A8. The Religion of Dress.
Your thought is an invisible emanation ever going from you. It is in part absorbed by your clothing; and if such clothing be long worn, it becomes saturated with this element. Every thought of ours is a part of our real self. Our last thought is a part of our latest, newest self. If you wear old clothes, you re‑absorb into your newest, latest self the old thought you have previously cast off, and with which they are saturated. You may then re‑absorb into your newest self of to‑day something of every mood of anger, irritation, or anxiety, sent from you while wearing those garments, and sent into them. You burden, then, your newer self of to‑day with your old dead self of last month or last year. You can be each day a newer man or woman than you were yesterday, and you want as much as possible to keep that newness and freshness unmixed with oldness. It is this sense of deadness felt by your spirit that makes the old coot or the old gown feel so uncomfortable. It is the same sense that makes new clothing seem grateful and refreshing to you. You are then putting on a new material, envelope, or skin not filled and burdened with the thought‑emanation of last month or last year.
There is, then, only loss of power for you in wearing old clothes—in other words, putting on a part of your old dead self—for economy’s sake. Not even a snake will crawl into its old skin after casting it, for sake of economy. Nature never wears her old clothes. Nature never economizes after man’s fashion, in putting the plumage on a bird, the fur on a quadruped, the tints on a flower. If she did, the prevalent color of every thing would be that of old coats and pantaloons, and the hues of God’s firmament would be those of a second‑hand clothing store.
It is healthy to live amid color, and plenty of it. What so pleases the eye, rests the mind; and whatever rests the mind, rests the body.
In dress, and the furnishing of our houses, there are ten new shades of color where there was one twenty years ago. This is one of the many indications of the growing spirituality of the age.
Spirituality implies a keener perception and appreciation of all that is beautiful. A dull mind sees nothing in the glowing, ever‑changing hues of a magnificent sunset. Spirituality is entranced and fascinated by it. Spirituality means simply power of finding enjoyment in more and more things. It is but another name for that heaven which all human nature longs for and is eventually to realize,—the heaven of the mind, when every moment is one of pleasure, and all pain is eternally forgotten.
The varied colors of ladies’ wearing attire were all in existence forty years ago—all worn by some plant, some flower, some bird, some animal, but the coarser eye of that time had not detected them. When it did detect them, it desired next to imitate them. It did imitate them; and now the same spiritualized eye is at work detecting new shades and hues, and striving to imitate them. It will imitate them, because, whatever human mind sets its desire or thought upon to accomplish, that it will accomplish.
The same growing spiritualization and refinement of the race cause the greater diversity of garb and color, giving more play and freedom to limb, lung, and muscle, as now worn by men and women in recreative exercises, such as yachting, base‑ball, bicycling, lawn tennis, and it is gradually bringing more freedom to the individual in his or her selection of the most fitting garb and color.
The phrase “wearing the mantle” of another person, as indicative of filling their place, or taking on their power, is something more than figurative. If you put on the garment of a really superior person, you may absorb something of their superior self or thought. If you wear the garment of a coarse, crude, vulgar person, you will surely absorb of such coarseness. There may be in clothes the contagion of low thought, as there may be in clothing the contagion of disease. Indeed, the contagion of diseased thought and the contagion of diseased germs sent from sick bodies into clothing merge one into the other, and mean about the same thing.
Our clothing can be rested as much as our bodies. When you put on the garment you have laid aside for a period of weeks or months, although it may not feel as one entirely new, still, in a sense, it does not seem quite so stale as when last worn. If hung accessible to sunshine and fresh air, it will cast off more or less of your old thought; for thought in some forms has weight, though inappreciable by any material standard of weight. In proportion to its crudeness, does it, like any other heavy substance, seek or flow to the lowest places. There will be for this reason more evil or evil tendency in a cellar or basement than at the top of the house, and less independence and courage in a low, swampy country than among the dwellers of the mountains. The history of our race has proven this.
But when thought, through the growth of the spirit, reaches a certain point or quality, it ceases to be governed by the attraction of gravitation. In other words, it ceases to be drawn, or draw to itself, any of the quality or element of physical things.
It comes then under the rule of another attraction, as yet unrecognized by scientists. We will here call it the attraction of aspiration. This sending thought to the higher or spiritual domain of being attracts also a similar element from that domain, which renders the physical body less and less governed by earthly gravitation or tendency. Through the working of this law, Christ’s physical body did not sink in the sea; and, for similar reason, Christ and the prophet Elijah ascended physically to another realm of existence.
