Early Church Writings
He [God] takes away anxious care for clothes, food, and all luxuries as being unnecessary. What are we to imagine, then, should be said about love of embellishments, the dyeing of wool, and the variety of colors? What should be said about the love of gems, exquisite working of gold, and still more, of artificial hair and wreathed curls? Furthermore, what should be said about staining the eyes, plucking out hairs, painting with rouge and white lead, dyeing of the hair, and the wicked arts that are employed in such deceptions? Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.264.
Those women who wear gold imitate the Egyptians. They occupy themselves with curling their locks. They are busy anointing their cheeks, painting their eyes, dyeing their hair, and practicing the other pernicious arts of luxury. The truth is that they deck the covering of their flesh in order to attract their infatuated lovers. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.272.
What does God think of spurious beauty, rejecting utterly as He does all falsehood? Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.274.
But there are circumstances in which this strictness may be relaxed. For allowance must sometimes be made in favor of those women who have not been fortunate in falling in with chaste husbands, and so they adorn themselves in order to please their husbands. But let desire for the admiration of their husbands alone be proposed as their objective. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.285.
Nor are the women to smear their faces with the ensnaring devices of wily cunning. But let us show to them the decoration of sobriety. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.286.
No wife is ugly to her own husband. She pleased him enough when she was selected [to be his wife]. Let none of you think that, if she abstains from beautifying herself, she will incur the hatred and aversion of her husband. Every husband is the exacter of chastity. But a believing husband does not require beauty. For we are not captivated by the same graces that the Gentiles think are graces. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.20.
These suggestions [against cosmetics] are not made to you, of course, to be developed into an entire crudity and wildness of appearance. Nor am I seeking to persuade you that squalor and slovenliness are good. Rather, I am seeking to persuade you of the limit, norm, and just measure of cultivation of the person. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.20.
For those women sin against God when they rub their skin with ointments, stain their cheeks with rouge, and make their eyes prominent with antimony. To them, I suppose, the artistic skill of God is displeasing! Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.20.
Whatever is born is the work of God. So whatever is plastered on, is the devil's work . . .. How unworthy of the Christian name it is to wear a fictitious face—you on whom simplicity in every form is enjoined! You, to whom lying with the tongue is not lawful, are lying in appearance. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.21.
What purpose, again, does all the labor spent in arranging the hair render to salvation? Why is no rest allowed to your hair? First, it must be bound, then loosed, then cultivated, then thinned out? Some are anxious to force their hair into curls. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.21.
I will then see whether you will rise [at the resurrection] with your ceruse and rouge and saffron—and in all that parade of headgear. I will then see whether it will be women thus decked out whom the angels carry up to meet Christ in the air! If these things are now good, and of God, they will then also present themselves to the rising bodies. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.22.
By no means are women to be allowed to uncover and exhibit any part of their bodies, lest both fall—the men by being incited to look, and the women by attracting to themselves the eyes of the men. Clement of Alexandria (circa. 195 AD), 2.246.
Neither are we to provide for ourselves costly clothing. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.263.
I say, then, that man requires clothes for nothing else than the covering of the body, for defense against excess of cold and intensity, lest the inclemency of the air injure us. And if this is the purpose of clothing, see that one kind is not assigned to men and another to women. For it is common to both to be covered, as it is to eat and drink. . . . And if some accommodation is to be made, women may be permitted to use softer clothes, provided they avoid fabrics that are foolishly thin and of curious texture in weaving. They should also bid farewell to embroidery of gold and Indian silks. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.265.
Luxurious clothing that cannot conceal the shape of the body is no more a covering. For such clothing, falling close to the body, takes its form more easily. Clinging to the body as though it were the flesh, it receives its shape and outlines the woman's figure. As a result, the whole make of the body is visible to spectators, although they cannot see the body itself. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.265.
Neither is it seemly for the clothes to be above the knee. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.266.
Buying, as they do, a single dress at the price of ten thousand talents, they prove themselves to be of less use and less value than cloth. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.267.
Those who glory in their looks—not in their hearts—dress to please others. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.273.
Let a woman wear a plain and becoming dress, but softer than what is suitable for a man. "Yet, it should not be immodest or entirely steeped in luxury. And let the garments be suited to age, person, figure, nature, and pursuits. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.285.
Woman and man are to go to church decently attired, with natural step, embracing silence. . . . Let the woman observe this, further: Let her be entirely covered, unless she happens to be at home. For that style of dress is serious and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty and her veil. Nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.290.
What reason is there in the Law's prohibition against a man wearing woman's clothing? Is it not that it would have us to be masculine and not to be effeminate in either person or actions? Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.365.
Concerning modesty of dress and embellishments, indeed, the commandment of Peter is likewise plain, restraining as he does with the same mouth . . . the glory of garments, the pride of gold, and the showy elaboration of the hair. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 3.687.
First, then, blessed sisters, take heed that you do not admit to your use flashy and sluttish garbs and clothing. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.22.
The dress of a modest woman should be modest. Novatian (circa 235 AD), 5.591, formerly attributed to Cyprian.
But self-control and modesty do not consist only in purity of the flesh, but also in seemliness and in modesty of dress and adornment. Cyprian (circa 250 AD), 5.431; extended discussion: 5.430-5.436.
Let the head of men be clipped, unless they have curly hair. But let the chin have the hair. . . . Cutting is to be used, not for the sake of elegance, but on account of the necessity of the case . . . so that it may not grow so long as to come down and interfere with the eyes. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.286.
