Shepherdess: Clothes for Church

Recently a young woman not of our faith stood watching the people as they went to church on Sabbath morning. She remarked to her sister, "It looks like a fashion parade."

Wife of Bible Teacher, Washington Missionary College

Recently a young woman not of our faith stood watching the people as they went to church on Sabbath morning. She remarked to her sister, "It looks like a fashion parade.

"During the holiday season my husband and I were parked in front of a large cathedral, and scores of people were going to the church to participate in special Christmas Eve services. I was amazed to see many enter dressed in very casual clothes. One girl wore a pair of jeans and her hair was tied in a bandana.

Since the church is the house of God and the place of divine worship, the attire of the worshiper should not be overcasual or slovenly on the one hand, nor showy and vain on the other. It is always in good taste to dress conservatively, modestly, and with dignity. One can hardly reconcile a devout mind with an exterior that is not in keeping. It is possible to be becomingly tailored and smartly unobtrusive and still retain a femininity that is pleasing.

"Christ has warned against the pride of life, but not against its grace and natural beauty. He pointed to the flowers of the field, to the lily unfolding in its purity, and said, 'Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.' . . . Christ illustrates the beauty that Heaven values, the modest grace, the simplicity, the purity, the appropriateness, that would make our attire pleasing to Him." Ministry of Healing, pp. 288, 289.

We as the people upon whom God has lavished so much light on the subject of appropriate attire should give careful study to the principles He has set forth, in order that we may set the right example at all times ourselves and help the women of our churches and the young people in our schools to see that "female loveliness never appears to so good advantage as when set off with simplicity of dress."

When God created the holy pair in Eden, their attire was a covering of light rather than any artificial garment. No clothing was necessary until they sinned, and their glory departed, and then they immediately realized that they were naked, and made garments of leaves to cover their nakedness. All the clothing worn from that day to this has been a reminder that we are sinners and need to seek redemption. This very fact led Satan to devise a scheme exactly opposite. He has led people to make garments to make themselves beautiful, of which they can be proud, so that they will have no shame.

Pride is the sin that caused Lucifer to be cast out of heaven and is the root from which has sprung all other sin. Ellen G. White states, "It is easier for you to teach your children a lesson of pride, than a lesson of humility." Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 134.

"Human reasoning has ever sought to evade or set aside the simple, direct instructions of the word of God. . . . The result has ever been the same, departure from the teachings of die gospel leads to the adoption of the fashions, customs, and principles of the world. . . . One after another, different denominations have risen, and yielding their simplicity, have lost, in a great measure, their early power. . . . Pride and extravagance in dress is a sin to which woman is especially prone. Hence the injunction of the apostle relates directly to her: 'In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel.' " Review and Herald, Dec. 6,1881.

Elegant Simplicity

We want, more than anything else, a restoration of the power of the early apostolic church in our midst today. How important, then, it is that we give attention to simplicity in dress! We need to "study fashions less, and the character of Jesus more. . . . The Majesty of Heaven came to earth, veiling His divinity with humanity. . . . The attractions of this world, its glory and its pride, had no fascination for Him. . . . My sisters, dress as Christians should dress, simply, plainly; adorn yourselves as becometh women professing godliness, with good works." Ibid.

Occasionally we hear someone remark about a sermon, "It was eloquent in its simplicity" a sermon that brought forth deep spiritual truths in simple language, so none misunderstood. In the same way we like to see a woman whose attire is elegant in its simplicity—so immaculately clean, so unobtrusive, so simple, in such good taste, that attention is drawn not to her clothes but to her Christian graces, to her Christlike character and personality. If a woman's costume is a foreground instead of a background, then it has been badly chosen and she is overdressed.

"Fashionable clothes can be simple and inconspicuous, and so suited to the personality of the wearer that they do not call attention to themselves. That, in a word, is the secret of correct dress. . . . Well-dressed women do not, like sheep, follow every turn of fashion, but select clothes that are comfortable, becoming, of good quality and in good taste. . . . To people of cultivated taste, the very thought of attracting attention is abhorrent. In dress, as in manner, they are quiet and inconspicuous." LIL LIAN EICHLER, The New Book of Etiquette, p. 263.

The fashions pictured here show how it is possible to be simply and appropriately dressed and to use good taste in the clothes we wear to church.

Fashion experts advise the following colors for the basic wardrobe: black, brown, navy, grey, beige, dark green, and wine.

"Whether you are able to have many outfits or just one or two, whether young in years or past fifty, include at least one simply styled black or navy blue costume. It can give the impression of many fashion-right ensembles, with the addition of a contrasting belt, new collar, or crisp white touches." HORACE J. GARDNER and PATRICIA FARREN, Courtesy Book, p. 32.

For church wear, avoid vivid shades altogether.

"Good taste in clothes starts with simplicity, proceeds to becomingness, and culminates in appropriateness for the occasion. No matter how beautiful any article of clothing maybe, unless it suits the wearer, unless it is functional and right for the specific purpose and time it is worn, it is not in good taste. Loud, flashy colors, poor fabrics and workmanship, and inharmonious combinations all contribute to bad taste. . . . Simplicity should border on plainness, but with the distinction that is achieved by perfect fit, beautiful line, fine tailoring, and complete suitability to the figure type. Absence of ornamentation helps to bring out the beauty of fabric and cut; badly designed clothes are often betrayed by the surplus of trimming used in an attempt to conceal the inferior workmanship." VERONICA DENGEL, Personality Unlimited, pp. 366-7.

