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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 Peter 3:3,4
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
1 Timothy 2:9,10





A Little Grace



Looking at Appearances


An Essay for Short Discussion

by Eugene Prewitt

Disclaimer: This is not a balanced paper. That is because it is a short paper. It is not possible to be balanced and accurate and brief at the same time. Since something has to go, I have chosen to let it be balance. So this paper does not well explain the gospel. It does not adequately lift up the cross as the only reason to dress well. In it I do not take significant pangs to show that dress is not to be the big issue in life. Nor do I address the jewelry issue. Yes, you read that correctly.

Disclaimer continued: This paper does not pretend to exhaust the arguments. Nor does it well represent the other sides of the issues that it discusses. Nor does it make the important point that pride, selfishness, and a critical spirit are more harmful than poor dress. Which means that there are people that dress not best and are most precious for their sweetness. Nor does the paper present itself as the final authority on the issues. Nor have I, as the author, tried much to show how dearly and truly I appreciate many of my fellow-workers who may not (yet?) see these issues as I. Nor am I as certain that I am correct on these issues as I am sure that I am right on whether or not we should keep the Ten Commandments.

So now maybe you don't want to read the paper since it does not say any of the things a good and balanced paper on dress ought to say.(1) But I am not done with my disclaimer.

Disclaimer continued: This paper is written in a colloquial style. Every sentence of it excepting that funny sentence just before this one that used the word “colloquial.” So the grammar should be perfectly accurate for conversational English. This is intended to ease the feelings of tension that tend to fill with hot air and start rising when the issue of dress is touched. If you do not understand how dress could be a hot issue without discussing jewelry, then you should probably not read any further. This paper assumes that you think wearing jewelry is not best or appropriate for Christians living in the time of the judgment. So this paper is written for a very few people. If you want to copy or distribute it, please do so only with the disclaimer attached. This paper does not offer much evidence or proof for ideas that will be readily believed by anyone that has done a few hours of study in the Testimonies on this topic. (i.e. This paper does not work to prove that our clothes should be clean.)

Disclaimer concluded.

So what is this paper intending to do? To present ideas and thoughts perhaps not yet thought of by the reader. And what is the goal? To bring members of Christ's church more into line with dress that would be pleasing to Him.

Dangers: It is entirely likely that you already have your mind made up on this subject. That is dangerous on any topic at any time. Critical thinking, well done, is to follow the thoughts of the presenter, refusing to make a conclusion while significant data has not yet been evaluated. It is, in the same vein, to rethink conclusions that were made before the data was in.

Critical thinking is ill done when it refuses to consider new data on the basis of a previously-made conclusion. (Disclaimer: This paper is not a balanced presentation on critical thinking.)

Now the paper is half done and I will get to my point.

God has presented several ideals to His children regarding dress. Our dress is to be:

  • Neat (and in this sense, attractive)
  • Clean
  • Durable
  • Healthy
  • Modest (not revealing)
  • Modest (not strange)
  • Feminine or masculine

On the last point, there is the familiar verse: (2)

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God. De. 22:5

And the somewhat less familiar paragraph: (3)

[Some ladies] (4) will imitate the opposite sex, as nearly as possible. They will 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, are carrying the so-called dress reform to very objectionable lengths. Confusion will be the result. Some who adopt this costume may be correct in their views in general upon the health question, and they could be instrumental in accomplishing vastly more good if they did not carry the matter of dress to such extremes. {2SM 477.7}

In this style of dress God's order has been reversed, and his special directions disregarded. Deut. xxii, 5. "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God." This style of dress, God would not have his people adopt. It is not modest apparel, and is not at all fitting for modest, humble females who profess to be Christ's followers. God's prohibitions are lightly regarded by all who would advocate the doing away of the distinction of dress between males and females. The extreme positions taken by some dress-reformers upon this subject cripple their influence. {2SM 477.8}

God designed there should be a plain distinction between male and female dress, and has considered the matter of sufficient importance to give explicit directions in regard to it; for the same dress worn by both sexes would cause confusion, and great increase of crime. St. Paul would utter a rebuke, were he alive, and should behold females professing Godliness with this style of dress.

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. "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety." 1 Timothy 2:9. {1T 421.3}

WAIT! You aren't done reading.

Look at the statements again. Which of the following propositions is closer in truth to the intention of the inspired young lady that wrote the testimonies?

•  “Pants on women” was a bad idea in 1880 because women at that time almost all wore dresses.

