Does Dress Reform Apply in the 21st Century?

Dress Reform

I am sure that you have heard of the term ‘dress reform’ before. For most it is connected with some fashion that was recommended in the 19th century by the Spirit of Prophecy and that because of rejection by the people, was discarded by God.

Is this true? Let us examine the subject a little deeper

First a little history:

In the 19th century, the fashion of that time consisted of very long dresses that actually dragged upon the ground. The skirt made of many yards of heavy fabric hung over hoops that were worn by the women, creating a very full, almost balloon type skirt. The upper bodice of the dresses was often very fancy with a tiny waistline caused by tightly drawn corsets worn underneath. This gave the physical proportions of larger bust line, very small waist line and full hips, the ideal for the day.

This fashion specially was addressed because of its physical and then moral effect:

  1. The tight corsets worn cramped the internal organs creating many problems with digestion, reproduction and breathing, (since the diaphragm was also compressed hindering the ability to breathe deeply). An understanding of anatomy and physiology reveal that if breathing and digestion were hindered, then the oxygen and nutrient amounts were diminished to the whole body. Life was fragile and often weakened.
  2. The heavy weight of the skirts placed an extra load bearing down upon the hips and therefore affecting the whole frame of the body.
  3. The dragging skirts picked up the filth of the streets (which consisted of the residual tobacco ejected from the mouths of users, filth in the streets from horses and in some places from the lavatories of homes (they didn’t have bathrooms like we have)). The skirts also picked up dampness and swung it against the ankles and calves of the ladies wearing them, creating chilled areas on the legs, creating unbalanced circulation of the blood. This predisposed for various diseases.
  4. The visual effect of ladies lifting their hoop skirts more than knee high to get through doorways and up stairs, created a physical/hormonal reaction in the male population that was not morally good for the beholder.
  5. The excess time spent in producing the fashion of that day diminished the physical strength of the maker because of lack of sleep, and diminished the quality time spent with their families, if they had them.
  6. The fashionable habit of baring the arms, especially of infants, caused serious health problems and sometimes death.
  7. The cosmetics used to create the ‘perfect look’ plugged the pores of the skin and at the same time allowed toxic substances to be freely injected into the body.
  8. The footwear of the time was also not sufficient for keeping the feet warm, dry or comfortable. Cold and dampness had their effect on the blood circulation chilling the whole body.

God in His mercy, knowing His creation very well, sent a message to correct the evils of this fashion, so that His beloved children could be blessed with better health, strength of body and character.

The ‘Dress Reform’ consisted of changing the style of dress to a specific pattern to be adopted by all of God’s honest children.

Plan A – Dress Reform:

  1. The dress was shorter, about 9 inches from the floor to stop dragging in the filth. It no longer consisted of wearing hoops.
  2. The weight was suspended from the shoulders.
  3. There were warm, nicely designed pants which gathered at the ankle always worn with this shorter dress to keep the limbs warm and yet present a tasteful look.
  4. No longer were corsets worn, but a looser bodice, covered by a styled jacked, with taste shown in design, fabric and workmanship.
  5. Thick soled warm boots or shoes were also worn.


The response was basically ‘refusal’, so the Lord sent a plan B. It was a basic style in principle, but allowed for variation according to the individual. Let us outline the principles given:


  1. The dress was longer than plan A still to stop dragging in the filth. The length of plan B was about the height of the ‘gator boot’, which is about 6 to 7 inches from the ground.
  2. Instead of pants showing below the hemline, warm leggings were to be worn under the skirt and warm stockings and boots were to cover the feet and legs to meet those leggings. This allowed for the limbs to be kept warm and balanced in circulation to the equally clad upper body. No pants were then visible.
  3. There was to be no corset wearing, no compression of any part of the body. Styles were to be loosely fitting to allow for lifting of the arms, deep breathing and good digestion.
  4. Clothing was to be simple, tasteful and of good quality, so that excess time and attention as well as money were not wasted.
  5. Cosmetics and artificial helps were not to be used. The healthful lifestyle given by God Himself, if followed, would create the most beautiful countenance in a natural way.
  6. Warm and low healed footwear was to be worn for the health of the foot structure and therefore the health of the whole spinal structure as well as for the equality of circulation already mentioned.
  7. Limbs were to be covered equally with the torso of the body. Bare arms and legs were not to be shown.
  8. The skirts were to be lighter and the weight suspended from the shoulders, not the hips.


