Linda Driver Kirk – December 2009
I was born in 1953, into a moderate Seventh-day Adventist family, the 4th of 5 girls. Since this is a story of my experience regarding my dress, I'm including aspects of my life that exerted a strong influence on my lifestyle choices.
During the years I was growing up, the Seventh-day Adventist church family seemed homogeneous regarding standards and lifestyle. I don't recall the liberal/conservative tension that is more apparent today. For the most part, we all ate the same, dressed the same, enjoyed the same “wholesome” entertainment—Laodicean unity! I attended Seventh-day Adventist schools all the way through high school.
As I entered my teen years, I noticed that there was a wider range of lifestyle choices available, and I tended to make choices leaning towards the worldly end of the spectrum. That included make-up, popular “rock and roll” music, and more immodest clothing. But I still considered myself a “good Adventist.”
The rules at the Seventh-day Adventist boarding school regarding dress seemed to stir up a rebellious spirit within many young girls. Mini skirts were just beginning to come into style. The requirement that our skirts must come to the knee chaffed against our desires. Many of us rolled up the waist bands of our skirts to make them shorter as soon as we went through the check point at the door of the dorm.
Like all those around me, I wore pants from my earliest years. “Peddle pushers” were in style for a while, then wildly flowered, plaid and polka dot pants were popular. I still remember wearing some pink and lime green hip-hugger pants, with a wide belt and ribbed shirt. Then the long-haired “hippie” look was all the rage.
In the 60s and 70s we still were required to wear dresses for school, but after school, pants were definitely the thing to wear. We usually wore dresses on Sabbath though. I remember at our conference campmeeting, pants were not even allowed on the campground until I was practically in my teens. Older women rarely wore pants during this time.
Jeans and “cords” were becoming more popular in my circle of friends during high school. Many of us purchased guy's cords and jeans because the girl's selection wasn't that great, and we could match with our boyfriends if we bought guy's pants. The styles were pretty much the same for guys and girls so it didn't make much difference if they were men's or women's pants.
I got my first job as a secretary when I was 18, and I wore mini skirts to work every day. Pants weren't worn by women much in the office in those days. My mini skirts were as short as I could possibly get them and still cover my underwear. Much to my shame, I worshipped the goddess of fashion. I wore my clothes short, tight, low cut, slinky, with high heels—whatever it took to get the guys to look. Add in a lot of make-up, and I looked just like the girls of the world, minus the jewelry.
When I was 21, I had a radical conversion experience. I truly fell in love with Jesus, and gave my heart to Him. One of the first things to go was my mini skirts. I knew that they were displeasing to Jesus. So, I started wearing “maxi” skirts to church, which, fortunately for me, had just come into style. Or I wore “granny dresses” which were in style for a short while. For casual wear, I always wore pants.
Shortly after my conversion experience, I attended Eden Valley Institute, a self-supporting medical missionary training school. The dress code for women at this school was rather strict, as they required that the dresses come about mid-calf or longer, and absolutely no pants, not even working in the garden. So, for the one year that I was there, I complied with the rules, even though I didn't really understand them. The “granny dresses” had gone out of style, and mini skirts were the only popular length worn by young ladies my age. So I found it very embarrassing to appear off campus in my maxi-length dresses.
At Eden Valley, I took a class that used a book called “Principles of Christian Dress” as the textbook. It was filled with Spirit of Prophecy quotations on dress reform. Even though I never fully read it or agreed with it, for some reason I kept it in my library for over 30 years!
After I left Eden Valley, I soon went back to wearing pants. Over the next 30 years, the wearing of pants, especially jeans, was continually increasing among my peer group. I recall at times the thought coming to my mind that perhaps I shouldn't wear pants, and I'd start wearing skirts, but because of the influence of others, eventually that thought would fade away, and the pants would return in full force.
It still seemed more appropriate to wear a dress at some of the jobs I had, like the church secretary job, and the teacher's aid position, and when I worked for a Seventh-day Adventist ministry for a couple of years. But pants increasingly became my favorite choice. More recently, when I stopped working outside the home, I generally wore pants except to church or a special occasion.
During this 30 plus year span, my walk with Jesus had grown, and I was a fully committed Seventh-day Adventist Christian. I believed that I was willing to do anything that God wanted me to do. The Holy Spirit had convicted me to make many changes in my lifestyle over the years. (I still have a long way to go!) I was learning to listen more closely to that still small voice.
