Does God really have a standard by which Seventh-day Adventist women should dress?
Is this matter important enough for God to give us specific rules by which we may go?
Does God really care how we dress?
Listen to His word: "In like manner also that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety." — 1 Tim. 2:9. And read the following from the Testimony of the True Witness to the Laodiceans: "This is no trivial matter to be passed off with a jest. The subject of dress demands serious reflection and much prayer." —Vol. 4, p. 641.
Fashion is deteriorating the intellect and eating out the spirituality of our people. Obedience to fashion is pervading our Seventh-day Adventist churches, and is doing more than any other power to separate our people from God. I have been shown that our church rules are very deficient.
"All exhibition of pride in dress, which is forbidden in the Word of God, should be sufficient reason for church discipline." —Ibid., p. 647.
"As soon as any have a desire to imitate the fashions of the world which they do not immediately subdue, just so soon, God ceases to acknowledge them as His children." —Vol. I, p. 137.
Surely, such statements as these are evidence of the importance which God attaches to the matter of dress. Our dress is a daily living preacher, gathering with Christ, or scattering abroad. Then, certainly, in a matter that has such a vital bearing on His church, He would not leave us without specific instructions as to how He wants us to dress. Sin has blinded us, so that we would be sure to err, if it were left to our judgment.
From Elder S. N. Haskell comes the thought; that after Adam and Eve had sinned, they made them selves aprons of fig leaves. The word "aprons" suggests an abbreviated costume, low in the neck, short in the skirt, and perhaps sleeveless. In their sinful state, they were satisfied with an "apron" sort of attire; but when God came down and talked with them and they were reinstated in His favor, He evidently was not satisfied with their aprons, for we read that He "clothed them"—Webster defines the word "clothed" as meaning "to cover." God wanted them covered.
So it is with the church today. Being associated with sinful worldly fashion everywhere, we are in danger of being blinded as to how offensive to God, worldly dress in the church is.
"There is a terrible sin upon us, as a people, that we have permitted our church members to dress in a manner inconsistent with their faith. We must arise at once and close the door against the allurements of fashion. Unless we do this, our churches will become demoralized." —Vol. 4, p. 648.
But how shall we dress? What are God's standards? What are His instructions concerning this important matter?
How thankful we should be, that He has given very explicit instructions concerning it, that those who real ly desire to please Him in their dress may know the way.
There is a cross attached to obedience along this line as well as in other things, but how many of us will stoop and gladly lift it to our shoulders for His sake.
Not all in the church will do so, for we read: "Those who are too conscientious to wear these things [pertaining to worldly dress] are regarded as narrow- minded, superstitious, and even fanatical. But it is God who condescends to give us these instructions; they are the declarations of Infinite Wisdom; and those who disregard them, do so at their own peril and loss." —Ibid., p. 645.
How much better to crucify self and heed God's instruction.
Following are some detailed instructions, which are most timely. "Our dress should be simple, unadorned, and of modest length." —Ibid., p. 640.
But what is meant by modest length? Surely we cannot look to the fashions of today, for an answer to that question. But God answers. "By wearing the dress about to the top of a woman's gaiter boot we shall escape the evils of the extreme long dress and shall also shun the evils and notoriety of the extreme short dress." "My views were calculated to correct the present fashion, the extreme long dress, trailing upon the ground, and also to correct the extreme short dress, reaching about to the knees, which is worn by a certain class," —Vol. l, p. 464.
"By 'the top of the boot,' I designed to be understood; the top of a ... gaiter shoe, usually worn by women." —Ibid., p. 463.
This length, then, was the "medium" between the extreme long dress, trailing upon the ground and the extreme short dress reaching about to the knees.
But, women no longer wear shoes as they did when the Testimonies were written. How can we now know just what God meant?
In Vol. 1, He tells us more explicitly. In speaking of the reform dress (which, God says, was to be a barrier against worldly dress in the church, Vol. 4, p. 639), we read this:
"I would say that ... we have adopted the uniform length of about nine inches from the floor. ... I would earnestly recommend uniformity in length, and would say that nine  inches as nearly accords with my view of the matter, as I am able to express it in inches." —Ibid., p. 521.
