Is it wrong for Christian women to wear pants?

If a Christian woman wears pants is she violating the Bible’s command that “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man…” (Deuteronomy 22:5)? Are Christian woman essentially cross-dressing if they wear trousers? In this article we will seek to answer the question of the morality of women wearing pants.

The Bible is clear that God want’s women to dress like women and men to dress like men.

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.” – Deuteronomy 22:5 (KJV)

This is something that the vast majority of Christians would agree about. But where the disagreement comes in is what is masculine dress and what is feminine dress?

Before we dive into this I just want to share a little personal history here.  I grew up in Independent Baptist churches for most of my life(and still attend one today).  Back in the 80’s and still well into the 90’s it was very common for Baptist preachers to preach against women wearing pants.  While they are fewer in number today – there are still some conservative churches and Christians that believe it is immoral for a woman to wear pants.

Did God command all men to wear pants in Exodus 28:41-43?

Some Christians contend that the following passage from Exodus 28:41-43 shows that God wants men to wear pants:

“41 And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.

42 And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:

43 And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him.” – Exodus 28:41-43 (KJV)

In Exodus 28:41-43 we see the first mention of “breeches” in the Bible. This English word was chosen to translate the Hebrew word “Miknac” which means:

     “underwear, drawers, trousers

a priestly undergarment of linen”

http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/miknac.html

When we look at this passage in context God is telling priests that they had to wear breeches when they came near to the altar. These were commanded to be worn ONLY during their priestly duties around the altar.

There is nothing in the passage indicating that God meant for men to wear breeches outside of this very particular situation.

Who does the Bible mention wearing skirts?

While the Bible never commands all men to wear breeches it actually does mention the skirts of men:

“A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor discover his father’s skirt.” Deuteronomy 22:30 (KJV)

“And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.” 1 Samuel 24:5 (KJV)

The fact is that while there are some ancient examples of men wearing pants for the most part men did not wear breeches or pants as we call them throughout the entire Biblical time period except in limited instances where priests wore them in their priestly duties and some warriors may have worn some ancient forms of trousers when riding on horseback.

Most men and women wore tunics. Were the male and female tunics made in different styles? Yes. But both of them were continuous pieces of cloth that were sometimes worn with some type of belt – there were no pants involved. Sometimes men would wear a robe over their tunic as well.

Did God command women to always wear dresses in I Timothy 2:9?

Some Christians contend that this passage from I Timothy 2:9 commands that women should always wear dresses and it forbids them from wearing pants:

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;” – I Timothy 2:9 (KJV)

The word “modest” here in I Timothy 2:9 is an English translation of the Greek word Kosmios, which means “seemly” or “appropriate”. In modern English, most people think of a woman dressing modest as a woman dressing in a non-sexual manner. But this was not the meaning of the original word used by the Apostle Paul. Can sexually revealing clothing be “unseemly” or “inappropriate” on a woman in certain situations? Yes. But the Greek word Kosmios is not specific to sexually revealing clothing.

The word “apparel” here in I Timothy 2:9 is an English translation of the Greek word Katastole, which comes from two Greek words, Kata and Stole. This literally refers to a “complete stola”. A stola in New Testament times was a one piece robe with holes for the head and arms. Often times a strap would be worn around the middle below the breasts to give the stola some form around the body. Sometimes a stola had sleeves, other times it was sleeveless.

The roman stola was a long flowing gown as pictured below in several varieties and was worn by women exclusively.

Men on the other hand wore togas or tunics which sometimes had an outer robe. A typical tunic that a roman man would wear is seen below.

The roman male version of the female formal stola would have been the toga as picture below.

RomanToga

The stola was typically worn by women for formal events such as weddings and other special occasions. But during their day to day work women typically wore tunics called peplos like men with the difference that a woman’s tunic typically went down to her feet where a man’s tunic might go to his knees at the most.