Now it is the 21st century. We are surrounded with so many fashion statements it is ridiculous. Almost anything goes. But have you noticed that in certain circles and cultures, their standard of dress remains the same? You can still tell who they are by their dress standard. This was God’s intention for His people as well.

We must ask the question, ‘Would the principles of dress reform still apply physically in 2009?’ I, emphatically state, Yes!

We face disease on every side. Though technology has advanced and medical science understands more, people are still suffering much. Could some be avoided? Yes, if we would follow God’s ways. He still intends the best for His people.


  1. He still intends for us to show His countenance, not a false one. Following the progression of health reform and trust in Him allows for a healthy countenance and body most of the time.
  2. He still intends for our limbs (that includes arms and legs) to be covered for circulation reason and for morality (I will address moral effects later). Anatomy and physiology have shown that there are special sensory areas on the underside of the upper arm and the back of the thigh that if cooler than the torso, create unbalanced circulation. Women especially suffer the effects of hindered circulation in the pelvic regions and/or distended veins in the legs.
  3. We still need loose garments so that we are not compressed in our breathing, digestion and around the lymphatic areas. Science has shown that tight bras create trouble for the lymph nodes near the breasts and breast cancer abounds.
  4. We still need comfortable, healthful footwear for the well-being of our spine and therefore for the whole body.
  5. We still need to remember that heavy garments put unnecessary strain on the physical frame, yet warmth need be provided when necessary.
  6. We still need to, maybe more so, to dress with length appropriate to cover the legs and not stimulate the male population around us. We also need to remember that low necklines are also stimulating to the male population and therefore are wrong.


Why can some of these things be ‘wrong’? Low necklines, high hemlines? Isn’t that the trouble of the beholder, not the wearer? No, we are our brother’s keeper. If we wear anything that is provocative in style, we are causing someone else to lust. That’s wrong.

Many think that if they wear long sleeves, and long skirts, even if form fitting (close to the body, showing all its parts), that is ok. It is not. We are to be modest in appearance and deportment. That means not drawing attention to our bodies.

Some think now that it is alright to wear pants because they keep the limbs warm and are comfortable. But what does God say? He gives a few principles to be considered:


  1. God pronounces that anything that could be deemed men’s clothing is an abomination.
  2. The similarity to men’s fashion in the 19th century (called the American Costume) brought rebuke from God, and then pants were coupled with a coat that went down to the knees. Can we think it is better now without the coat and with the anatomy quite definitely visible from behind? No way!
  3. Just because the world does anything, does not give God’s people license to do the same. We are to be a peculiar people, His special demonstration to a dark world.

As I study the will of God and His desire for the happiness and health of His people, I thank Him for His wisdom. Understanding the anatomy and physiology of our bodies makes me all the more thankful as I see the principles that God outlined for our dress.

As we, with humble, sincere hearts choose to be obedient to His ways, we will partake of His blessings, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Do not disconnect Dress Reform from Health Reform, and from the Moral Code of God. His law is all one, principles of well-being given from an heart of love.

For a more thorough study of this topic, please read ‘Perfecting Holiness, Dress to the Glory of God’. May the Lord bless you as you do.


Love this quote!

*~*~*~*~*~   A profession of faith and the possession of truth in the soul are two different things. The mere knowledge of truth is not enough. We may possess this, but the tenor of our thoughts may not be changed. The heart must be converted and sanctified.


The man who attempts to keep the commandments of God from a sense of obligation merely–because he is required to do so–will never enter into the joy of obedience. He does not obey. When the requirements of God are accounted a burden because they cut across human inclination, we may know that the life is not a Christian life. True obedience is the outworking of a principle within. It springs from the love of righteousness, the love of the law of God. The essence of all righteousness is loyalty to our Redeemer. This will lead us to do right because it is right–because right doing is pleasing to God.

The great truth of the conversion of the heart by the Holy Spirit is presented in Christ’s words to Nicodemus: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born from above, he can not see the kingdom of God. . . . That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8, margin. – Christ’s Object Lessons, 97-98.



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