2. Reformation of Dress


Is this subject all that important, or should we not make a big deal about it? Is it a matter of salvation, or is it fanatical to exhort the Assembly on this? The following quotes should more than sufficiently answer these questions:

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 exhibitions of pride in dress, which is forbidden in the word of God, should be sufficient reason for church discipline. If there is a continuance, in face of warnings and appeals and entreaties, to still follow the perverse will, it may be regarded as proof that the heart is in no way assimilated to Christ. Self, and only self, is the object of adoration, and one such professed Christian will lead many away from God.

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.

— E.G. White, 4 Testimonies, pp. 647-48

Great neglect has been shown in the matter of bringing our church-members up to the standard of the Bible in this matter. After admonition, after time for Bible study and reflection, those who are walking contrary to the Scriptures, and will not reform, should be suspended from the church. The church is weakened, her power is enfeebled, her influence is limited, because church-members fail to live in accordance with the directions of the Bible. The example of those who follow the fashions of the world has a disastrous effect upon other members of the church.

— E.G. White, Review and Herald, 6/2/1891

World War I Changed Everything

Before you read any further below, please read this study on World War I first. It may be one of the most eye-opening things you ever read as it gives a very important background for modern clothing as well as practical ways on to overcome sexual sin that everyone should understand.

a) Covering Nakedness (A Biblical Principle)

Covering nakedness of legs is an apostolic command:

I will therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing; in like manner, also the women, in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety—to adorn themselves not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array, but which becometh women professing piety, through good works.

— 1 Timothy 2:8-10

The word translated to “apparel” is the Greek word ‘katastole’, which was a Greek long-flowing dress let down to the ankles. Greek women could also wear dresses that did not cover all the way down, which is why Paul deliberately used this word. Nakedness was considered shameful, but by being fully covered, women could dress in a way that held fast to shame—that is, in a way that showed they were shameful of their nakedness being exposed, a symbol of sin.

In Sister White’s day, the main problem was the extravagance of dress, which is still a problem today. It is up to the leadership of the Assembly to make sure nothing is worn in the House of God that would attract attention to self, whether through flashiness, decorations, drawing attention to the unique shape of the woman’s body, or worse yet, exposing its nakedness; and, for that matter, the nakedness of men should not be exposed either. The latter is a serious problem today, not just mainstream, but Reform and independent Seventh-day Adventist assemblies, and it must be corrected in order for the demoralization of its members—whether in the form of pornography, secret sin, or just general impiety and worldliness—to discontinue.

But what is biblical nakedness? It is not what cultural nakedness is. Did you know that it is having any part of the leg bare? And do you understand the spiritual ramifications of this—that physical nakedness is a sign of spiritual nakedness, which is an absence of the character of the Messiah? Did you know that public nakedness, or even nakedness seen by members of the same household, is abhorrent to God and that He has outlawed it in Chapters 18 and 20 of Leviticus? The following is a good study on biblical nakedness—both from a physical and spiritual standpoint:

Shame of Nakedness (by Lynford Heron, Centurion Press)

Then how does a woman cover herself, since a skirt cannot cover her lower legs when standard footwear is worn, and if it goes down to the shoes it would likely catch dirt and be unhealthful? Some have worn tall boots, and this may work for the sake of modesty. However, that is still not following a very important, but nearly universally neglected principle (even by those who, in ignorance, may profess to be “reformers”) of health reform: the covering of the limbs.

The purpose is for equal blood flow in the body, which, without, can lead to various health problems, especially when it is colder. But the principle applies in all weather conditions, as the Spirit of Prophecy makes it clear that women are to be just as covered as men on the legs, which skirts alone cannot accomplish as they cannot block the airflow. Even in warmer weather, air current will still flow under a skirt making the legs cooler than the upper body, which creates an unequal distribution of circulation. And the principle even applies to men when it is cold, such that just as much, or more, warm layers are to cover the legs as rest of the body, which is generally not practiced. In the article below by Ellen White, this is covered; and the link below that gives some more historical context. Please go through both articles.

