Thoughts on Dress by Rev. Daniel Cooper (1865)

(The Christian Recorder/December 2, 1865) Mr. Editor, it is apparent that whatever a man delights in most, that he will seek after. Our Saviour said, “Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.”

What is sought after more than fashionable dress? Like the Athenians who spent all their time either to hear or tell something new. Sir, is it not a fact that the masses both of the church and world are now spending their time as to who shall excel in some new style or fashion of dress?

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The different cuts of the beard, the loops of the garments, or some flower or trinket placed on the head or breast, and no proper cultivation of the mind for usefulness, or the heart for benevolence, and thus that God-given and immortal part of man, the mind, is perverted by the foolishness of dress. Unnecessary, or foolish dress, is one of the most efficient instruments of the devil in perverting that immortal principle, and bringing it to his kingdom.

Pride, that foul monster, is fostered, and man forgets that he is mortal, and with this wholesale delusion men and women feign themselves to be gentlemen and ladies, when they have nothing in their heads or hearts to make such.

I once knew a sister in the Church, who was very tasty in her dress, and if another sister had on an article of dress like it, that article of the former would hardly be worn, while that of the latter was regularly worn. Here the social and intellectual powers of both are arrayed, the one against the other.

All admit that the gospel is a body of light and truth, well calculated in its nature to improve man as a social and intellectual being. But sin rules, the avenue of light is closed, they go to church but are not benefited, and only for the sake of displaying their dress.

Nor does this influence stop here, for each one have their friends, and by their influence society is arrayed the one party against the other.

They may attend church, profess to be Christians, and may be animated under a spirited exhortation or song, and be satisfied with this, while there is a deep seated rankling in the heart. But God hath said, “he that hateth his brother is a murderer,” and we know that no murderer hath eternal life.

Now, I ask if there is not a perversion of the social and intellectual faculties, and all from the influence of unnecessary dress? Many tarry at home until they think the service has begun, then they drive in their empty wagon, flirting, stamping and rattling along, whilst all the rest of the empty wagons turn to see who drives in next. The minister must stop now, for he wants to be heard, and very often he becomes confused, and forgets where he left off, but the empty concern drives on to the other side of the house, and there it lands. Ask the driver where he hails from? And he will answer. The fashionable circle. What is he laden with? He will again answer, Goods. Now you may examine the cargo by entering into conversation, and you will find nothing but a bundle of intellectual fiction.

And now while the minister labors to set forth the word of God, Miss Fanny is engaged with the cut of William’s beard, and John is viewing the style of Miss Susan’s hat. Now is not this intellectual murder to the minister and his people?

Nor does this monster stop here, for, by the parent it is pressed upon the child, from the time that it begins to notice, until pride has destroyed all the basis for intellectual and social culture, and thus by putting some flashy and useless article of dress upon the child and by prompting it with, “Oh, how pretty!” and by not allowing it to associate with the neighbor’s children, because they are not dressed so finely as yours – you are spoiling the social and intellectual qualities of the child.

Reverend Daniel Cooper
Greenfield, Ohio, Nov. 17th.


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