In April 2008, I joined several conservative Seventh-day Adventist on-line forums. I respected the depth of spiritual commitment of several women on the forum. One day, a little over a year ago, I read something that caught my attention. These women were talking about wearing dresses all the time, and not wearing pants. I could sense the Holy Spirit speaking to me through their words. But I wasn't ready for this yet. After all, I wore pants almost exclusively. I was a country girl, and stayed at home most of the time. I couldn't imagine putting on a skirt just to stay at home!
Over the next few weeks, the conviction to wear more feminine clothing seemed to be developing in my heart. But I was fighting it! I had many excuses formulating in my mind why it wouldn't be feasible or necessary for me. I tried to block out the thought of wearing skirts. I dreaded the thought that I might actually have to do this! I mean, what would people think of me! How inconvenient, how uncomfortable, how weird I would look! Oh, no, Lord, PLEASE don't make me do this!!!
One day in August, 2008, I thought of that book I'd had in my library for 30 years on dress reform. I found it, and started flipping through the pages. It was just as if the Holy Spirit stopped my eyes right on a certain page, and I read just one short Bible verse, and one short quotation from the Spirit of Prophecy. Here is what jumped out at me:
“I saw God's order has been reversed, and His special directions disregarded, by those who adopt the American costume. I was referred to Duet. 22:5. 'The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man...for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord.' God would not have His people adopt the so called reform dress [American Costume]. It is immodest apparel, wholly unfitted for the modest humble followers of Christ. There is an increasing tendency to have women in their dress and appearance as near like the other sex as possible, and to fashion their dress very much like that of men. But God pronounces it abomination.” 1T 421
As I stood there, with the book in my hand, my eyes riveted to the page, the Holy Spirit spoke right to my heart, and, without a shadow of a doubt, I knew that He was asking me to respond to His request that I dress is a more feminine style. It was clear as a bell to me. The Lord had been preparing my heart, and I was willing. So the decision was made. I would obey what the Lord was asking me to do.
Soon I packed up all my jeans and tight pants and took them out of the house, never to be worn again. My looser pants hung around for a little while longer.
At first, I tried to figure out how I could obey God and still be accepted by my friends. My initial style of dress was to wear tunics, long tops that came about midway to my knees or lower. The transition to skirts came over a period of several months. I was in the process of “moving toward modesty.”
Since I was becoming interested in the subject of dress reform, I wanted to educate myself on the topic. One of the ladies on the forum had written a book on dress reform, and I read the whole thing straight through. For the first time I began to understand why some women chose not to wear pants. It was like a light was coming on for me.
I prayed a lot about my clothes during those first few months, and felt the hand of the Lord guiding me gently forward. Because we had recently adopted 2 babies with special needs, I stayed home most of the time. This impacted my social life greatly, since it kept me from being involved in out-of-the home activities and close friendships. Therefore, I had no one to influence me. I consulted with no one regarding these changes I was making, but only with my Lord.
As I think back over the last year, I am amazed and so grateful as to how the Lord has gently led me on this incredible journey. How could something so simple as not wearing a single article of clothing (pants) be so completely life-changing! It's been an incredible walk of faith.
I now fully believe that God never asks us to do anything that is not for our ultimate best good. He never requires us to give up anything that is in our best interest to retain. All His biddings are enablings. He provides the strength for our day, and the wisdom that we need for the next decision. He leads us step by step in our individual, unique journey.
Why hadn't I heard His voice on this matter many years before? Whatever the reason, I'm so thankful I finally listened! What a blessing this had turned out to be in my life!
It didn't feel like a blessing at first. At times I was totally embarrassed by my appearance! How I longed to hide myself! I dreaded events when all my friends would dress just like I had always dressed, and I'd show up dressed in a skirt, standing out like a sore thumb!
But, every time I obeyed my Lord, it got easier. My focus was beginning to shift from seeking the approval of others to seeking the approval of God. My sense of embarrassment diminished. As I begin to sense the value of modest and womanly dress, I felt drawn closer to God. After all, it wasn't my friends that I needed to please, it was my Lord.
Now that I have settled into this mode of dress, and gone through all four seasons, I have a much better understand of how to apply God's principles in a practical way. But there was definitely a growing and learning process. I'm still not an experienced “dress reformer” and have much to learn. I certainly don't want to set myself up as an example to anyone.
I've learned that this is much more than just changing a style of apparel. It goes way deep to the heart. It is really all about surrendering our wills to God, and allowing Him to work in our lives. It is about dying to self, vanity and pride. It is about being willing to please Jesus no matter what. These spiritual lessons are invaluable, and so incredibly precious. When I was willing to step out in faith, the blessings from the Lord far outweighed any sacrifice I made.
