Book Title: The Real Home
“That Outward Adorning”
Chapter 22
by: Mrs. Vesta J. Farnsworth

“I suppose you will say that I think too much about dress,” said a young woman to a friend. “You see, my engagement with the dressmaker put everything else out of my head,” she added in apology for having neglected a duty.

“No, I shall not say you think too much of dress,” was the reply. “I believe we do not think half enough about it.”

The astonished girl gazed at the plain, practical woman before her. “I thought surely you would say it is a waste of time, and that women are weak-minded if they give much thought to what they wear,” she slowly said.

“I believe one may think too much about it; but it all depends on how we think of our clothes, and the value we place upon them,” said her friend. “We may be idolaters, and worship dress as verily as a heathen bows down to an image. Sometimes we endure great suffering, deprive ourselves of health, wealth, peace of mind, comfort, and make ourselves and others miserable, by bowing down to the goddess Fashion. There is a demand for earnest, sensible consideration of the question of clothes by those who would not worship at this false shrine.”

Those who are wise will manifest good sense on this important subject. There is cause for regret and alarm as the multitude are seen slavishly following any custom of fashion, no matter how indecent or shocking.

Viscountess Astor, the first woman to become a member of the British Parliament, deals with the subject of dress in a popular magazine under the heading, -

“WOMEN SHOULD DRESS DECENTLY”

 “This opens up such a large field that I hardly know where to begin, but I hope I shall not be thought frivolous if I speak about dress. Man has a great argument against us there, and rightly. Every woman likes to look neat, and to be becomingly dressed. Even men like that; but women often do not stop there. We talk glibly of young girls’ being lured to their doom by wicked men; but before we lay the whole blame on the men, let us think for a moment whether we are always blameless.
 “Too often immodest dressing is a heavy contributor to immorality. If more women realize this, they will give up the more alluring fashions, as thousands of men have given up drink for the same cause.
 “Don’t forget that the fashions are often led by women whose very livelihood depends on calling attention to their physical charms, and thousands of modest, high-minded women follow in the wake, quite unconscious of what they are doing. Let us therefore look into this question of dress and try, at the least, to appear as decent and modest as men in our clothes.”

Is it not surprising that men are more modest and sensible in their clothing than women? Modesty is supposed to be one of the chief charms of womanhood; and it is astonishing to know that prevailing styles have led women to lose that charm, and to imitate those who have fallen from purity and virtue.

Dr. Talmage once declared:

 “Men are as much the idolaters of fashion as women, but they sacrifice on a different part of the altar. With men, the fashion goes to cigars, clubhouses, yachting parties, and banquets. In the United States, men chew and smoke millions of dollars’ worth of tobacco every year. That is their fashion.”

And now, not content with their own extravagance and folly, women are more and more imitating the fashions of men. According to a statement made by D. H. Kress, M.D.,

 “Girls posses the same cravings that boys do for tobacco. The only thing that has in the past saved them from smoking cigarettes is public prejudice. Let this be removed, and millions of nervous women will find in the cigarette just what they have been longing for.”

And when cigarette smoking becomes “the style,” women will adopt it as quickly as other styles. Conscience, health, children, will not be considered. The motto is constantly adhered to, “As well be out of the world as out of fashion.”

There are right principles in dress which sensible, thoughtful women will adopt. First in importance is dressing for health. “Is not the body more than raiment?” is still a question, though modern fashion declares that raiment is of more value than the body.

Clothes were given us on account of sin. Is it not an evidence of our perversity that that which should be our shame has become our pride?

Adam and Even sewed fig leaves together and made themselves a scanty covering. But the Creator saw that more than an “apron” was necessary, so He made “coats of skins, and clothed them.” No sheer, transparent, abbreviated dress met His approval. That which was substantial and afforded protection was substituted. As the first man and woman looked at their garments, they remembered that their own sin brought death, and that only the death of Christ could save them from its consequences.

Clothing gives warmth and comfort to the body. In a steam-heating system, it is unnecessary to cover the engine so it may retain heat; but the long pipes that convey the steam to different buildings require wrapping to conserve the heat, that warmth may be furnished where needed.

So in dressing the body: the parts nearest the heart need least clothing, while the limbs require more. Men generally clothe their limbs equably; but women often load the trunk with warm wraps and furs, and chill the extremities by inadequate dressing.

If the garments are worn loosely, they will not compress the body, nor will it be hindered in its movements. Neither should clothes be burdensome because of their weight. If all clothing is suspended from the shoulders instead of the waist and the hips, it will add to the comfort, freedom, and health of the wearer.