It is enough for women to protect their locks, and bind up their hair simply along the neck with a plain hair-pin, nourishing chaste locks with simple care to true beauty. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.286.
This [male] sex of ours acknowledges to itself deceptive trickeries of form peculiarly its own. I am referring to things such as . . . arranging the hair, and disguising its hoariness by dyes. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.22.
A woman should not be adorned in a worldly fashion. . . . "Let your women be such as adorn themselves with shamefacedness and modesty, not with twisted hair, nor with gold, nor with pearls, or precious garments." Cyprian (circa 250 AD), 5.544.
[Instructions to Christian Servants of Caesar:] All of you should also be elegant and tidy in person and dress. At the same time, your dress should not in any way attract attention because of extravagance or artificiality. Otherwise, Christian modesty may be scandalized. Theonas of Alexandria (circa 300 AD ), 6.160.
Though in the form of men, they . . . curl their hair with curling pins, make the skin of the body smooth, and they walk with bare knees. In every other type of wantonness, they lay aside the strength of their masculinity and grow effeminate in women's habits and luxury. Arnobius (circa 305 AD), 6.450.
[To the men . . ..] Do not adorn yourself in such a manner that you might entice another woman to you . . .. Do not further enhance the beauty that God and nature has bestowed on you. Rather, modestly diminish it before others. Therefore, do not permit the hair of your head to grow too long. Rather, cut it short . . .. Do not wear overly fine garments, either . . .. Nor should you put a gold ring on your fingers. Apostolic Constitutions (compiled circa 390 AD), 7.392.
If you desire to be one of the faithful and to please the Lord, O wife, do not add adornments to your beauty, in order to please other men. Do not wear fine embroidery, garments, or shoes, to entice those who are allured by such things. It may be that you do not do these wicked things for the purpose of sinning yourself—but only for the sake of adornment and beauty. Nevertheless, you still will not escape future punishment for having compelled another to look so close at you as to lust after you. Apostolic Constitutions (compiled circa. 390, AD), 7.395.
It was the fact that Tamar had painted out and adorned herself that led Judah to regard her as harlot. Tertuttian (circa 198 AD), 4.24.
Draw your whiteness from simplicity, your ruddy hue from modesty. Paint your eyes with bashfulness, and your mouth with silence. Implant in your ears the words of God and place around your necks the yoke of Christ. Tertulliann (circa 198 AD), 4.25.
What will I say of the fact that these [young women] of ours confess their change of age even by their garb! As soon as they have understood themselves to be women, . . . they lay aside their former selves. They change their hair and fasten their hair with more wanton pins, professing obvious womanhood with their hair parted from the front. The next thing, they consult the mirror to aid their beauty. They thin down their over-exacting face with washing. Perhaps they even dress it up with cosmetics. They toss their mantle about them with an air, fit tightly into the multiform shoe, and carry down more ample appliances to the baths. Tertullian (circa 207 AD), 4.35.
"Now Susannah was a very delicate woman." This does not mean that she had flashy adornments on herself or eyes painted with various colors—as Jezebel had. Rather, it means she had the adornment of faith, chastity, and sanctity. Hippolytus (circa 205 AD), 5.193.
She is not a modest woman who strives to stir up the fancy of another—even though her physical chastity is preserved. Away with those who do not really adorn their beauty, but prostitute it instead. For anxiety about beauty is not only the wisdom of an evil mind, but belongs to deformity . . .. Why is the color of hair changed? Why are the edges of the eyes darkened? Why is the face molded by art into a different form? Novatian (circa 235 AD), 5.591, formerly attributed to Cyprian.
You wish, O Christian woman, that the matrons should be as the ladies of the world. You surround yourself with gold, or with the modest silken garment. . . . You affect vanity with all the pomp of the devil. You are adorned at the mirror, with your curled hair turned back from your brow. Moreover, with evil purpose, you put on false cosmetics. You put antimony on your pure eyes, with painted beauty. Or you dye your hair, so that it will always be black. . . . But these things are not necessary for modest women. Commodianus (circa 240 AD), 4.214.
To a wife approved by her husband, let it suffice that she is so, not by her dress, but by her good disposition. . . . O good matrons, flee from the adornment of vanity. Such attire is fitting for women who haunt the brothels. Overcome the evil one, O modest women of Christ! Commodianus (circa. 240 AD), 4.214.
It is not right before God that a faithful Christian woman should be adorned . . .. God's heralds . . . condemn as being unrighteous those women who adorn themselves in such a manner. You stain your hair. You paint the opening of your eyes with black. You lift up your hair, one by one, on your painted brow. You anoint your cheeks with some sort of reddish color laid on. . . . You are rejecting the law when you wish to please the world. Commodianus (circa 240 AD), 4.215.
Both sexes alike should be admonished that the work of God and His fashioning and formation should in no manner be adulterated—either with the application of yellow color, black dust, rouge, or with any kind of cosmetic . . .. God says, "Let us make man in our image and likeness." Does anyone dare to alter and change what God has made? Cyprian (circa 250 AD), 5.434.
In their manners, there was no discipline. . . . In women, their complexion was dyed. Their eyes were falsified from what God's hand had made them. Their hair was stained with a falsehood. Cyprian (circa 250 AD), 5.438.
Do not paint your face, which is God's workmanship. For there is no part of you that lacks beauty. For God has made all things very good. But the wanton extra adorning of what is already good is an affront to the Creator's work. Apostolic Consitutions (compiled circa 390 AD), 7.395; extended discussion 5.432-5.436