Robert Burns once wrote, "Oh wod some power the giftie gie us, to see oursel's as others see us," He was thinking of other matters than outward adornment, but we who are engaged in appealing to the highest instincts of our fellows, will do well to apply the sense of his words to our personal appearance. The importance of the impression we create should be instinctively realized. Without affectation or foppishness we are to observe the utmost neatness and precision in our personal attire.
The term "personal appearance" includes one's beauty—or lack of it—dress (mode and manner of wearing), and footwear. Pertaining to the first—one's physiognomy—we are not responsible for our features, form, or comeliness, but because we all have the ability either to mar or improve what God has given us, it behooves us to use wisely what natural adjuncts are available to enhance our appearance.
We may judge ourselves to be the possessors of a commanding personality, but slovenly attire, soiled hands, ill-kept fingernails, untidy hair, down-at-heel shoes, halitosis, etc., will militate crushingly against our valuable assets. We must remember always that first impressions are important and lasting. Our message and work lose their dignity and importance when the vehicle looks or sounds cheap or very ordinary.
On the subject of dress, the apostle Paul declares in i Timothy 2:9, 10: "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." I have never gathered from this that the apostle here vetoes "bobbed" or "permanent" hair styles, but it is obvious that his words are intended to emphasize the need for modesty in a Christian woman's dress.
All will doubtless agree that simplicity of dress makes a sensible woman of any calling appear to the best advantage. Therefore, it would seem imperative that we, dispensers of Christian ethics, should observe a tasteful simplicity in our whole attire. By this I do not infer that we should have no interest in the prevailing fashions. On the contrary, I believe that we should be up to date in the best sense of this term. To be definitely dated in one's attire today is to be the wrong kind of spectacle. One no less important than Ellen G. White herself said, "We are considered odd and singular, and should not take a course to lead unbelievers to think us more so than our faith requires us to be."—"Testimonies," Vol. 1, p. 456.
A famous violinist, a busy woman, who in days of peace regularly played before royalty, found that she had no time for frequent changes of apparel. She therefore instructed her dress designer to create for her a simple, yet well-tailored outfit which would be suitable for morning, afternoon, or evening. I feel there is something in her idea from which we can profit. Obviously, no Seventh-day Adventist Bible instructor has a private dress designer to create her attire ; nevertheless, she must be pleasingly dressed at all times, and the idea of an all-purpose outfit would seem to fit her needs.
The Bible instructor should always act and dress the part of a woman professing and teaching true godliness. She should never be guilty of wearing apparel which verges on the immodest or masculine. Her clothing will naturally be of good quality, in tasteful, moderate hues. Her sleeves and skirt will be neither too short nor too long. The heels of her shoes will be just high enough or low enough to give her correct poise. Her hair will be neat and tidy, and crowned by a hat which will not excite comment. In fact, from head to foot in all her adorning she will, as the apostle admonishes, "be . . . an example."
I would emphasize the necessity of always being well-groomed. Surely inconsistency is advertised by those who bedeck themselves well for appearance at the Sabbath, Sunday, or midweek services, yet wear "any old thing" for routine work the rest of the week. The controlling factor of one's remuneration will, of course, determine the extent of one's wardrobe, but I am sure that we all receive sufficient pay to enable us to dress appropriately.
In all that pertains to our attire we do well to find the middle position between the overdressed and the slovenly and keep to it. We cannot be too careful that our appearance does not contradict our words and teaching. Dealing with this matter, Mrs. E. G. White wrote, "God has bidden us wear the richest dress upon the soul."