Reform in Dress (by E.G. White)

History of Women’s Dress in Pictures (by Remnant Raiment)

b) Women’s Head Covering (A History)

The last article above does not cover the history of the woman’s head covering, but the following Wikipedia article covers this well, showing that the practice of not wearing the veil in public did not come until well into the 19th century, while it was still worn for public worship into the 20th century, even in the Western world; hence, both the woman’s dress and her head covering were dispensed with together in the women’s liberation movement. Feel free to browse through the material; no need to read it all. It also includes how Bible interpretation regarding it in 1 Corinthians 11 compares in different groups and how it has changed over time.

Christian Head Covering (by Wikipedia)

See also: Two Forgotten Apostolic Ordinances of 1 Corinthians 11

c) Covering of Limbs (for Health)

Though it is good to know, we don’t want to dwell much on history lessons, but rather on what God counsels for us, so back to the Spirit of Prophecy and the covering of limbs. Please keep in mind that though covering the legs with pants under skirts on women is more important the colder it gets, it is the all-season Spirit of Prophecy standard of dress—that includes in the summer, when even stockings are insufficient for modesty’s sake, for the fashion itself of skirts over bare legs or thin leg coverings was invented by Satan:

I inquire, Is it reasonable, or even modest, to see the limbs of your daughters exposed, to the bend of the knee, without any covering, except a cotton stocking in summer, and flannel, in winter? Why should not mothers clothe their daughters sensibly, modestly, and healthfully, irrespective of prevailing fashions?

— E.G. White, Review and Herald, 6/2/1891

Satan invented the fashions which leave the limbs exposed, chilling back the life current from its original course.

— E.G. White, 2 Testimonies, p. 531

d) Women’s Dress Over Pants (for Femininity)

So, then, since pants are required for health, why do then skirts need to be placed over the pants? We have already covered how it distinguishes between the sexes, but many would then argue that men wore skirts in biblical times, just like women, and women today commonly wear pants and even have their own styles of pants. However, women have always historically worn skirts, whether the men have or not. And, remember, women’s pants (uncovered by skirts) are a very recent invention designed by the women’s liberation movement, which, according to the Spirit of Prophecy, was pioneered by Spiritualists. Do we really want to be wearing that which was invented by spiritualists, who were servants of Satan to sexualize women and make them more like men so as to demoralize society? We think not.

As for the style of pants, leggings will cling to the legs and reveal the form; thus, they are not modest, unless used as a layer under loose-fitting pants/slacks for colder weather. For warmer weather, the loose-fitting style will also keep the legs cooler, especially if of a thinner material. Skirts over loose-fitting pants will typically be cooler than jeans on a hot summer day, and many will wear pants without complaint. Should we not be willing to suffer for our Saviour, for the sake of modesty, which He highly prizes?

e) Sufficiently Covering the Feminine Form

In addition, skirts have a very practical purpose in terms of modesty. If properly done, they veil the legs and buttocks, which even though may be clothed, the shapes are still exposed if no skirts are covering these parts which men are not supposed to see, as with the shape of the breasts. So, it is not just the bare skin, but also the shape, which can expose nakedness. This can be demonstrated below, realizing that in her day drawers were still worn under the skirts and that was enough to be indecent exposure. Watch how serious this is, according to the words used by the messenger of God—”abomination” … “indecent” … “grievous sin” …

Also, as seen in Ellen White’s article, “one light skirt, or two at most, is all that is necessary.” Back then, sometimes women wore many skirts, giving the dress a lot of body, which was fashionable. But today, even among professed reformers, often no skirts are worn underneath the main dress, and the result is indecency in showing the shape of the buttocks, as well as of the legs when the wind blows. This is yet further proof that pants alone are not to be worn, because it is impossible to obscure the form without multiple layers, and God is dishonored by the immodesty, whether through pants alone or one dress or skirt alone. But when all counsel is followed, the dress will be feminine and not masculine, and for the purpose of covering the feminine form, which is why clothing is distinct for the sexes.

f) Suspension of Clothes

One last issue is that of health, but still in the realm of dress reform. It was only briefly touched upon in Ellen White’s article, and this principle applies to men as well: suspending what covers the legs, either by suspenders or overalls.