•  Women's Pants were being advocated and this was offensive to the morals of the times

•  There was a movement to have women wear pants as part of a larger plan to have men and women dress more healthfully without regard to keeping a significant distinction between them. This was abominable.

If you answered the last question too quickly, you may have done it by feel rather than by fact. Options one and two are popular views, but are they really able to be drawn from the text? There was a prophecy attached to this testimony. There would be a significant increase in crimes (moral crimes by inference) if there was a change in dress.

Ladies, I write to you for a moment. St. Paul is not alive to utter a rebuke. But let your heart be broken for the persons who have suffered as the victims of incest, rape, and sexual abuse brought on by the breakdown in distinctions between feminine and masculine dressing.

I can not prove it to you, but I will tell you, a lady dressed modestly and femininely has an atmosphere around her of wholesomeness that represses wickedness in men. The feminine presence reminds them, by way of contrast, that they are men and not brutes. It awakens in them a longing for something that their worldy life does not offer.

So perhaps it can not be argued today that society views pants as “man's” clothing. If the message of Deuteronomy 22:5 beckoned us to adhere to accepted norms regarding gender and dress, this would be a more significant observation. The tendency of society is to diminish the differences. In some circles, the effort is to abolish them. The message of Moses' admonition is that God's people should stand against these movements. Can we stand against the movements today and be consistent with ourselves while adopting the changes those movements brought into society fifty years ago?

To a second point:

Dressing similar to the world does not increase our influence with them at all.

Many dress like the world, in order to have an influence over unbelievers; but here they make a sad mistake. If they would have a true and saving influence, let them live out their profession, show their faith by their righteous works, and make the distinction plain between the Christian and the worldling. The words, the dress, the actions, should tell for God. Then a holy influence will be shed upon all around them, and even unbelievers will take knowledge of them that they have been with Jesus. If any wish to have their influence tell in favor of truth, let them live out their profession and thus imitate the humble Pattern. {CH 598.1}

I saw many traveling in this broad road who had the words written upon them: "Dead to the world. The end of all things is at hand. Be ye also ready." They looked just like all the vain ones around them, except a shade of sadness which I noticed upon their countenances. Their conversation was just like that of the gay, thoughtless ones around them; but they would occasionally point with great satisfaction to the letters on their garments, calling for the others to have the same upon theirs. They were in the broad way, yet they professed to be of the number who were traveling the narrow way. Those around them would say: "There is no distinction between us. We are alike; we dress, and talk, and act alike." {1T 128.2}

Notice the worldly wisdom in the last sentence. Our dress, though a little issue in our own Christian life, may be a salvational issue of huge proportions in the lives of those who know us.

WAIT! There is something else…

I was in an airplane some years ago reading a magazine. I found an article about Calvin Klein clothing. Before that point I had not really noticed Calvin Klein items. I mean, I had seen them, but didn't think much about them. The article explained the advertising theme of the man himself. There was a full-page add that implied incest, others highlighting child nudity, and the theme of all the CK advertisements was sex. This theme of the company is published widely. One writer indicated that you can open any magazine and find an erotic add from Klein's marketing department. Calvin Klein himself has worked to glamorize homosexuality in his advertising.

Would Jesus wear Calvin Klein? If a trim of blue was to be a message to the world that the Jews kept the law, what do the letters CK say to the same world? My opinion…Christians should not wear items that are associated with lust. We have a different message to carry to the world.

And a final item:

Our clothing should be constructed for durability and practicality. It should be well-fitting and warm in cool weather. Does this require following fashion? Adopting a style of dress that is in keeping with our faith is good regardless of whether or not the world may wear it. But fashion is an idol and I am afraid that more people put money offerings before Molech than would admit to doing it.

The lives and teachings of Christian parents should be in marked contrast with those of unbelievers. Worldlings teach their children to love display, and to bow to the idol of fashion. They sacrifice themselves and their children upon this altar of Moloch. But Christians who profess to be seeking the heavenly Canaan, should obey the instructions of the Bible. We urge modern Israel to lay aside their ornaments, their jewels of silver and gold and precious stones, to put off their costly-apparel, and to seek for the inward adorning, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. Let children be educated, not to become devotees of fashion, but to be servants of God. {ST, May 26, 1881 par. 23}

So that is all. We want to win the world. I conclude from the data above and lots and lots more that if ladies would dress ever so wholesomely that they would be amazed at the increase in their witnessing effectiveness of men. If they would make a stand that they would not bow at the idol of fashion, they would take a step that would make it more difficult for the world to say “they dress like us, they can't be that much different, why change?”