The religion of any people is the law governing and shaping such people’s lives. It expresses itself in all their habits, manners, and customs. Such religion, or law of life, may be a relatively low or high one; and it will also be a law for some as this planet matures and ripens, always increasing and widening in the methods and paths leading to higher and higher states of happiness.
All religions and all religious form, rite, and ceremonial, be they of any faith or at any period of the world’s generally known history, have been instigated and established through a higher wisdom and more powerful order of mind, not seen or generally known of men; and such rites and formalities have had for their object the teaching to man of methods of life which would bring him more lasting happiness. The priest in ancient and modern faiths is, or should be, the chief aspirer,— the man so highly developed as to be the most powerful in prayer or aspiration: the visible medium betwixt the lower and higher, the seen and unseen worlds.
In all known ages, the priest, whether officiating in the temples of the ancient mythology of Judaism, or Bhuddism, or Catholicism, has worn a garb peculiar to the priestly function. It is a garment consecrated to a certain use. It is not to be worn in public or in promiscuous throngs. If it were, it would absorb of the lower thought emanating from them. If worn by the priest at all times, it would also be permeated by all of his peculiar moods. For priests, like other men, have their lower moods,— their periods when the higher self is temporarily overcome by the lower,—as all other men and women have and must have. But when the priest puts on the dress meant only for the sacredness and gravity, or rather the repose and serenity, of mind proper for the altar or pulpit, and used only when he wishes for and invites this mood of mind or order of thought,— that dress, being only used for such purpose, contains and is permeated only by that peculiar order of thought associated with his priestly ministration.
Following this same law, we find great use and profit in wearing changes of apparel suitable for certain occupations. An actor feels more his part, and the phase of character he portrays, when he wears the costume adapted to such part, especially when he has played in it many times; because then such costume becomes saturated with the thought peculiar to such part, and he does literally put on a part of his characterization. If you put on the rags of the beggar, you will, for the same reason, the more feel the cringing, crouching, mental condition of the beggar. If in the study or practice of any art you wear a certain dress (and a tasteful one), you will the better prosecute such art, for you have then a dress saturated with the thought of such art, and through such saturation, unseen beings, skilled in such art, can come nearer to you, and impress their skill upon you. If you put on clothing used in every sort of work, and which is worn by you among turbulent, sordid, and low mental atmospheres and surroundings, you place thereby a thought barrier betwixt you and them, which renders you less accessible to them.
There is the germ of a truth in the idea of the amulet or charm, or relic of saint, or bead blessed by the pope, possessing a certain power or virtue. Any material substance once worn or touched by any person will absorb a certain part of that person’s thought or self, and such thought can be absorbed by the person to whom it is given; and, if it is the thought of good, it affects you for good. When you look on the ring given you by a friend, and one whose thought is ever sending out good‑will to you, you are reminded of him or her, and in being so reminded you send your thought to him or her; and, if he or she does really wish you unmixed good, you will receive a current of his or her thought back, and it is a help to you.
There is great profit in putting on a fresh change of apparel for dinner or the theatre or opera or any social gathering for recreation; and recreation all should have in the latter part of the day. If you wear your business‑suit at dinner or the opera or party, you are bringing, in that clothing, a part of your business self to a place where all business thought should be temporarily laid aside and forgotten, in order that business shall be the better done next morning. You are bringing to dinner or the theatre in that business‑suit more or less of the thought it has absorbed of pork or beef or codfish, or bargain or sale, or leases or rents, or other care, fret, worry, or anxiety, which, as a really religious man, you want for the time to be rid of. Your business‑suit, so full and infected by the business thought, and possibly iniquity, in which you have been moving and mingling, will throw off this element, besides actually rendering it more difficult for you to rid yourself of business care and anxiety. And such element and condition of your own mind may affect unpleasantly those near you, who are highly sensitive; and though they may not know the cause, yet in the privacy of their souls they may not find you so agreeable as you may wish them to find you.