It is possible to find inexpensive dresses of good line and fabric that have been "decorated" to catch those who dote on fancy extras. All you need to do is remove the artificial flowers or the what nots, or if it has cheap, flashy buttons, change them for something more dignified, and you may have a dress that will look as expensive as a higher-priced dress.

Every few years the sleeveless dress becomes style, and then we need to choose costumes that have an appropriate sleeve length. Sleeveless dresses, or dresses with cap sleeves, are not considered in good taste, particularly for church.

Sheer, transparent materials are a poor choice for any conservative wardrobe, and are certainly out of place as wearing apparel for the women who are engaged in the Lord's work.

Your hat, gloves, shoes, and purse should harmonize with the rest of your costume. It is possible to be well dressed on a very limited budget. This is accomplished by starting with one set of accessories, either black, brown, or navy, and planning your wardrobe around the one color. Then as you can afford to buy a new dress, suit, or coat, plan to buy something that fits in with what you already have. Avoid the bar gains with which you have nothing to wear.

Frequent brushing and pressings help to keep clothes looking fresh and clean.

Whether you make your clothes or buy them, it is possible, with a little thought and planning, to dress modestly and simply and in keep ing with our high calling as followers of the meek and lowly Saviour, whose example ought to rule all of us.

A Minister's Child's Memories of Home  


PROBABLY most people think of home in terms of atmosphere; but some folks can enclose that family spirit in a definite locality, a certain town, even a particular house. But a Methodist minister's family in New England at the turn of the century lived in many towns and in many sorts of houses, so that the children's concept of home was almost wholly determined by the spiritual quality of life as lived in the intimate family group.

To be sure, New England isn't very large. All of the New England states together are not as big as South Dakota, but to us they seemed to fill the whole world; and because we either lived in or visited in all of them except Vermont, we thought that we had traveled quite widely and so did our friends. At the same time, however, we felt that we belonged nowhere specially except where father and mother happened to be.

Mother was the queen of our heaven, gentle, dignified, never fussed, no matter what emergencies might arise or how many unexpected guests might arrive, and there were loads of both. Father was our king, very dignified on occasion, yet merry-hearted, with a laugh so contagious that when sounds of mirth came from his study, everyone within earshot began to chuckle, not having any idea what it was all about.

One day in high school, when we were studying "Wilhelm Tell," the teacher turned to me saying, "Which is the more important in a family, the parents or the children?" Immediately I answered, "In our family there is no question, the parents, of course." Then I went on to elaborate by saying, "If a child dies, there may be another; but if a parent dies, the bottom falls out, all's gone."

However, actions speak louder than words. Father treated mother as if she were most precious, and when he went away he made us responsible for her. "Take good care of mother. Don't let her get too tired. Help her all you can," he' would say. And I'm sure mother ran the home for his convenience and comfort. Never was he disturbed in his study unless absolutely necessary; meals were served at his convenience, waiting an hour or more if need be, and the things he liked were always served. Never did he fail to express appreciation of a delicious dish and never did he mention it, if something was not quite up to standard. It isn't any wonder we children considered the parents the most important part of the household.

Now that I am grown up, I realize there must have been many things about which they didn't agree. They were two intelligent people with definite ideas of their own about politics, religion, finances, even about the methods of handling children, yet never in our presence did they disagree or say an unkind word to each other. I remember how shocked I was when I was visiting in a friend's home to hear her father blaze out at her mother because something on the table didn't suit him. It was the first intimation I had had that all homes were not like ours. Father and mother discussed their intimate problems when we weren't present. As for opinions on such general subjects as politics and religion, everyone was allowed to hold his own and no one tried to force his point of view upon the others. Many and heated were the discussions around our table among us youngsters, and often father would have to suggest genially that we look up our facts before we defended them too vehemently.

There were four of us children, a boy and three girls, each with a decided personality. When the term "problem child" became popular, mother remarked, "I have brought up four children, each of whom was a problem." We had our storms and tempests, our heated discussions, our times of teasing and being teased. No matter how tempestuous we were, father and mother remained calm.

The source of their calm doubtless lay in their religion. Calm, religious parents, however, do not necessarily mean a stupid household. Some people have an idea that parsonage children are repressed by an atmosphere of piety and solemnity. We certainly weren't. Laughter and song were our daily food. Every morning at prayers, the whole family knelt before God, craved His blessing, and went about the day's living conscious of divine companionship. Grace was said before each meal. Father and mother didn't talk goodness, they lived it simply and sincerely.

There was only one motto in our home, a dainty one that hung in the dining room. It read, "Christ is the head of this house, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation." Since much of our family life centered in this room, it was here we had a good deal of our laughter and fun.

Whenever a bit of savory gossip started or a story that was unkind or not quite up to the mark began, mother or father would glance at the motto and the words died on our lips. But never did walls resound to keener wit or cleaner laughter than ours. We all loved to tell and to hear a good yarn. I think none of us or our friends ever suffered from suppression of gay spirits. There were times when my face actually ached from laughter, especially when relatives or ministers were our guests. Ministers are millionaires when wealth is measured by a stock of good stories.

And so moving from place to place, we carried our bit of heaven with us. As soon as the china, silver, and linen were unpacked, the pictures hung, and the books placed on their shelves, we felt at home. Whether the house was large or small, the furniture good or bad, it mattered little, so long as the folks were there.

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Wife of Bible Teacher, Washington Missionary College

January 1953

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