This reform dress was called "The short dress" (Ibid.) and nowhere in the Testimonies are we given any permission to wear in public a shorter length than this.
God has spoken; let our sisters listen to Him, instead of fashion's decree.
In regard to thinly clad or unclad extremities, God gives this instruction: "There is but one woman in a thousand who clothes her limbs as she should." —Ibid., p. 461.
"Women should clothe their limbs with regard to health and comfort. Their feet and limbs need to be clad as warmly as men's." —Ibid., p. 459.
"Being remote from the vital organs, [the limbs] should be especially guarded from cold, by abundant clothing." — MH, p. 293.
"Perfect health depends on perfect circulation. Special attention should be paid to the extremities.
"Parents who dress their children with the extremities naked or nearly so, are sacrificing the health and lives of their children, to fashion.
"In order to follow the fashion, mothers dress their children with limbs nearly naked, and the blood is chilled back from its natural course and thrown upon the internal organs, breaking up the circulation and producing disease.
"The limbs were not formed by our Creator to endure exposure, as was the face... . They should be so thoroughly clothed as to induce the blood to the extremities.
"Satan invented the fashions which leave the limbs exposed, chilling back the life-giving current from its original course. And parents bow at the shrine of fash ion. . . . Those parents who follow fashion instead of reason, will have an account to render to God for thus robbing their children of health." —Vol. 2, pp. 531, 532.
Again referring to the instruction from Vol. 4, p. 640; What does God mean when He says that our dress should be simple and unadorned?
A few quotations will make it plain to us:
"Puritan plainness should mark the .. . apparel of all who believe the solemn truths for this time." -Vol. 5, p. 189.
"Self-denial, in dress, is a part of our Christian duty. To dress plainly, and abstain from display of jewelry and ornaments of every kind, is in keeping with our faith.
"I have marked with pain, your religious declen sion, and your disposition to trim and ornament your apparel." —Vol. 3, p. 366.
"I would remind the youth, who ornament their persons, and wear feathers upon their hats, that because of their sins, our Saviour's head wore the shameful crown of thorns." —Ibid., p. 379.
"A disposition in you to dress according to the fashion and to wear lace and gold and artificials [which would surely include artificial flowers] will not recommend to others, your religion." -/bid, p. 376.
"O, the pride that was shown me of God's pro fessed people. It has increased every year, until it is now impossible to designate professed Advent Sabbath keepers from all the world around them. I saw that this pride must be torn out of our families." - Vol. 1, p. 135.
"When their hearts are affected by the truth, it will cause a death to the world and they will lay aside the ribbons, laces and collars, and if they are dead, the laugh, the jeer, and scorn of unbelievers will not move them. They will feel an anxious desire to separate from the world." —Ibid., p. 136.
"The question has often been asked me if I believed it wrong to wear plain linen collars. My answer has al ways been 'No' ... In mentioning collars, I did not de sign to be understood that nothing like a collar should be worn; or in mentioning ribbons, that no ribbons at all should be worn. " —Vol. i, note at bottom of pp. 135,136.
From the above quotation, can be gleaned, that our collars and any ribbons we may wear, should be very plain and simple.
In regard to wearing rings, we read: "Some have a burden in regard to the wearing of a wedding ring, feeling that the wives of our ministers should conform to this custom. All this is unnecessary.... The fact that a disregard of the custom occasions remark, is no good reason for adopting it. ... I feel deeply over this leavening process which seems to be going on among us, in conformity to custom and fashion .. .
"In countries where the custom is imperative, we have no burden to condemn those who have their marriage ring; let them wear it if they can do so conscientiously; but let not our missionaries feel that the wearing of ring will increase their influence one jot or tittle." — TM pp. 780, 181.
"That ring encircling your finger may be very plain, but it is useless." —Vol. 4, p. 630.
What about the large figures and plaids and bright flashy colors, so prevalent in the fashions of the world today?
