Are pants permissible for Christian women to wear? You may be surprised by my opinion. To start out with, here’s what one Christian female author has to say about it:
What about Pants?
We cannot leave this subject without dealing with an issue that comes up over and over again. Is it permissible for a woman to wear pants? Deuteronomy 22:5 is cited as a prohibition against a woman wearing pants: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.” To cite this verse as prohibition against women wearing pants, one must assume several doubtful concepts. Do pants pertain to men? What verse? According to the Bible, the common garment for a man is a skirt or cloak. Seventeen times the Bible speaks of men wearing skirts, such as Boaz, King Saul, and Aaron. One time, the Bible speaks of a woman’s skirt, and another time it speaks of God’s skirt. So, even God wears a skirt, as did the Scottish men and the Roman and Greek men of Old. American Indian men wore mini skirts. During Bible times, as far as secular history reveals, the only people who ever wore pants were Eastern women.
We want the Bible to be strictly our guide, but there is always a danger of reading something into it to suit our personal sense of propriety. Anyone with an open mind knows that the passage is speaking against transvestitism–cross dressing so as to appear as the opposite sex. The manner of dress would differ from one culture to another and from one era to another. Men and women are not to pervert and besmear the Creator’s designation of their sexuality, which essentially challenges God’s “and it was very good” declaration of the distinctiveness of his crowning “male and female” creation. It is disturbing to see women blurring gender distinction in the way they dress, and it is absolutely disgusting to see a man dress effeminately. Males and females dressing out of their gender is clearly troubling to God, which is why he addressed the subject in his Word. It is an abomination to him, an affront to his sovereignty in the creation of mankind. Keep that in mind as you choose your wardrobe. Modesty is the principal rule of female dress. If you want to get provocative, do so in private with your husband. In fact, I recommend it, but when you come out of the bedroom and go to church or to the local store, dress as you would dress for the Judgment Seat of Christ.
[Original emphasis. Page 214, Created to be His Help Meet, by Debi Pearl]
When Debi says, “We want the Bible to be strictly our guide, but there is always a danger of reading something into it to suit our personal sense of propriety,” I couldn’t agree with her more. Please don’t be shocked with me here. I have been skirts and dresses only since the spring of 2012, and I love it! There are several very good reasons for wearing skirts and dresses only, which I will list at the end of this post; however, my sense of honesty demands that I admit the Bible never says women can’t wear pants.
I agree with Debi’s assessment of Deuteronomy 22:5, in that God is warning us against cross-dressing and blurring the line between genders. In my posts Abominable Cross-Dressing and So…Why Shouldn’t I Wear Pants? I talk about this verse in greater depth, and I do think that to disregard this admonition is serious. Some people question if it applies to us since it comes from the Old Testament, but I don’t agree with that. Why not? Because the way God created us doesn’t change: God made men to be men, and women to be women. Nature doesn’t change with the culture; people try to twist nature, but they can’t change it. So, since Deut. 22:5 is actually a warning for us to not try and twist nature, I can say with confidence, that YES, it DOES apply to us today.
However, God does not specify which style of clothes to wear. I realize that in Europe and modern North America, women used to wear dresses exclusively, and that changed because of the Feminist Movement; so, we are basically living out the legacy of those who were bold (and ungodly) enough to challenge men and women’s roles and the clothes that symbolized them. But, I think we must differentiate between society’s taste in fashion, and Biblical command. Women didn’t need to start wearing pants because of feminism: they might have just as easily decided that pants were more comfortable. The point is, even though we may not agree with pants because it goes against our “personal sense of propriety,” can we biblically make an argument against their usage by women? I mean, an air-tight, super-clear, no-doubt-left type of argument? And honestly, I don’t think we can.
So, even though I disapprove of pants for women, I must at the same time concede that wearing pants is probably not the same as breaking biblical law. I would like to suggest, however, that if a woman wants to wear pants, or if her parents (if she is still a minor living in her parent’s home) want her to, or if her husband wants her to, that she try to do so while still obeying the Bible’s clear instructions for female dress:
1 Timothy 2
9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.
3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
So, when choosing clothing, one must check it against these guidelines:
- Is it modest? Clothing should not reveal the crotch, the buttocks, or the breasts. That’s the basics of what it means to be “modest.” I don’t see how anyone can honestly say that tight-fitting pants or blouses fit with the description “modest.” As women of God, we shouldn’t be trying to get away with as little as we can wear (or as tight as we can wear) and still be “kind of” modest; we should be diligent and passionate in trying to do as much as we can to live up to God’s priorities.