I didn't address the modesty issue really at all. Maybe I will after writing another long disclaimer about being a man and writing about sensually dressed females. (5) That is an awkward activity. But as a hint in the meantime…teasing outfits (that almost reveal or make almost possible to see…) are to most men what a free cigarette is to a struggling tobacco addict. Less shear, less tight, more careful, and you would be dressing kindly. Beautiful and sensual, these are not synonyms.

Review: The changes in what society regards as clothing for females and males are arrayed against the plain statements of God. The changes have diminished the distinctions. This is the very movement forbidden by God though Moses in De. 22:5. Changing society may dictate what “pertains to a woman” but never can dictate how similar that may rightly be to what pertains to a man. In other words, the Jesus-pleasing woman may choose her “pertains to a woman” attire from among those items society labels as feminine. But she must let conscience dictate which of those “feminine” articles are the result of a societal slide towards neutrality. These are to be avoided for reasons mentioned above and to boycott the Devil's cruel trick that is causing so much pain today in solemn immoral crimes.

Respond….let me know how you react to this paper.

The End

Appendix Only

Item: If a hoop skirt turned sideways, revealing 20 lbs. of flannel coverings is an immodest revealing of the female form, what does that have to say about modesty? Before you answer, remember that cultured society accepted the flannel viewing as a reasonable necessity when ladies were entering and exiting passenger trains.

Item: I do not mean to say by this paper that pants are an abomination for women. (Did I just confuse you?) It is the slackening in the difference between the sexes that is an abomination and that is defiant of the Bible rule. Indian ladies wear “pants” of sorts that are very distinct from Indian men's clothing and can be at the same time modest and healthy. The modest Indian female outfit still has its western cultural counterpart in the most wholesomely feminine unmasculine-like clothing around…dresses.

contact me at canvassing@canvassing.org

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What about when a lady is climbing trees?

Answer:  Before we get to the question, we need to get to the root of the problem that it implies. Let me illustrate with a different proposition and question. Proposition: We should not frequent taverns where strip-dancing is practiced. Question: But what about the man who evangelizes in the strip-tease taverns? Answer: Oh, that is a hard question. Reply: Why? Answer: Umm, it confuses my epistemology. (6) If a man, according to Inspiration, is not to frequent such places, then isn't the question a way of changing the source of authority from Inspiration to experience? I mean, if God says “don't go there” then isn't the question “what if I go there?” a type of hardening the heart?

Now the Bible does not forbid ladies climbing trees. It does place prohibitions on some seemingly harmless activities (like eating fruit from a certain tree that looks like all the rest in the garden) on the basis of unforeseen problems. But climbing trees, if one does it carefully, appears even to me to be a harmless recreation, and in the case of Zacchaeus, even a practical solution to some problems.

In the same chapter that we first find the Ten Commandments we find another little verse that helps us with the principle we are discussing:

Ex 20:26 Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

The priests were to dress a certain way when ministering in the sanctuary. Someone might have asked “But what should they wear when they go up on steps to the altar? It wouldn't be modest to wear their special clothing there.” That question would be backwards thinking. Forward thinking would reason like this, “Neither should they go up on steps to the altar since that would be immodest with the clothing that has been proscribed.” The first question leads logically to situational ethics where what is right is based on what is happening.

So now to the ladies in the trees. What should they wear? If indeed ladies should wear only feminine clothing, then it may be that they will need to be creative in regard to tree climbing. Maybe they could do it only when the boys are away? Or when they are wearing pants underneath? I think it has been a long time since I have seen a lady in a tree. (To get a dead cow on the altar would be a lot easier if there were only steps leading up to it. Think about that for a minute or two.) Maybe the confusion that was prophesied to come from a blurring of distinctions between men's and women's clothing has included a confusion on the roles that God intended women to fill in the family. If there is a tree that must be climbed, and if there are men around, is it possible that they ought to be the ones to climb it?

Question: Is a woman a witch if she wears pants?

Answer: This is not a frequently asked question. However, it did happen once upon a time that a young female student of mine called her mother and told her that I said that if a woman wears pants that she is a witch. In case that rumor has spread, I would like to lay it to rest. I never said that or anything related to it. It is a silly proposition at best. But furthermore, I would like to answer the unasked question behind it. That question is a FTQ (frequently thought question). “What do you think about me since you believe a lady should wear dresses and I am a lady that wears pants?”