As we can see here from these pictures a Roman stola looks nothing like a modern dress that women might wear today. Likewise men don’t wear togas anymore. Paul was not saying that we had to have our clothing fashions frozen to Roman era dress. But the Apostle Paul was giving us three Biblical principles here regarding a woman’s dress:

Women are to wear clothing that is appropriate to the occasion

As we previously mentioned Paul by using the Greek word Kosmios is telling women they are to wear clothing appropriate to the occasion.

Women are to wear feminine clothing

Paul is remaining consistent with Deuteronomy 22:5 in admonishing women to wear clothing that pertains to women. While the roman stola may have been different than the clothing worn in Moses time he was enforcing the concept that whatever is considered feminine dress in our culture – that is what women should be wearing.

Women are to be fully covered for the occasion of worship

The context here of I Timothy 2:9 is referring to how women are to dress when they come to worship in the assembly. Paul is literally saying here in I Timothy 2:9 that women are not to look at the Church as a fashion show but in the same way they should not wear their normal work clothes to church. Rather they should wear a stola (clearly feminine clothing meant for special occasions) and make sure it is a complete stola or fully covering them when coming to worship in the Church.

Does I Timothy 2:9 apply to women in all occasions?

Some Christians have argued that Paul’s commands here regarding the “appropriate complete stola” which is literally what “modest apparel” is translating here applies to how Christian women should dress in ALL occasions.

The general principle that women should wear clothing that is appropriate to the occasion is a principle that women should apply to all areas of their life. The general principle that women should always wear clothing that pertains to a woman as stolas specifically pertained to women in Paul’s time should apply to all areas of a woman’s life.

But do women have to wear their best clothing – the modern equivalent of the stola every day of their lives? I don’t think this is what the Apostle Paul was saying and I will explain why.

Women typically did NOT wear stolas every day but rather they wore them only for special occasions like weddings or other more formal gatherings. Instead they wore much simpler “tunic like” peplos during their day to day lives as they went about their work.

A person reading this when Paul wrote this would have understood that Paul did not mean that women had to wear their complete stola every day but rather that they should wear it for the assembly as this was a special occasion.

Conclusion

Both the command for men to wear breeches in their duties as priests and for women to wear complete stolas when coming to the assembly for worship were clothing commands regarding SPECIFIC and special occasions.

Nowhere in the Bible does the Bible say that men must wear pants at all times or that women must wear dresses at all times nor does it say for a woman to wear pants is a sin in and of itself.

The only way it is sin for a woman to wear pants is if her father or her husband forbids her to wear them or if she wears pants to her church when her Pastor has made it clear that female church members are to wear dresses for church services and activities.

But if a woman’s father, husband or pastor allows her to wear pants then there is no sin in her doing this as long as the pants she wears pertains to a woman and not to a man.

Where do I stand on this as a Christian husband and father? I have no problem with my wife or daughter wearing pants for their day to day activities.   But when we go to Church or any other formal type of gathering I have them wear dresses. When my wife and I go out to a nice restaurant for a date I like her to wear a dress. If my wife does wear jeans for other occasions I like her to wear jeans the accentuate her figure and I don’t like baggy pants on her.

Was there a time in our culture when it would have been wrong for women to wear pants? Yes. When they were viewed as only male clothing. But as the decades have passed clothing styles have changed and pants have been designed in very feminine ways for women.

A Christian woman can definitely find pants that do indeed “pertain to a woman” that a man would not be caught dead in. For men who claim that no pants can look feminine on a woman I would bet you would never want to wear a pair of women’s slacks or skinny jeans because you know that they “pertain to a woman”.

In my previous post “7 Biblical Principles for how to dress as a Christian woman” I listed these principles for how Christian women should dress:

Principle #1 – Your physical beauty is symbolic of the spiritual beauty of the Church

Principle #2 – You should dress appropriately for the occasion

Principle #3 – You should dress in feminine clothing

Principle #4 – You should dress to please your husband

Principle #5 – Don’t be lazy with your appearance

Principle #6 – What others think does and does not matter

Principle #7 – Do not hide your beauty from other men for fear of causing lust

I encourage you to read that post where I explain each of these principles in more detail.

Also for a larger discussion on I Timothy 2:9 please see my post “What does Modesty mean in I Timothy 2:9?