- Is it proper? Judge for yourself: Is it proper for women to show off their bodies to men who are not their husbands? Is it proper for women to show off their crotches and buttocks in tight leggings to men who are not their husbands? Is it proper for women to show off their breasts when they lean over in loose-collared blouses? I could go on and on, but I think it should be clear to us what is proper and what is not, if we would just give the matter some thought.
- Is it moderate? I do think that God wants us to dress and adorn ourselves in a way that isn’t excessive or “blingy.” Wearing expensive clothes does not show moderation; wearing lots of jewelry does not show moderation; and wearing clothes that reveal more of our bodies than they conceal does not show moderation. I would like to add, however, that moderation goes the other way, too: it isn’t moderate to reveal too much, but neither is it moderate to drape ourselves in sheets or sacks that cover everything except our eyes. Let’s not get extreme.
- Is it discreet? My box of nursing pads advertises that they are “discreet,” meaning that they don’t show noticeably under clothes. Discreet obviously means to conceal, or hide, something that you don’t want others to see, something that it isn’t proper for them to see. What should women conceal? That which it wouldn’t be proper for any man but their own husbands to see.
- Is it chaste? Chastity, to me, means being pure and holy. Virgins are chaste when they guard their bodies from sexual contact; married women are chaste when they guard themselves from adulterous affairs. Both unmarried and married women can practice chastity in their behavior and mode of dress by not drawing attention to those things that would promote impure thoughts in another.
- Is it clearly feminine? In accordance with Deut. 22:5, a woman needs to look like a woman, without there being any confusion on that point. What kind of clothes show without a doubt that you are a female? I would stay away from unisex styles, in preference for those that are specifically feminine in style.
If you can create an outfit with pants that meets those criteria, then I could accept that you are probably living within biblical boundaries. Here are some examples I found online that I believe demonstrate this:
[Found on Blaire’s under “women’s tunics”]
Regarding the tops: notice the modest necklines, the loose but not sloppy fit, the feminine details, and the long length. As long as the pants are loose fitting (such as what the girl in the green top is wearing), I think they could be appropriate. I would stay away from tight-fitting pants, or ones in a very light color (such as what the girl in the pink top is wearing–love the shirt, but the pants are too light to be modest).
Now, ladies, I am trying to be open-minded in accepting that there may be several variations on a woman’s attire, including pants, that could still be considered “biblical.” We must be honest, and not try to make the Bible say something it doesn’t, as strongly as we support women wearing skirts and dresses only. And yet, there are some very good reasons for living a skirts-and-dresses-only lifestyle:
- More coverage. They cover up the “sexy zone” (crotch, thighs, buttocks, hips), better than pants. Even tight skirts, though certainly not advisable or proper, cover up the crotch better than tight-fitting pants do.
- Promote feminine movement. They force us to cross our legs instead of sprawling them apart like men; they make us take smaller, dainty steps, instead of long, manly strides. They require that we take precautions to protect our modesty that we normally wouldn’t think about if we just flew about in jeans everywhere we went.
- More feminine. Women often don’t have a problem wearing pants, but most men would NEVER wear a skirt or a dress. So, skirts and dresses are STILL the exclusive domain of women in most regions. Skirts and dresses highlight our femininity by creating a greater contrast with male clothing.
- More comfortable. As long as they are loose-fitting and long, they can be very confortable. I always wear leggings under mine; they keep me warm in the winter, and keep my legs from chafing in the summer; they also keep me modest if my toddler tugs on my skirt or lifts it up a little.
[Found on Blaire’s under “women’s dresses”]
These are a few examples of dresses that I consider modest (at least they could be, with a little tweaking) and feminine. They are plenty long, and flow loosely. I especially love the denim dress; it looks so comfortable. The yellow floral one is my next favorite; however, the neckline looks a bit low. I would put another shirt underneath. The pink dress is pretty; the only thing it needs is a shirt underneath, since it isn’t modest to show off completely bare arms.
I’m going to say something to the folks who are thinking right now, “so what’s so bad about having bare arms”?
As a woman, whenever I see a man in a sleeveless top, I immediately feel my cheeks blush in embarrassment. Obviously, I don’t see men in tank tops very often; but when I do, I notice biceps and other manly stuff right away. Not because I’m looking for it, but because it’s right there in front of me. I would much rather for men to wear regular T-shirts. Now, put it the other way. If it’s so hard for me to see a man in a tank top, how must it be for men to see women dressed that way?
I think pants might be permissible, biblically speaking, if worn modestly and femininely. Nevertheless, I still uphold skirts and dresses as the ideal for Christian women because I consider them to be superior in modesty and femininity.
So…what do you think? Please share your thoughts on the pants versus skirts/dresses-only issue! What do you think about Deuteronomy 22:5? What do you think it means to dress “modestly”? I look forward to reading your comments!