When Satan stands ready to discourage us from following our convictions, he likes to paint an exaggerated picture as to what we will be giving up. I thought I'd be giving up the comfort, warmth and ease of wearing jeans. Instead, I have found greater comfort, warmth and ease in my current style ofdress. Wearing skirts has become a delight!
Instead of focusing on how some may disapprove of my apparel, I now recognize the increased respect I receive, even from strangers. The people who are open to spiritual things are attracted to Christlike modesty. Modest dressing has a far greater influence on others than dressing just like the world, and provides unique opportunities to witness. I have discovered that what we may consider a curse can actually be a blessing.
Now, it's been 1 year and 4 months from the time the Holy Spirit first spoke to my heart about my need to dress in a way that pleases Jesus. I am so thankful for God's principles regarding Christian dress. They have truly become dear to my heart. I appreciate so much what God has revealed to me thus far. Every day when I get dressed, I think about these principles. They guard my heart against pride and vanity, and keep me from focusing on self. Jesus is showing me more every day how much He loves me, and how He wants me to be totally devoted to Him.
Following dress reform from a sense of duty is a huge burden, but following it from a heart-felt appreciation for God's counsel is a true blessing! All my feelings of embarrassment, discomfort, and self-consciousness are now replaced with feelings of joy and delight in the privilege of representing my Lord even in my dress.
This concludes my personal experience. Now I will share how the Moving Toward Modesty web site came to be.
How This Web Site Started
In August, 2009, just about one year from my decision regarding dress, two of my friends got into a lively discussion. Basically, these two ladies were arguing about which was more modest—wearing pants or wearing below the knee skirts with bare legs. It was one opinion against another. I realized that neither one understood the true principles of dress reform. I thought of the old book in my library that had been instrumental in my conviction. It was tattered and not very attractively presented in a typewritten format. But it had good information in it. And then I thought of the book I had read, entitled simply “Dress” by Linda Sutton, and wondered how I could best share this information with my friends. Realizing that this is a very sensitive subject, I hesitated giving someone a lengthy book about dress reform.
As I pondered this, I was impressed to put this information on a web site, so that anyone who wanted to read it would have it available. The only material that I knew existed on this subject consisted of these 2 books, plus one other pamphlet. I obtained permission to post this material on my new website. With my limited web designing skills, and much prayer, I moved forward.
I searched and searched for Seventh-day Adventist web sites dedicated to dress reform. While I found none, I did find many Christian web sites from other denominations with some excellent material. I wondered if there were any other Adventists that had written about appropriate Christian dress.
As I launched the Moving Toward Modesty web site project, I definitely sensed the leading of the Holy Spirit. My expectations, however, were low: I hoped my friends would be willing to read the web site, and perhaps a few others here and there. I had no idea what God had in mind. I spent the next month calling all the self-supporting institutions I could think of, looking for more material. The articles began to trickle in, and I put them up on the simple little web site.
The more I read about the subject, the more I sensed the need for this information to be spread to all the women in our church. The Lord was laying a heavy burden on my heart, and I felt so inadequate for the task. I needed help on this project. I laid it before the Lord, and asked Him to send just the right person who could help me.
I was given the name of Gwen Shorter, and told that she and her husband Rick had written a book on this topic, “Thy Nakedness, Lord, What Shall I Wear?” I'd never heard of it. I tracked down her phone number, gave her a call and ordered this book, as well as their book “Jewelry, The Spiritualism Connection.”
After reading the books, I knew I had to talk further with Gwen Shorter! So I called her back, and explained what I was trying to do. After a few more conversations with Gwen, it became apparent to both of us that God was calling us to work together on this project! By mid-September, 2009, we were a team, with a heaven-ordained mission to share the message of dress reform with our Seventh-day Adventist sisters. I know that God put us together for this purpose. Gwen and Rick have been faithful pioneers in presenting the message of dress reform, whom the Lord has used to reach many for the last 40 years.
The way the Lord has led in putting together and promoting this web site has been nothing short of miraculous! I had no idea that there were so many brothers and sisters all over the world who shared a similar burden. We have been greatly encouraged by the positive response to these messages. In the first three months over 6000 people have viewed the web site!
I myself have experienced a huge blessing by reading all the information on the web site. The wide-spread and growing convictions of God's people all over the world, and in many denominations has encouraged me tremendously. It is clear to me that this is the time for God's people to turn away from the immodest fashions of the world, and toward His inspired principles on dress. This is God's message, this is His work. I am thankful to have a small part in calling for a revival of primitive godliness, to help prepare God's remnant to meet our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when He returns for His church.