Roman Toga Source:

By Klaus-Dieter Keller, Germany – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=721508

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20 thoughts on “Is it wrong for Christian women to wear pants?

  1. I find it ironic, that when a professing Christian wants to push their personal agenda and their own thoughts and opinions They take a passage of scripture, expound on the meaning of words found in that passage to back up there way of thinking and then add to it another passage to back their opinions, but refuse to expound on the meaning of the word/words found in that passage.
    Why? Because, to expound on those words it would blow holes in their agenda.
    You used two passages in scripture to push your opinion and wrested them to fit your opinion. You did not expound on the word “SKIRT” used in these two passages, because the meaning of this word used in scripture does not fit with your teaching, your opinion, your agenda.
    Deuteronomy 22:30 (KJV) “SKIRT” Used in this context is referring to uncovering his fathers nakedness. the nakedness spoken of is the father wife. This is made very clear when you do a complete study of the nakedness of the man. This is the nakedness of Noah that Ham uncovered. He uncovered his mothers body. We do not know what else he did to his own mother, but it was not good for God cursed him for it.
    1 Samuel 24:5 (KJV) “SKIRT” Used in this context was referring to the lower part of Saul’s garment. The hem of his garment.
    The “SKIRT” in scripture is speaking of the hem of a garment not a style of clothing.
    Look up the meaning of “SKIRT” as used in scripture and you will clearly see it is the hem.

    The next issue is related to the picture of the women in what clearly resembles dresses.
    So they were all one piece Most dresses were.

    The next issue, you used the priceless comparison I have see and heard again and again on many different subject.
    Are you really going to use the Roman pagan attire to push your opinion? Really?
    If we dig into History we will see the Romans and other pagan peoples dressed like they do today.
    If you are going to use pagan styles and lifestyles as an example, it is no different than comparing it to pagans of America. One could look at the way a hooker on the street corner dresses and say see they dressed like that and it was acceptable.
    God never accepted the way of the pagans. The Roman way of life was one of many pagan peoples God commanded his people not to learn their ways.
    The Romans were not God’s People! They have never represented God or Christ and never will.

    You ask the question, “Was there a time in our culture when it would have been wrong for women to wear pants?” Yes there sure was and it was cast off with the birth of feminism and equality. Feminism didn’t start with the bra burning days it began long before that.
    The dresses went out when women were fooled into rebelling against their men, to demand equal rights and the right to enter the workplace of men because they refused to be the homemaker and mother to there children.
    They chose to sacrifice there children to the god of SELF. From there it spiraled into abortion and lesbianism, no possible way to have children. It is all about them. The god of SELF.

    Picking and choosing what word meaning you expound on to fit your opinion and comparing the subject to paganism rather than looking to the meaning of a word in context according to scripture is nothing more than a lie and the same thing the Pharisee’s did to promote their agenda, wanting to bring the people back under bondage.

    What someone thinks in their own mind does not make it God’s way of thinking.
    His ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts.

  2. Grounded,

    I could take out the “skirt” section of my post and your “breeches” argument would still never stand Biblically against the arguments I have made.

    You concentrated on a section that was not even core to my argument. The core of my argument was made when I said:

    Both the command for men to wear breeches in their duties as priests and for women to wear complete stolas when coming to the assembly for worship were clothing commands regarding SPECIFIC and special occasions.

    Nowhere in the Bible does the Bible say that men must wear pants at all times or that women must wear dresses at all times nor does it say for a woman to wear pants is a sin in and of itself.

    The only way it is sin for a woman to wear pants is if her father or her husband forbids her to wear them or if she wears pants to her church when her Pastor has made it clear that female church members are to wear dresses for church services and activities.

    But if a woman’s father, husband or pastor allows her to wear pants then there is no sin in her doing this as long as the pants she wears pertains to a woman and not to a man.”

    If you can argue with that core then go ahead. Show us one passage in Scripture that commands men of all ages at all times to wear breeches(what would be trousers or pants today). You can’t. The only Scripture you can show on this is a very specific command given to priests to do during their priestly duties.