Not so long ago it was fashionable to constrict the waist by tight, stiff corsets. Happily this custom as sufficiently changed so that women may wear their dresses loose and still be counted well dressed. The clothing is also lighter in weight. It is no longer thought necessary to wear three or four wide, heavy skirts. Perhaps one extreme has followed another, the skirts worn later being so thin as not to give sufficient warmth.

With the heavy skirts, the long, trailing dresses also disappeared. These were once dragged through the streets till they were abominably filthy, and a constant menace to health. But as long as they were fashionable, they were worn; and if “in style,” they would be worn again. There are few indeed who dare disregard Fashion’s decrees.

EXPENSIVE DRESS

One sound principle to be followed is, to avoid extravagance in dress. Pride leads to display, and garments are multiplied and made expensive to gratify the vanity of the wearer. This propensity leads to dishonesty. The husband’s credit is overdrawn, and merchants and dressmakers are not paid. Women sometimes steal to gratify their pride. When love of dress is indulged at the cost of character, when temptation is constantly before women and girls that they may wear finer clothes than they can afford, it is time to call a halt.

One popular writer for women computes that the capital invested in the indulgence of personal vanity equals half the wealth of the world. It is both foolish and wicked for women to rush to the shops with every changing season to buy some new novelty which is absolutely unnecessary, simply that they may be arrayed in the latest fashion.

The time is here and now for sensible women to dress sensibly and within their income. They have a right to appear beautiful and attractive in their clothes, to have what is necessary for comfort and protection if it can be afforded; but we may well pause before indulging a craving for showy, unnecessary articles, especially when we remember that others will imitate our example if it is wrong.

DRESS IN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

Our schools foster pride and extravagance by permitting lavish display in dress at commencement exercises. Parents, already heavily burdened, must provide party dresses, class-night and graduation gowns, and all the accessories, which make a total expense that can ill be afforded. But they dislike to disappoint their children, so the outfit is secured.

But in some schools, the question of graduation dress has been studied, and the graduates have decided to wear uniform frocks, which would not be so expensive as to be beyond the reach of the poorer students. In one prominent school, the principal wrote to the mothers, urging them to discuss the matter of dress with their daughters, so they might be able to choose wisely. The girls appointed a committee to select a suitable costume, and the young women made their own dresses. The example is worthy of imitation.

FREAK FASHIONS

In tropical climates, the people wear very little clothing. Some esteem a girdle sufficient covering, but civilized people regard nakedness as improper and indecent.

The past few years, costumes have become more and more daring; and fashion dictates that instead of being modest and for protection, the dress must be conspicuous because of its immodesty and exposure of the form. Fashionable models are exhibited with the back naked to the waist line. The arms are bare, the throat and the chest uncovered.

Meanwhile skirts have grown shorter and shorter. Women wriggle about in “tubes,” for it is impossible for them to walk naturally. Finally “knee length” skirts came into fashion. Will they grow more and more scant and short? The lower limbs are barely covered by silk stockings so sheer that it is difficult to say if they are covered at all; and finally no stockings at all was the fashion, or if any were worn, they were folded at the top, thus leaving the knees exposed. With such costumes, expensive shoes were demanded, pointed at the toe, and with such high, narrow heels that it was impossible to walk with ease. The time may come when women who call themselves civilized will imitate the uncivilized savage in undress as far as the law will allow.

These immodest and indecent fashions have an influence on all grades of society. Bare chests, backs, and limbs are seen on the street, in business offices, everywhere. At first people looked and gasped, then they tolerated, then imitated. It seems unnecessary to say that while being shockingly immodest, the dress described is most unhealthful and inconvenient.

A MONARCH AND THE SLIT SKIRT

King Albert of Belgium is strongly and rightly opposed to the freak fashions in woman’s dress, and he evidently spares no pains to make his antipathy widely know. At a court ball, King Albert noticed a woman wearing a slit skirt of a most pronounced type. He immediately whispered instructions in the ears of the court marshal. The latter performed a delicate and disagreeable task in the following manner: Offering the woman his arm, he led her from the ballroom, remarking, “His majesty has noticed that you have torn your dress, and has requested me to escort you to your carriage to enable you to return home for repairs.”

