our
duty in adopting it to avoid all those things which make it unnecessarily
objectionable. It should reach to within eight or nine inches from the floor.
The skirt of the dress should not be distended as with hoops. It should be as
full as the long dress. With a proper amount of light skirts, the dress will
fall properly and gracefully about the limbs.
Anything eight or nine inches from the floor is not the reform dress. It
should be cut by an approved pattern, and fitted and made by directions from one
who has experience in this style of dress.
4. Taste should be manifested as to colours. Uniformity in this respect, with
those who adopt this style of dress, is desirable so far as convenient.
Complexion, however, may be taken into the account. Modest colours should be
sought for. When figured colours are used, those that are large and fiery,
showing vanity and shallow pride in those who choose them, should be avoided.
And a fantastic taste in putting on different colours, is bad, such as white
sleeves and pants with a dark dress. Shawls and bonnets are not in as good taste
with the reform dress, as sacks and hats, and caps in winter.
5. And be right yourselves. Secure and maintain, in all the duties and walks
of life, the heavenly adorning. The apostle speaks to the point:
"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey
not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the
wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 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." 1 Pet. 3:1-4.
My dear sisters: Such an ornament, such a course of life and conduct, will
give you influence for good on earth, and be prized in Heaven. Unless you can
obtain and maintain this, I entreat you to lay off the reform dress. Do not
disgrace it with a want, on your part, of neatness, cleanliness, taste, order,
sobriety, meekness, propriety, modesty, and devotion to your families and to
your God. Be a recommendation and an ornament to the reform dress, and let that
be a recommendation and an ornament to you. E. G. W.
CHOICE THOUGHTS ON DRESS
From the Writings of Mrs. E. G. White.
The correct model for physical development is to be found, not
in 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.
By the things of nature Christ illustrates the beauty that Heaven values, -- the
modest grace, the simplicity, the purity, the appropriateness, that would make
our attire pleasing to Him.
"Above all things," God desires us to "be in health,"--health of body and soul.
And we are to be workers together with Him for the health of both soul and body.
Both are promoted by healthful dress.
Our clothing, while modest and simple, should be of good quality, of becoming
colours, and suited for service. It should be chosen for durability rather than
display. It should provide warmth and proper protection.
Every article of dress should fit easily, obstructing neither the circulation of
the blood, nor a free, full, natural respiration. The devices of fashion weaken the body, as well as enfeeble the mind and
belittle the soul. True dress reform regulates every article of clothing worn upon
the person. Our Creator made no mistake in fashioning the human form.
Many a woman, forced to prepare for herself or her children the stylish costumes
demanded by fashion, is doomed to ceaseless drudgery. Many a mother with
throbbing nerves and trembling fingers toils far into the night to add to her
children's clothing ornamentation that contributes nothing to healthfulness,
comfort, or real beauty. For the sake of fashion she sacrifices health, and that
calmness of spirit so essential to the right guidance of her children. The
culture of mind and heart is neglected. The soul is dwarfed.
Children hear more of dress than of their Saviour. They see
their mothers consulting the fashion plates more earnestly than the Bible. The
display of dress is treated as of greater importance than the development of
If women make the customs of the world their criterion, they will become
unfitted, both mentally and physically, for the duties of life. Let women have courage to dress healthfully and simply. Simplicity of dress will make a sensible woman appear to the best advantage. Here is the secret of contentment and peace and happiness: Obedience to the laws
of nature and of God.