The Lord gives the following instructions:
"Taste should be manifested as to colors. . . . Modest colors should be sought for. When figured material is used, figures that are large .. . should be avoided.
"A fantastic taste in putting on different colors is bad." — HL par. 530. (The above quotation can be read in "Outline Studies of the Testimonies by C. L. Taylor, Appendix p. 127, Note 19.)
"The material should be free from large plaids and figures, and plain in color." —Vol. 4, p. 640.
Another timely warning is found in Deut. 22:5; "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man, ... for all that do so are abomination to the Lord." This would condemn slack suits, overalls or any form of trousers. And how can mothers who allow their little girls to wear boys' clothing for play suits, expect them to see anything wrong with such a costume when they grow older? "As the twig is bent, the tree is inclined," and "all who do so are abomination to the Lord."
"In like manner also that women adorn themselves
in modest apparel." —l Tim. 2:9. Could short skirts, sleeveless or nearly sleeveless dresses, low necks, shorts, sun suits and the modern bathing suit, be classed as modest apparel? We know that they would not be classed as modest by the pure heart and eyes of our Saviour. They would instead be classed as "strange apparel," which is a great factor in bringing down the wrath of God upon this wicked generation. Read Zephaniah. 1:8.
"Many look upon these injunctions as too old-fashioned to be worthy of notice, but He who gave them ... understood the dangers from the love of dress in our time, and sent to us the note of warning. Will we heed the warning and be wise? Extravagance in dress is continually increasing and the end is not yet. Fashion is constantly changing and our sisters follow in its wake regardless of time and expense." — Vol. 4, pp. 630, 631.
"My sisters; how shall we change all this? How shall we recover ourselves from the snare of Satan and break the chains that have bound us in slavery to fashion? There is only one way to do it, and that is to make the Bible our rule of life." —Ibid., p. 631.
"Moreover, the Lord saith; Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing [or tripping nicely, margin] as they go." — Jsa 3:16.
What is it that causes women to trip along nicely as they walk? Surely it is nothing but the high-heeled shoes which the daughters of Zion are wearing and which are contrary to every principle of health and comfort.
"Therefore the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments," the bracelets, the bonnets, the head bands and the rings, the changeable suits of apparel, the crisping pins, the veils, and all of the other things mentioned in Isaiah 3:18-23.
"And it shall come to pass, that instead of a sweet smell, there shall be a stink, and instead of a girdle, a rent, and instead of well set hair, baldness." —Isa. 3:24.
But notice what else comes to these women of the church, in verse 25: "Thy men shall fall by the sword."
Concerning this chapter, we read from the Testimonies as follows:
"The prophecy of Isaiah 3 was presented before me, as applying to the last days, and the reproofs are given to the daughters of Zion, who have thought only of appearance and display. Read verse 25, Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.'
"I was shown that this scripture will be strictly fulfilled." —Vol. 1, p. 270.
Surely those are solemn words, and will bear some earnest thought. How many of us are willing to have the sons, husbands, and fathers of our families fall in the war on our account? Not one of us, I am sure.
But, you may ask, does the Lord want us to dress so differently from the world that we would attract attention?
The answer: "Christians should not take pains to make themselves a gazing stock, by dressing differently from the world, but if, when following out their convictions of duty in respect to dressing modestly and healthfully, they find themselves out of fashion, they should not change their dress in order to be like the world." —/bid., p. 458.
How would a woman look if she strictly followed out these instructions in dress?
She would have becoming clothes of good material, in modest color. She would look attractive to sensible people, in neatly tailored dresses, and low heeled "health shoes," or "sport shoes," as they are commonly called, of which there are many modest pleasing designs. Above all, she would look pleasing to the Lord.
We would, no doubt, have to get out our sewing machines and revive the lost art of making our own clothes, but I am sure that the Lord would help us, and His blessing upon our efforts to please Him would be worth much. May the Lord help us to heed His words and to finally stand before Him completely covered with that good old-fashioned garment, the robe of His righteousness. —M.G.R.
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