We need to dress as neatly and tastefully in the privacy of our houses and families, our chambers and working‑rooms, as we may do, or attempt to do, in public. There can be a neat and tasteful dress for every employment. It is most profitable to wear such dress. For if we feel ourselves becomingly attired, we shall carry on our faces the impress and result of such dressing. When you feel tastefully attired, it is your spirit and not your body that so feels such pleasure; and as it so feels and also thinks pleasurable thought, so it will be drawing to you that of thought element which will shape your face in accordance with such feeling. So the expression of your face improves through persistent tasteful dressing at all times; for the whole body moulds its shape according to the moods or mental states of your spirit.
You feel disagreeably a torn gown, a shoe run down at the heel, a seedy hat, a soiled collar. Soiled and long‑worn under‑clothing becomes irksome. Your spirit participates in the sensation of annoyance. The mind is as much affected as the body. This disagreeable sensation is thought. You are ever putting out such thought element. It imprints its peculiar expression on your features.
If our garments are slovenly in arrangement two‑thirds of the time, we can never dress with that certain neatness and elegance pleasing to the eyes of others, though they may not be able to tell exactly what it is that pleases. If slovenly habit of attire predominate, slovenly expression in some form will mould itself on the face, because the face will shape its expression in accordance with the prevailing mood of mind. A man scared at something two‑thirds of the time will have a scared look all the time. A continual slipshod mood of mind, which ties shoestrings negligently, brushes the hair with “a lick and a promise,” and is never carefully buttoned up in any direction, will carry a slipshod face. If we feel always neatly and becomingly dressed, both as regards the clothing that is seen and that which is not seen, be it dress for sleep, for work, for the kitchen, the parlor, or the studio, we are then cultivating and drawing to us the thought element of order, of neatness, of grace; and such elements will build themselves more and more into us, become parts of us, and the face will show more and more in pleasing expression the result of such incorporation of higher thought.
Tasteful arrangement of clothing for the body must come from within. It is the spirit that dresses the body. The disordered mental states of the lunatic show themselves in disordered or fantastic attire.
The more you invite the thought or moods of order, neatness, grace,—in brief, the “doing of all things well,”—the more of such thought will flow toward you. With the thought always comes the capacity for such doing. Such order of thought must express and prove itself more and more in every act. Order, neatness, taste, will prevail, not only in the arrangement of your clothing, and the selection of fitting colors, but in all you do,— in your handwriting, in the packing of your valise, in your walk, your speech, your general bearing. The “grace” of the God in yourself is a principle. It colors, influences, affects, your whole life. It is “grace” in its literal and more common meaning, for “grace” is a Godlike quality, and grace of movement, and grace of bearing, whether seen in the actor, the orator, the danseuse, or the true lady, is born of order, of that attitude or condition of mind, which with electric rapidity plans beforehand what it executes, and plans almost as it executes, be such execution placed on the graceful bow or the accentuation of a sentence which shall convey an idea or emotion too fine to be carried by mere words. In the “kingdom of God,” there are no trivial things. Religion, or the law of life, or the doing of all things well, involves the use, outlay, and application of force; and force is thought, and all thought is infinite spirit; and as we learn better and better how to use and apply this, better and better are the results coming to us from such use.
Colors are expressions of mental conditions and qualities. Despondency, mourning, hopeless grief, chooses black. Our nation, which at heart believes in death,—in other words, regards the sundering of spirit from body as the end of all communion ’twixt their own and the mind which previously used that body,—puts on black, an appropriate badge for hopelessness and lack of clear idea concerning the whereabouts and condition of very near departed friends. The Chinese, who interpret death only as the loss of a body to a spirit, for similar cause wear white, indicative to them of a temporary sadness, tempered by the certain knowledge that such friend, though not seen of the physical eye, is still as near them as ever. Dull, lustreless black is the color of stagnation and decay. It is the color most prevalent when the life, light, warmth, and cheer of the sun are most shut from us. As now so much worn among us, it is symbolical, and an actual result and outcome of lack of spiritual sight,—in other words, lack of life, light, and valuable knowledge. True, we have systems of education which teach a great deal of what is called knowledge. It is a question how much they teach is worth knowing, and how much is not. How much of our modern “finished education” gives power to accomplish results?