Every article of clothing should be suspended from the shoulders. The habit of fastening the skirts about the body with bands, allowing the weight to rest upon the hips to keep them from slipping off is decidedly injurious to health. For exactly where these bands girt are nerves, and large blood-vessels, which carry the blood into the limbs. These veins and nerves should not be pressed, but allowed the most perfect freedom to fulfill the purpose for which nature designed them.

— E.G. White, Health Reformer, 4/1/1872

Resources for Dress Reform

One last thought. According to the divine counsel we have read, many of us will need to drastically change our wardrobe—men (with suspenders and lined pants for winter) and women (in many ways). This could be burdensome for people. But here are a couple of ideas that could greatly alleviate that. First, the local assembly should have a fund for this cause for those who cannot afford the expense. And secondly, perhaps most importantly, every assembly should have a clothing ministry, in which women sew for other women modest apparel as well as teach other women how to sew for themselves, as it can be challenging and quite expensive to attain already made clothing.

Nevertheless, there are a number of online stores that sell pre-made modest apparel as well as plain (single color) patterns. The best kind of place to look for is one that is for the Plain People (Anabaptists, Amish, Mennonites, Quakers, Hutterites, etc.). We should be plain people ourselves, with plain styles of clothing and living, and it is a shame that Seventh-day Adventists are not ever mentioned as being among the plain people. Just keep in mind that not even the plain people have standards as high as we do in the Spirit of Prophecy. For example, they do not cover their limbs and head coverings may not always sufficiently cover the head and the sides of the face, as Sister White saw (in vision) they should.

Now a word again on head coverings. The bonnet was more the style that was worn in Sister White’s day, as well as the style worn by the Plain People. However, this is probably not the best choice, for multiple reasons. For one, especially in America, it would make people think we are Amish. People generally respect the Amish, but would never want to join them, and rightfully so, since we are not to live in communes. We do not want to ruin our influence. Secondly, bonnets typically require the wearer to tie the long hair back, which can cause headaches and also defeat the purpose of women having long hair as their natural veil (1 Cor. 11:15). Thirdly, they can be difficult to wear in cold weather as they tend to not be warm enough.

A much better option is the biblical style of head covering—the veil, which is a large piece of fabric thrown over the head, including the sides of the face, and sufficient to cover long hair. This style is still worn by many Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Muslim women, except the former two tend to wear decorative rather than plain ones. Therefore, the best way to find modest ones are by looking for Muslim hijabs; in fact, ‘hijab’ means modest. But it does not need to be worn as a hijab encircling the neck. They are just rectangular pieces of fabric and can be just draped over the head and clipped to the hair or fastened with a head band. The best kind to look for are the Jersey hijabs as they are opaque rather than see-through, and Ebay seems to have the best selection, though Amazon and Etsy have sellers of them as well. This style also has the capability of covering the collar bone, giving the flexibility of wearing tops with lower necklines so they don’t need to be thrown away.

The website below is a good place to start for modest dresses, with both pre-made apparel and patterns through links to various webstores. The advantage of a dress over a skirt is that suspenders are not necessary; also, it is simpler, not needing to match clothes. Just remember when purchasing that plain colors without designs should be chosen over designs as to not attract attention to self; the same applies for men. Dress is biblically for covering our nakedness and in the honor God, not for displaying our personalities, so it is best to err on the side of simplicity, especially for our Sabbath ware. And according to a very important testimony, plain colors have also been commanded by God in the 20th century, for this, along with the rest of dress reform, was part of perhaps the greatest revival of that century; please read that testimony if you have not yet done so. We may not be able to change our entire wardrobe immediately, but we ought to at least start buying only plain clothing and dispensing of the most gaudy colors and patterns, for gaudiness destroys Godliness.

Plain Dress (by Quaker Jane)

Head Coverings (Ebay)

(Don’t miss the Anabaptist Books link on Quaker Jane’s site, where you can get dresses very custom made, just for your body size and shape.)