    Show us a verse that commands women to wear dresses at all times? You can’t. I Timothy 2:9 is speaking of proper attire for worship. You fail to understand that the “stola” Paul refers to is something women wore for special occasions and Paul even uses the Greek word Kosmios in front of it indicating its appropriateness for gathering in the assembly to worship. He was not forbidding women from wearing peplos(closer to a tunic than a stola) as opposed to stolas in their day to day work.

    You talk about us not being tied to Pagan practices yet you try and point to stola and its similarity to a dress to indicate that women should wear dresses. The fact is Paul was giving us principles he was not tying us to Roman fashions. Would men today wear the formal toga of a Roman instead of wearing a suit coat and pants to church? Of course we would not wear the toga and it is equally absurd to say that women have to wear something like the Roman stola.

    Also Grounded – we all feel passionate about our Christian faith and about pleasing God. That is a good thing. I get lots of spirited decent on this board from regular posters. But one of the things I do not tolerate is someone attacking the motive and the person instead of the argument itself. This is essentially what your last comment has done. I will give you this one warning but if you continue impugning my motives rather than simply attacking my position(which is ok) then you will be banned from further commenting on this site.

  3. Grounded,

    For your first point, I think that you missed BGR’s point. He was pointing out that Israelite men for the most part did not wear pants. Only the priests wore pants to completely cover their genitals, and they only wore those when they were at the altar. If we want to dress like the ancient Israelites did, then men today would be wearing long tunics and robes as well.

    For your second point, yes, Roman women wore dress-like garments rather than pants. However, it’s not true that were no past cultures where there were pants-like garments that were specifically designated as women’s clothing. Medieval Muslim women in Arab countries as well as Hindu women in India wore drawstring trousers. It was also not uncommon for medieval Christian women who had to ride horses astride rather than side-saddle (there’s also a huge debate about when riding side-saddle even became a widely available option, but let’s not get into that here) to wear riding pants and gear underneath their skirts so that they could comfortably ride.

  4. Good day, in The Holy Bible, The Priests are usually men and The Almighty God commanded that The Priests should wear linen breeches. In Daniel,Shadrach,Meshach and Abednego wore trousers Daniel 3:21.
    What I want to ask is that is it right for women to wear trousers looking at Deuteronomy 22:5. I really hope I don’t sound offensive by my question.

  5. Jesus Lover,

    I addressed this in this post. Deuteronomy 22:5 says that woman should not wear whatever pertains to a man. It never says that pants only pertain to men. The priests wearing pants was for specific purpose and they were not commanded to wear pants all the time. In fact most of the time they probably wore tunics and robes – not pants. There are other examples of men wearing pants but again it was not a command outside the duty of priests.

    The reality is that both men and women wore tunics and robes throughout history. They just wore them differently and with different styles. So there is no problem with the fact that both men and women wear pants in our culture as long as women wear pants made for women and men wear pants made for men.

  6. Thank you for addressing this. It’s helping me with an issue regarding my daughter right now. She wants to be different, which I understand, but I, for my sake, prefer to have a biblical standing beyond that I just don’t like it.

  7. Deuteronomy 22:5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment:…
    In whatever culture you are in, a woman should not put on a man’s garment. Neither should a man put on a woman’s garment. Here, in North America a man’s garment is a pair of pants. A woman’s garment is a dress/skirt. In India or some other country it would be a different type of garment.
    It seems normal for a woman to wear pants now but before the World Wars, a woman’s garment was always a skirt/dress.
    Also, a woman should dress with modesty so as not to cause men to lust after her or else she and the man who is lusting are both guilty of adultery. Matthew 5:28 ” But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

  8. If Christian women would wear loosefitting trousers that are not tight fitting in the crotch, much controversy would not arise. Pants also draw attention to a woman’s buttocks.
    Pants on women still draw attention to her crotch. Skirts of reasonable length do not, for skirts have no crotch.
    In surveys observing how people respond to women in trousers, both men and women overwhelmingly look first at the crotch, whether looser or tight. When a woman is wearing a skirt of mini or greater length, eyes skip over the crotch area.

