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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




Health Reasons for Dress Reform


Donald E. Casebolt, M.D.

As I have pondered the Adventist health message I am impressed more than ever that it is wide ranging covering the mental, social, spiritual, physical and moral aspects of man's being. It is only when these things are all put together that man can be made whole. That he can bring glory to God. When it comes to the physical aspects we tend to put greater emphasis on the dietary and exercise phases which is probably the way it should be. However we have neglected some other areas and this paper looks at one of those areas.

There are four points that will be addressed in this paper as follows:

1. The wise man said in Proverbs 26:2- “the curse causeless shall not come” and Ellen White declared, “Sickness does not come without a cause.” Adventist Home, p. 22. Having said this we must ever keep in mind that not every illness is of our own making. Sometimes it is due to the working of heredity or from someone else's actions.

2. Sometimes it takes many years-even thousand of years-to understand the causation of disease. And to understand the reasons why God told us not to do certain things. For example:

Leviticus 3:17. “It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings that ye eat neither fat nor blood.” and Lev. 7:23. “Speak unto the children of Israel saying, ‘Ye shall eat no manner of fat, of ox, or of sheep, or of goat.'”

When was this written? About 1450 BC-some 3500 years ago. Undoubtedly there were those who thought God didn't know what He was talking about. That it was OK to eat the fat and the blood of animals. But there were others who faithfully followed God's commands even though they didn't know the reasons why.

In 1868 Ellen White wrote, “As a family, you are far from being free from disease. You have used the fat of animals which God in His word expressly forbids: ‘It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.' ‘Moreover, ye shall eat no manner of blood, whether it be of fowl or of beast, in any of your dwellings. Whatsoever soul it be that eateth any manner of blood, even that soul shall be cut off from his people.'” In 1896 she penned these words, “ The meat is served reeking with fat, because it suits the perverted taste. Both the blood and the fat of animals are consumed as a luxury. But the Lord gave special directions that these should not be eaten. Why? Because their use would make a diseased current of blood in the human system. The disregard for the Lord's special directions has brought a variety of difficulties and diseases upon human beings .....If they introduce into their systems that which cannot make good flesh and blood, they must endure the results of their disregard of God's word.” Both quotes are from Counsels on Diets and Foods, pp393,394.

It was not until the first half of the 20th century that medical science began to learn that animal fat caused hardening of the arteries. About 15 years ago we learned that saturated fat (mainly coming from animal sources) was one of the main causes of diabetes. More recently it has become clear that fat in the diet plays a role in causing some kinds of cancer. A professor at Harvard University Medical School stated just a few years ago that 80% of cancer of the colon came as a result of diet-mainly from animal fat in the diet! And within the past two years it has been demonstrated by clever research that a high animal fat diet can cut down the ability of the arteries to expand by about 150% each time the heart beats.

So think about the close to 3500 years that went by before we learned the reasons for God's command not to eat animal fat. Think of the disease that has been avoided by those who adhered to God's commands even though they didn't know the reasons why.

3. People react differently to harmful substances and harmful lifestyles. The use of tobacco is a good illustration. Although it is known that 1/3 of all cancers come from the use of tobacco there are many people who use it for years and never get cancer. However they may get emphysema or other chronic diseases. They may get heart disease. Tobacco is one of the three leading causes of coronary heart disease. There may be rare individuals who smoke like a chimney, live to be 90 or 100 , and die from a cause totally unrelated to tobacco use. These individuals are sometimes used as an excuse to smoke. That is like playing Russian roulette.

4. There are a number of diseases for which we don't yet know the cause. Nor do we have an understanding why there is a sexual predilection for some of them. In some cases it is obvious that anatomy or hormones make the difference. But there are a number of sicknesses that cannot currently be explained on the basis of anatomy or hormones. Perhaps they are related to other lifestyle factors. Herewith a number of these illness will be named. Some of them will be unfamiliar to most of those who read this paper. But they are diseases that are known by nearly all physicians even though some of them are not seen all that often:

Lupus erythematosis-

In children-females have 3 times as much as males

Teens, twenties and thirties-females have 90-95% of the cases

Forties -females have 3 times as much as males

Raynaud's phenomenon-

Ages 20-40-females have 5 times as much as males

Rheumatoid arthritis-

Females have 2-3 times as much


Females have 2 times as much

Polymyalgia rheumatica-

Females have 2 times as much


Females 6.8 times as much as males in a study done in Wichita

MCTD ( Mixed connective tissue disorder)

Females have 90% of the cases

Systemic Sclerosis (Scleroderma )

Females have 7 to 12 times as much

Then there are problems such as female infertility and endometriosis the causes of which are not always apparent.

