Dress and Character
Isaiah 3:16
Moreover the LORD said, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes…

The Word of God has sometimes things to say which it cannot be satisfied to address generally to mankind; it requires a more direct superscription for its message, and writes to men, to women, even sometimes to wives, maidens, mothers, widows, children. In the effort of Isaiah to produce a deep and general conviction of the national sin and disgrace and impending ruin, he singles out the women of that day; he bids us trace the influence of a godless luxury in their vain dressing, frivolous manners, and overloaded ornamentation and jeweler. He intimates that the nobler qualities of womanly mind and character were being lost in this great increase of frivolity and vanity; and he sets us upon imagining not only the present degradation of the land, but the yet deeper degradation that must come, the utter ruin of the generation that owned such women as mothers. Hallam says, "The love of becoming ornament is not perhaps to be regarded in the light of vanity; it is rather an instinct which woman has received from nature to give effect to those charms which are her defense; and when commerce began to minister more efficiently to the wants of luxury, the rich furs of the north, the gay silks of Asia, the wrought gold of domestic manufacture, illumined the halls of chivalry, and cast, as if by the spell of enchantment, that ineffable grace over beauty which the choice and arrangement of dress is calculated to bestow." God cannot be especially pleased with a clothing of wearisome drab; and he must know that when bright colors are forsworn, the vanity of the human heart will still find expression in shape and pattern. He is ever dressing the brown earth in garments of grass and flower, pluming the wings of his birds with varied tints; and making gorgeous with bars of gold and crimson and blue the sky at sun setting. There are a few simple rules of dress which at once commend themselves to Christian judgment.

I. A CHRISTIAN SHOULD DRESS WITHIN REASONABLE EXPENSE, What is reasonable expense can never be settled by figures; it must always be left to individual decision; the utmost carefulness of one person may, relative to station, appear censurable extravagance to another person. But we may say this: any expenditure is unreasonable which deprives us of the means for meeting those higher claims which may be made upon us - claims of

(1) food,

(2) family,

(3) education,

(4) hospitality,

(5) charity, or

(6) religion.

And all expenditure on luxurious dress is unreasonable, which prevents our laying aside something against the calamities, diseases, and old age of the future. Above all, dressing which involves the spending of money which belongs to our creditors is a lie towards men, and an insult to God. Archbishop Leighton says," Excessive costliness argues and feeds the pride of the heart, and defrauds, if not others of their dues, yet the poor of their charity, which in God's sight is a due debt too; and far more comfort shalt thou have on thy death-bed, to remember that at such a time, instead of putting lace on my own back, I helped a naked back to clothing."

II. A CHRISTIAN SHOULD DRESS ACCORDING TO THE BEST STANDARDS OF TASTE. Best, not necessarily newest. These you will discover, not by observing persons who are foremost in fashion, but by observing those persons for whom you have the most real respect. Whatever may be the class of society to which you belong, you can discern, within the limits of your sphere, the contrast between the dress of the shallow, the frivolous, and vain, and the dress of the thoughtful, the humble, and the worthy. Peter gives an idea of the standard of taste, in 1 Peter 3:3-5.

III. A CHRISTIAN SHOULD DRESS SUITABLY TO THE SPHERE IN LIFE WHICH SHE OCCUPIES, AND THE CLASS OF SOCIETY TO WHICH SHE BELONGS. If you do not act thus, you make yourself a caricature; you must be a hypocrite, trying to deceive people into the idea that you are what you know that you are not. Most people easily read the disguise, and put a low estimate on the persons who foolishly resort to it. We honor the men and women who bravely say, "My sphere in life may be humble, but it is honest, and therefore it is honorable. I am not ashamed to dress according to it. I can occupy my place, and look just myself, with the smile of God, and the approbation of all good men, upon me." Let servants dress as servants, maidens as maidens, married women as married, and the aged as aged. Each to herself be true.

IV. A CHRISTIAN SHOULD DRESS SO AS TO SERVE GOD BY HER DRESS. Our dress has an influence on others-on those in our station, on those in classes of society below us, and on the children we meet. This mode of influence is to be laid in service on the Lord's altar. Two points may be impressed from these considerations.

1. Dress reveals character. This is true of the character of each individual. We often take our notions of a person from her dress. Carelessness, untidiness, and uncleanliness, things which are very nearly akin to ungodliness, are revealed only by looking at some, so-called, well-dressed people. Self-conceit, passion, and temper are exhibited in others. Sometimes we see persons of whom we think very pityingly. Poor creatures! There is little inside the cozy dress but vanity, pride, and worldliness. And others as certainly tells us of the inward modesty, the delicacy, seriousness, refinement of their souls. Burns sings -

"Oh, wad some poo'er the giftie gic us,
To see o'orsels as ithers see us!" And many of us have longed for the courage to tell others around us the impression which their dress was making upon us. If the looking-glass could speak, what surprising revelations it would make! It is true also of nations; dress is characteristic. It is true of towns and districts in our own land. In some parts of our country, where wages are good, and imitation finery is cheap, we find sharp contrasts of color, commonness of material, rude bold shapes, and overloading of tinsel. In other parts where work is concerned with the more necessary articles required for man's use, the taste is sober, the quality good, and ornamentation refined.

2. Dress cultures character. A woman feels right when she is well dressed, and in a sense is kept right by her dress. The beautiful in appearance wants the beautiful in conduct to match it. Plato says, "Behavior, and not gold, is the ornament of woman. For a woman who wishes to enjoy the favor of one man, good behavior is the proper ornament, and not dresses. You should have the blush upon your countenance, which is the sign of modesty, instead of paint, and worth and sobriety instead of gold and emeralds." - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:

WEB: Moreover Yahweh said, "Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with outstretched necks and flirting eyes, walking to trip as they go, jingling ornaments on their feet;

Costume and Morals
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