If you are reading this, then I probably think very highly of you. I do not gather from the thought-question that you will base your conclusions upon my evaluation. But perhaps it is right that you would inquire whether or not I condemn you for not conforming to my opinions. I do not. There was a time in my life when I thought the very ideas in this paper were fanatical. I was as truly consecrated to Jesus then as now. I was growing in grace and in the knowledge of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Unless there is some other reason that I cannot, I will suppose the same about you. I appreciate your devotion and service, your warmth and efforts. I trust your judgement and respect your reason. If you read this prayerfully and conclude that I am wrong, I will not be sure that you are wrong in that conclusion, however much I may think you are.

None of these facts are reason enough to suppress a word of truth.

Question:  What about culottes? (7)

Answer:  See disclaimers above. This paper is not intended to do your thinking for you. Evaluate culottes in the light of the statements. I think they may be perfectly sensible and appropriate. If you think not, I am not sure you are wrong. If you think that I am so obviously right that the question is silly, I am not sure that you are wrong either.

Question:  Is this a salvational issue?

Answer:  Why do you ask? Let us face a few facts before answering this directly. There are Bible issues that are causing a significant amount of controversy over theories. What you believe about Zechariah 14, Revelation 4, or about the identification of the daily may make you a target of others that feel differently about the same. The last sentence of the following paragraph is particularly helpful in answering the question if we understand the sentences before it.

It is often the case that the customs and climate of a country make a condition of things that would not be tolerated in another country. Changes for the better must be made, but it is not best to be abrupt. The truth received into the heart sanctifies the receiver. The power of the grace of God will do more for the soul than controversy will do in a lifetime. By the power of the truth how many things might be adjusted, and controversies hoary with age find quietude in the admission of better ways. The great, grand principle, "Peace on earth and good will to men," will be far better practised when those who believe in Christ are labourers together with God. Then all the little things which some are ever harping upon, which are not authoritatively settled by the Word of God, will not be magnified into important matters. – Testimonies to Southern Africa , pp. 79-80.

Theories that are not authoritatively settled by the Word of God should not be magnified into important issues. But even these theories become salvational issues when controversy over them brings bitterness, dissention, alienation, and thus, a withdrawal of the Holy Spirit. You might say that it is the bitterness and dissention that are the salvational issues. Perhaps you are right. Dress can also become a salvational issue under the same circumstances. A hardening of the heart, a distancing of one's self from one's brethren, will have an impact on one's relationship to God.

Dress might also be a salvational issue to those with whom we associate.

Love of truth is most certainly a salvational issue. Idolatry of dress, not a rare ailment according to the Testimonies , is also. It should be a matter of church discipline. (8)

But if you love truth above all else and want to make Jesus happy by your dress and demeanor, if you cherish love for your brethren and refuse to fall to bickering, if you resist bitter thoughts and do what ever you can to meet the needs of the dying world, you are acceptable to God and to all that are His. Even if you are a lady wearing pants. No one can be (or should want to be) conscience for you.

But if you asked the question because you do not want to seriously consider what God has said on the topic, quibbles will not avail in the judgement. Trusting God enough to believe Him is a salvational issue.

Question:  What about when I am swimming or riding horses or climbing mountains or repelling or working in the garden?

Answer:  See “climbing trees” above. We would not want to reason backwards. We should keep the seventh-day Sabbath. “But what about if I play on the NFL?” “Oh, that would never work. Muslims keep part of Friday. Maybe you should be one of them instead.” Can you see the fallacy in the question?

But regarding the working in the garden and riding horses, for most of the last 1,000 years ladies did these things a great deal. During that time they all wore dresses. During the last sixty years they have spent much less time in the garden and on the horses. Now they wear pants. Ironic, isn't it?

Question:  Why do spiritual people in leadership not believe this way?

Answer:  Some do. Some do not. Some have been taught, some have not. But is the question implying some deviant source of authority? Leaders' thoughts are like your thoughts. What they do not believe today they may well advocate tomorrow.

Question:  I don't want to. I don't want to. I don't want to!

Answer:  Oh. (9)

Question:  This isn't supposed to be a big issue. I (10) t is a mistake to notice people's dress and then to evaluate their character accordingly. (11) Why then did you write this paper?

Answer:  God noticed these things and that is reason enough to notice them. “We, by the law, are dead to the law.” In other words, when we become obedient, the counsel or command that we are obeying ceases to sound in our ears or to burden our consciences. Dress is to be a small matter indeed. A few hours in a lifetime will suffice to study the principles and determine a course of action that would harmonize with them. The larger issues may well absorb thousands of hours of study and mediation.