In your dress, your spirit always chooses the colors, or combinations of color, most expressive of your mental condition. If your life is entirely without aim or purpose, you will wear “any thing which comes handy,”—parts of different suits, pitched on without regard to becomingness. You will dress in patchwork, and, even when you buy new clothing, you will allow the dealer to fit you out in patchwork. If you are verging on what is called “middle age,” and regard youth as a period forever past, and look at yourself as on the down‑grade of life, bound for a domain of existence where all of life’s pleasures, hopes, and joyousness are to be gradually shut out, and that in a few years you are to become a decrepit old man or woman, you will probably dress in black,—possibly rusty black,—the color so much worn by men and women who seem to have turned their faces permanently toward the despondent and soured view of life; to whom the presence of youth, in its gayety and love of color, is disagreeable and a folly; and whose internal consolation seems to be that youth is fleeting, and must soon end in a life as hard, cheerless, and somber as their own.
Our land is full of people, men and women, who in dress have “slumped,”—who have little pride or love for what they put on; who pitch at their bodies, in dressing, a hat, a bonnet, a shawl, a gown, or necktie, because custom and habit say it must be worn; who regard care, love, and scrupulousness as to their apparel as matters belonging only to a bygone youth.
These are signs of death. These people’s bodies have then commenced to die. They have “slumped,” because their spirits have “slumped.” For the proper and tasteful adornment of the body, the instrument here used by your spirit is one of the legitimate, pleasurable, and necessary occupations of life. It is the spirit’s outward advertisement of its internal condition. It is truthful in every story it tells in this way. A seedy coat, a soiled rusty gown, tell no lies as to their wearers’ prevailing state of mind.
Slovenly dressing means lack of love for the effort necessary in dressing, and choosing the fashion and color of dress; and whatever is done by the body with lack of love for, and in, the doing is an injury to the body; and, as viewed in this light, not even a millionnaire can afford to wear a rusty hat.
In what we call youth, there is the most of spiritual wisdom or intuition, because your spirit has then a new body; and up to a certain period the spirit is free from the old dead thought and opinion expressed in eternally followed custom and prejudice by the thousands of the middle‑aged about it. Rejoicing in such spiritual knowledge and naturalness, youth is playful. It casts off care. It loves personal adornment. It revels like Nature as expressed in the vegetable kingdom in color and variety of color. In this it is right. In the unconscious wisdom of intuition, it is wiser far than so many of middle age, who, through ignorance of the law of life, have at once turned down the corners of their mouths, and turned out all hope of new joys and pleasures. It was for this reason that the Christ of Judæa commended to the solemn elders of Israel the little child, saying, “Except ye become as one of these, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” For with each new body the spirit feels, rather than sees, a glimpse of its future angelhood,—a glimpse so often and soon covered up through absorption of the worldly thought about it; covered, at least, for that one earthly life.
I hear some say in thought: How can we, on whom the burdens of life press so heavily, get our changes of apparel for different callings and different periods of the day? I answer, Yours is the possibility of getting them in this way: Set your mind—the force which is your eternal birthright, that magnet which will always draw to you the material correspondence of what you most think, or set it toward—in the direction of imperiously but in silence demanding these things, and in time you will see opportunities whereby you shall earn and have them honestly. Refuse in your thought to accept inferior clothes, inferior food, inferior apartments, save as a makeshift; and in time the superior will come to you. If you say, I expect I never shall do any better or have any better than I have now, and that, if any thing, my condition a year hence will be worse than now, you are setting in motion, and keeping in motion, that thought force which will weight you down, press you down, and keep you down, and attract you to rags, and rags to you. Set your mind in the direction of having only second and third rate clothing, food, furniture, and surroundings; and the second and third rate only will you attract and have. Set the magnetic power of your mind persistently in the desire and demand of the best of every thing; and the best will, by an inevitable and unerring law, eventually come to you.
Set your mind persistently in the direction of second and third rate things; and by this same irresistible force will you be drawn into those crowds of seedy and semi‑seedy men and women, who haunt auctions of old furniture,—there buying and carrying home creaky bedsteads; and ague‑stricken bureaus, whose drawers won’t shut when opened, and won’t open when shut; old carpets full of the dust of ages, and worse; old clothes full of disease and diabolical thought; and old beds and bedding full of the corpse which died upon them. Get into this current, and you become an actual part of this second‑rate life and second‑rate being.
Dress to Feel at Your Best! "Casualness leads to Casualty!"
Travel away (n.d.). [Image]. Retrieved June 30, 2021, from https://travelaway.me/romantic-travel-ideas/
Mulford, P. (1886-1887). The religion of dress. Your forces and how to use them (pp.205-215). Hollister, Missouri: YOGeBooks by Roger L. Cole. doi: 2015:01:16:10:43:09