What is the effect morally of such costuming? Let a young college man answer:

“I rarely pick up a woman’s magazine nowadays without seeing an article on the double standard of morals. They are all the same, essentially, and their common line of thought runs about like this: When a boy baby is born, he is just as soft and sweet and clean as his baby sister. His soul is just as pure and his mind as unsullied as hers. His body is just as beautiful and holy as hers. Why, then, should she be brought up to regard her body as sacred and her procreative power a thing to be reverenced and held in submission for its normal and natural purposes, while he is allowed to get his sex instruction from the street and grow up with the idea that the things that are morally wrong for his sister are natural rights of his? Then the plea comes for a single standard of morals for the boy and his sister.
“This is all very true and very good. I should not care to criticize it for a single minute, for it may be the leaven working for a great reform. I do know this to be true: The boy will never grow up as pure as his sister, because his sister and the other fellow’s sister will not let him. Perhaps that sounds strange, but I believe I can prove my case.
“I am a boy myself, a twenty-five-year-old boy, and I can speak from my own experience and the experience of dozens of other boys whom I have known and have come into intimate contact with in college and high school. Boys are not immoral at heart as a rule. Most of the boys I have known respect womanhood, and manhood, and try earnestly to keep themselves mentally and morally clean. And it is hard sledding, too. First of all, there is the ever-present, ever-functioning sex instinct. Then there are the stories and illustrations, even in the high-class magazines, that border always on the immoral and suggestive. With these we can class the movies and most theatrical performances. Finally comes the thing that to most of us is the biggest stumbling-block, the manner in which our women friends clothe themselves. As I have said, I am twenty-five years old, and I have kept myself as clean physically as any girl that has ever lived. Mentally I am unclean. Why? Because the women I know will not let me be clean. They are good girls, I know; wonderfully alive and full of good health and good spirits. I know that such physically perfect specimens of womanhood could not have lived or thought wrongly, for they have the hall-marks of clean living and clean thinking written all over them. I respect them all, but still they constitute my moral problem. …
“They are in our classes, and we meet them constantly on the campus and the streets of the town. They are an every-present and indispensable feature of all our social functions.
“Wherever we go we find them, clad in their waists of net or gauzelike silk that show bare arms, bare shoulders, and lingerie. Their skirts are short and light, and every passing breeze exposes to the knees daintily turned limbs clad in the sheerest of silk or lisle hose which are often striped or marked in other conspicuous ways. Very often the girl miscalculates the capacity of her skirts (let us give her the benefit of the doubt), and her form stands silhouetted in our bright Western sun as that of a classic dancer in her draperies would be. This is not alone true of the college girls or girls of college age, but even the little girls of high school age.
“What is a fellow going to do? We don’t go around looking for these things, but we cannot help seeing them. No matter how much one may respect a girl, it is an effort for him to keep his thoughts from straying when she exposes too much of her body in the way she does. …
“I know, from the contact I have had with so many college boys, that the sensual thing about woman’s dress is that it neither conceals nor discloses the body of the wearer. It is designed to show as much as society will allow, and the psychological tendency to complete in the mind an object that is imperfectly seen does the rest. It is the imagination that is called into play that does the havoc. …
“My ‘roomie’ has said many a time when his moral going was rocky: ‘The way these girls dress! If they are going to wear clothes at all why don’t they wear enough to cover themselves up!’” – “American Motherhood.”

It is not only the religious press and the educators of the country that speak in condemnation of the styles of dress that have become so conspicuous in their daring and suggestiveness, but men and women of the world are voicing their protest in the secular press. They see in the immodest dressing a menace and a symptom of the deadening of the conscience, and a depreciation of character of which the dress is only a symptom and not the disease itself.

Of the protests which one may read, a sample is quoted from the Los Angeles daily Times of February 8, 1921, from an editorial which makes this shocking arraignment:

 “We had supposed that the decadence obvious in the sartorial modes for society women reached its limit last year, and that a saner and more decent sense of propriety would evince itself in the revulsion of public taste. But the tendency to bizarre indecency has increased, so that now we are offered in our public ballrooms the spectacle of criminal impropriety, - of women’s bare legs and painted knees, of naked backs and lewdly veiled bosoms, of transparent skirts and suggestive nudity, of decorated flesh and vulgar exposure generally, - this sort of thing that has ever preceded the downfall of civilizations. It has no relation whatever to the nudity of innocence, as is perfectly obvious with one glance at the type of dancing women that affects these disgusting extremes, for their whole deportment is so entirely in accord with their scant covering and nastily conceived exposures. They are brazenly inviting a certain kind of attention, and they get only the sort of attention they invite. They are degrading all womanhood with their shamelessness, at a time when the more worthy of their sex have striven to win and deserve that respect which should rightfully be theirs.
 “The people are all overwhelmed with the appalling crime wave that has beset the world, - not only by murders, robberies, and holdups, but by the ghastly increase in marital unfaithfulness which clogs the divorce courts, and the attacks against women and girls which have become a daily department of the news.
 “The incredible and loathsome conditions cannot be overstated. They are widespread, staggering in their viciousness. And we unhesitatingly declare that the preposterous vulgarity and criminal impropriety of that vastly increasing number of women who adopt these indecent modes for ‘party gowns’ is, if not responsible for the dirty conditions, at least a large and important factor. And it is deplorable that, as the extremists jump from extreme to extreme, the presumably decent women follow. They are slower to adopt the full measure of indecency, but each season finds them ‘conservatively’ following at a respectful distance, so that the modes for decent women to-day were the extremes of indecency a few short seasons back. …
 “The modern unchastity of women’s clothes, the crude, lewd, wholly indefensible appeal to man’s lowest instincts, the deliberate trading on the unclean and lustful side of human nature, is, we repeat, a basic cause of that widespread dishonor and crime that are polluting civilization to-day.
 “Surely there are enough decent, intelligent, noble-minded women left to halt this mad craze for criminal impropriety. Surely they can and will take the lead for purity, decency, and honor, rather than be content to follow at long distance the road which leads to nothing but degradation for all humanity. Women, and only women, can halt this mad delirium, this hideous craving for attention at any cost, at all costs. Where can it end, except in utter degradation, not only for their own sex, but for their husbands and their sons?”

A woman who had taught school for over thirty years gives some interesting information with reference to how she judged the character of her pupils. “When a new scholar was introduced,” she says, “I always looked first at her dress. If that was plain, neat, and tidy, I was confident I had good material to work with. Our school was so expensive that none but the daughters of the wealthy could possibly enter it; so when a young lady cam to the classroom in a plain dress, I was sure it was because of her idea of the fitness of things. This argued common sense. Common sense is always in direct antagonism to vanity; and where there is no vanity, there is seldom self-consciousness. So, you see, a plain dress came to mean a great deal to me. I learned never to expect anything from a girl whose school dress was of silk or velvet.

“I shall always retain the impression made upon me by a quiet little body in a blue flannel dress. She cam from one of the first families in wealth and culture, and was the most unobtrusive child I ever saw, as well as the most brilliant. When she told me, graduation day, that she had decided to study to be a physician, I was not in the least surprised. I was sure she would succeed, as she certainly has in the most marvelous manner. She carried off every honor, and though the girls in ‘purple and fine linen’ sneered at her plain attire and lack of style, there was not one who could ever compete with her.”

But above all others, girls and women who profess to be Christians, should be modest and exemplary in dress. They will not be the first to adopt new styles, nor will they change their mode of dress with every freak of fashion. Perfect neatness and good taste are always in accord with Christian character. The Bible gives plain instruction to women on this point, that they may have highest authority for not patterning after the world.

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and 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.

The Twentieth Century New Testament renders the last text as follows: “I also desire that women should make themselves attractive by their discreet, quiet, and modest dress. They should not indulge in wreaths or gold ornaments for the hair, or in pearls, or expensive clothing, but, - as is proper for women who profess to be religious, - they should make themselves attractive by their good actions.”

But some women who decry the fashions, injure, by their lack of order, neatness, and good taste, the cause they profess to advocate. There is no excuse for soiled garments, loose buttons, rips pinned with safety pins, slatternly, ill-fitting gowns, or anything that shows lack of care and refinement. Such attire is utterly unbecoming a lady or a Christian.

Clothes talk. They bear testimony concerning the character of those who wear them. The neat, sensibly dressed woman, even though her wardrobe may not be expensive, is attractive to those who are good judges of worth.

One young woman became aware of the fact that her clothes “preached to others.” Every day, she crossed the city to her work. Somehow she seemed different from the swarm of young women who daily crowded the car. Finally the conductor approached her.

“Pardon me, madam,” he began, “if I ask you a question; but every day, the neat, tasteful simplicity of your dress has attracted my attention. I am curious to know why you dress as you do.”

“May I ask you a question before I answer yours?” she said pleasantly.

“Surely.”

“Why do you wear that uniform?”

“Oh, I wear that to show folks that I am employed by the traction company.”

“Well, I dress as I do to show all around me that I am a follower of Jesus Christ.”

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