But the little issues (12) can not be well ignored while we give proper attention to the larger ones. For ourselves we know not which issue may prove to be the largest one as the Holy Spirit probes our lives for idolatry.

God leads his people on step by step. He brings them up to different points which are calculated to manifest what is in the heart. Some endure at one point, but fall off at the next. At every advanced point the heart is tested, and tried a little closer. If the professed people of God find their hearts opposed to the straight work of God, it should convince them that they have a work to do to overcome, or be spued out of the mouth of the Lord. Said the angel, "God will bring his work closer and closer to test them, and prove every one of his people." Some are willing to receive one point, but when God brings them to another testing point, they shrink from it and stand back, because they find it strikes directly at some cherished idol. Here they have opportunity to see what is in their hearts that shuts out Jesus. They prize something higher than the truth, and their hearts are not prepared to receive Jesus. Individuals are tested and proved a length of time to see if they will sacrifice their idols, and heed the counsel of the True Witness.—2SG pp. 224-226.

Question:  Do you realize that I feel hurt and a little angry that you would teach these things?

Answer:  I am sorry if you are hurt. I was nervous about writing it just because I was afraid you might be. I was worried that you might become bitter and feel that your freedoms were being taken away. If what I write is true, then those freedoms were not really freedoms. If I am wrong, oh! I do want to know it! I want to know the better way to understand these statements. Believe I am sincere in this and help me before I lay a needless burden on the backs of many. Teaching it is a burden. But if it is true (as I believe) then it is a light burden and I am happy to bear it.

Question: So you are saying that there is an eleventh commandment? “Ladies don't wear pants.”

Answer:  No. There is a second principle. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The question is not “What may I get away with?” But “What can I wear that would be, beyond a doubt, pleasing to Jesus?” You may answer that for yourself. The statements in this paper may help you if help is what you are looking for in Inspiration.

Question:  Didn't you say this was going to be a short paper?

Answer:  Oops. I hope it was a blessing. The end.


(1.) I have written many other papers on such topics as faith, grace, love, salvation, history, the Testimonies, and such like. If you want a balanced perspective, there are other authors that write better than I that have addressed each of these issues. If you want to know if I have a balanced perspective, you may want to read those papers. Write me at canvassing@canvassing.org for info on how to find them.

(2.) It is important to read familiar passages very slowly lest the Living Word of God become a dead letter.

(3.) It is important to read unfamiliar passages very slowly less the thoughts of the Inspirer be lost in the mixing of what we are reading with what we are thinking. Selah.

(4.) The ladies mentioned here were secular reformers that were courageously working to reverse unhealthy trends of society. Other ladies of the time were generally wearing far too much clothing, were restricting their bodies in horrible ways, and were gathering “filth” from the streets with their heel-length skirts. These noble reformers, on the other hand, advocated shorter attire and enough clothing for warmth rather than enough to start a Dorcas society. Some of them thought that men's pants were more practical and warm than the lady's clothing and began to adopt them. Society as a whole was unready for this innovation.

(5.) One point perhaps must be made. Form fitting jeans and pants promote evil thinking. And loose jeans and pants look masculine. It is a lose-lose game that I suggest not playing.

(6.) “my epistemology” means “my idea of how one can find the truth.” Our source of authority defines our epistemology. Is it scripture? Tradition? Authoritative spokespersons? Reason? Experience?

(7.) Culottes—“A dress for each leg.” Or, “A split skirt.” These vary a great deal. The fullest of them look like dresses until the wearers take large steps.

(8.) 4T 647

(9.) This is intended to inspire thought, not to be humorous, and especially not to mock those struggling with conviction.

(10.) “Jesus has noticed the care and devotion given to dress, and has cautioned, yea, commanded, us not to bestow too much thought upon it. It is important that we give careful heed to His words. Solomon was so engrossed with thoughts of outward display that he failed to elevate his mind by a constant connection with the God of wisdom.” 4T 628. “Satan invented the fashions in order to keep the minds of women so engrossed with the subject of dress that they could think of but little else.” 4T 629.

(11.) See Letter 4, 1861. The recipient of the letter was a lady whose “burden” was to “notice a person's dress and thus decide in regard to his character.” 19MR 34.

(12.) In speaking upon the great subject of health, [I] mentioned the dress reform as one of the items of least importance which make up the great whole. RH 10-8-1867