  9. I am astounded that in a world where a huge majority of the wealth is owned by a tiny percentage, millions are without clean water while other send trillions on exploring space, local peoples are exploited by coffee companies, a President had trouble in making healthcare affordable for the less wealthy, and tightening laws that allow a heavy machine gun to be bought in a supermarket, human activity warms the planet and cuts down rainforests…… anyone could think whether or not women wear trousers is high on God’s agenda.

  10. angloagnostic, where do you live that there are “laws that allow a heavy machine gun to be bought in a supermarket?”
    You must live in Afghanistan, Pakistan or somewhere else where machine guns, hand grenades, antitank rockets and other such stuff is sold in street bazaars.
    I live in the USA, where to buy or trade for a machine gun, even if it is permitted in one’s own state, takes an extensive background check, endorsement from the police chief or sheriff, and about six months waiting period.

  11. Gerry,

    I have been misinformed I am sorry.

    But I have been led to believe to believe that buying weapons that are basically killing machines is very easy in some states. Perhaps like many of us in Europe I am living under a myth, but I have also been given the impression by many people who have visited some parts of the USA, and even citizens themselves, that it’s the case.

    Do you have anything to say about any of the other issues I raise?

    Do not misunderstand me; I live in a country with inequality of wealth and opportunity, which spends billions on its navy and nuclear arsenal whilst its hospitals are beleaguered by problems. But I feel that such issues would be far more pressing to God (assuming there is/are such) than whether a woman wears a skirt or trousers.

    Please note too that many of the issues I mentioned include the hand of my country.

  12. angloagnostic, Christians are not responsible for correcting the world. Such matters as personal morality are within the church, the body of Christ on earth.
    If you will read the New Testament epistles you will find that the Christians were surrounded by brazen immorality, perversion and corruption. Paul chided the church at Corinth, a major seaport with all the vice typical of seaports and trading centres throughout the ages, with “looking the other way” when a member of the church was having sexual relations with his stepmother. Should Paul have kept his mouth shut until all other social ills were done away at least in the Corinthian region?
    Though Rome had forbidden sacrificing children to Moloch (Roman name: Saturn), the practice held on in outlying regions. The Romans still allowed “exposure,” abandoning unwanted children, chiefly girls, in places where people who wanted a child could rescue them. Should the Christians not concerned themselves with lesser immoralities among the church until the pagans surrounding them had been influenced to stop murdering, abandoning and prostituting their children?

  13. I just feel that people of faith (any faith, or even none) have far bigger issues.

    Your last comment (which was full of information, for which I take my hat off to you) seems to actually along the same lines.

    What harm does it do anyone if, for arguments sake, a woman wears trousers?

  14. Of the two pictures at the top, which would you tend to assume at first sight to be morally upright? Which would you be more easily persuaded is weaker morally?

  15. I don’t personally think either is what I would call morally wrong, but I would have said the dress for argument’s sake. Her legs are on show and (theoretically) her knickers could be taken off more easily.

  16. @Gerry,

    I have to say that I’ve never met a man who thought that pants were sexier and/or more arousing than skirts. Usually, it’s quite the opposite.

  17. I found your article very interesting and a good argument for the wearing of pants for women. I personally believe it is a choice between the husband, the wife and God. My husband doea not care either way, then the issue falls to my choice. At this point in my life I do not wear them as everyday apparel for several personal reasons. For it is a liberty that I won’t take because it would offend and hurt my parents who reared me in that manner. Secondly with me the Lord asked me to be holy and He impressed my heart that for me it is not a part of holiness. Now I said it is for me, may not be for someone else but for me right now that is what God wants. The whole point about living a Chrisitian life is being like Christ, and doing whatever He chooses for us to do for Him. He may ask one to give up coffee, one to give up movies, one to pray more, one to go to a mission field. The whole point is to be in submission to the darling Son of God, who gave up Heaven and His glory to come here and die for your sins and mine. To argue over the point of pants are right or wrong is pointless. If we are in full submission to the LORD, pants will not mean anything to a woman if God asks for them.

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