Why do you suppose there is this difference in incidence between the two sexes? Could it be because the counsel that God has given about women clothing their limbs is largely ignored, especially in the case of female infants, children and young women? Some have thought that the question of clothing the limbs had only to do with modesty and that these concerns change with the culture and the times. I am not so sure that they do. Nevertheless let us look at what instructions God has given to us through His messenger Ellen White: “I appeal to you mothers, do you not feel alarmed, and heart-sick in seeing your children pale and dwarfed, suffering catarrh (colds)......Have you studied from cause to effect?....Have you not been dictated by fashion in clothing your children? Leaving their arms and limbs insufficiently protected has been the cause of vast amount of disease and premature deaths. There is no reason why the feet and limbs of your girls should not be in every way clad as those of your boys.” Selected Messages,Book 2 p.471

“True dress reform regulates every article of dress worn upon the person. In order to equalize the circulation of the blood, the clothing should be equally distributed upon the person, that equal warmth may be preserved in all parts of the body. The limbs being remote from the vital organs, should have special attention. The extremities should be guarded from cold and chilliness by a bountiful amount of clothing. It is impossible for women or children to have health when their limbs and feet are habitually cold.” Quoted from the Health Reformer dated 01-01-1877

“In order to maintain equal circulation, there should be equal distribution of clothing, which will bring equal warmth to all parts of the body. The limbs that are the farthest from the vital organs, should be more thoroughly protected with warm coverings. The extremities should be carefully guarded from cold and chilliness by an additional amount of clothing. It is impossible for women to have, habitually, chilled limbs and feet, without some of the internal organs being congested.” Quoted from the Health Reformer dated 05-01-1872 “What style of dress can be neater, more becoming girls from the ages of five to fourteen, than ours? Stand those girls of fashion beside these, and then say which appears most comfortable, most modest, and most becoming. The fashionable style is not as long as ours, yet no one laughs at those who follow that style for wearing a short dress. Their limbs are nearly naked, while modesty, and health clothe the limbs of the others. Fashion and false modesty look upon these girls who have their limbs clad in reference to comfort, modesty, and health with horror, but smile upon those whose dresses are quite as short, and whose limbs are uncomfortably, immodestly, and unhealthfully exposed. Here comes the cross and the reproach, for simply doing right, in the face of the tyrant-Fashion. God help us to have the moral courage to do right, and to labor patiently and humbly in the great cause of reform.” Quoted from the Health Reformer dated 09-01-1868 “There is but one woman in a thousand who clothes her limbs as she should.” 1 T,p.460

The following quotes are taken from the book “Beyond the Veil of Darkness” by Esmie Branner published by Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 1999. Ms. Branner has written a fascinating book about her life in Saudi Arabia. She makes the following comments about dress, “I believe that whatever we wear should honor God and speak of the relationship we are having with Jesus.....Today we see Christian women dressed in hardly any clothes. Our backs are exposed, thighs are showing, our breasts are exposed in tight and low cut garments. I say we can learn a lot from other religions and their conduct. In Islamic countries women are modest, and I appreciated that. Some may think dress reform extreme, but dress is an important part of who we are and Whose we are. Some of us need to take a second look at ourselves and do some serious reevaluation.”

For those who are truly concerned about the issue of immodest and unhealthful dress some items of history should be of interest. In 1939 a Gallup poll found that “ a majority of adults in the US thought it was indecent to wear shorts for street wear.” Signs of the Times, May 1986, p.6. Harold Shryock, a highly respected SDA physician who taught for a number of years at the medical school in Loma Linda, stated in an article Keynotes for Happy Courting, “Don't let your friend find you in lounging clothes, shorts or a swimsuit.” The Youth's Instructor, July 19, 1960. The March 1971 edition of Ministry Magazine contained a letter to the editor by Don Hawley, then editor of Life and Health Magazine questioning our standards of modesty. He concernedly wrote, “we decry the wearing of shorts, the backless back, the plunging neckline....such people are half naked.” As recently as 1986 the brochure advertising the West Virginia campmeeting gave the following as one of its General Rules and Regulations: “ Modesty is expected of all and excludes shorts and similar attire.” We have gone from a situation in which in 1939 the majority of people in the US considered shorts indecent for street wear to the place that many SDAs feel no compunction about appearing in public in shorts, even wearing them to church. Could this be an example of what the poet was thinking when he wrote, “Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, To be hated but needs to be seen, Yet seen too oft, Familiar with its face, We first endure, Then pity, Then embrace.”

In the first three sections of this paper it was pointed out that: 1) all sickness has a cause, 2) it may take years, even millenia for the cause to be understood, and 3) not every body's body responds in the same way to unhealthy lifestyles. In section four we have found that there are a number of diseases that females have significantly more of, and that this could well be related to the way they dress. We have also found that Ellen White spoke specifically to the issues of both health and modesty in the area of women's dress.

Another crucial issue is whether we really believe that Sister White was really a prophet of the Lord and whether she knew what she was talking about when she spoke of modesty and health issues when it came to problems of dress.

Fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, isn't it time for those of us who say we believe Jesus is soon coming and who believe that our bodies are God's temple that we take a close look at the dress question. It has both modesty implications and health implications that we ignore at our own peril-both now and for eternity.