7 Biblical Principles for how to dress as a Christian woman

Beautiful summery girl

Does God care about how you as a Christian women dress? Does the Bible provide guidelines for how a Christian woman should dress?

If you are looking for an exact dress code, down to lengths of clothing and what parts of your body must be covered when and where you will find no such thing in the Bible. However, if you are looking for Biblical principles that can guide you as Christian a woman in how to dress the Bible does give these principles.

Here are some Biblical principles for women’s dress that should guide you as you select your clothing, whether it is when you purchase it, or when you are choosing when to wear it.

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

Your beauty is symbolic of the beauty of the church.

Psalm 45 which is a messianic prophecy of Christ and the Church says this:

“So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him…The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework…” -Psalm 45:13-14(KJV)

In Ephesians 5, where Paul talks about marriage being symbolic of the relationship of Christ to his Church he writes:

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” – Ephesians 5:25-27(KJV)

Just as God wants his Church to be glorious, without spot or wrinkle, and without blemish, so too a woman should keep up her appearance, not only for her husband if she is married, but also out of respect for the symbolism for which God designed her.

So when you as a woman dress, you should accentuate your beauty knowing that your physical beauty, is symbolic of the spiritual beauty of Christ’s Bride, the Church. You dress first and foremost to please God and to show the beauty of his creation – which is you!

Principle #2 – You should dress appropriately for the occasion

Contrary to the modern meaning of modesty, the Biblical meaning of a woman dressing modestly means that women are to dress “appropriately”. Modesty is such a huge subject, and especially the interpretation of passages such as I Timothy 2:9 that I needed to write an entire separate post on the topic. You can find it here at What does Modesty mean in I Timothy 2:9.

In summary though, dressing modestly Biblically speaking does not specifically mean “not dressing in a sexual way”. It means to dress appropriately for the occasion. So while it may be perfectly acceptable for you to wear a bikini to the beach, it would not be appropriate for you to wear a bikini to a job (unless you are a life guard or a model) or to a church service.

Principle #3 – You should dress in feminine clothing

Someone should be able to look at your clothes wherever you go, and just by your clothing they should be able to tell you are a woman. Yes clothing styles change, but a woman should always look like a woman in her culture (whatever women wear) and a man should look like a man (whatever men wear).

“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 passage from Deuteronomy does not forbid a woman from wearing pants (yes there are some Christians who still teach this). There was a time in our culture and history where pants were strictly the purview of men, and at those times it may have been wrong for a woman to wear pants, especially when there were no pants designed especially for women. But fashions and styles do change, and women have pants now that are made and cut especially for them, and these pants are pants a man would not be caught dead in.

In Roman society, before 200 BC, men and women both wore togas. After 200 BC women began to wear stolas and only prostitutes still wore togas like men. Before 200 BC, when men and women both wore togas, the only difference may have been a colorful belt or the color of the material that would have separated a man from a woman. Even after 200 BC, peasant men and women still both wore tunics for their daily work. Only color variations or belts may have separated them.

This would be exactly the same as men and women both wearing pants today – there is no issue with this as long as the woman’s pants communicate a feminine style as we understand it in our culture.

Nice woman in a pink dress

Principle #4 – You should dress to please your husband

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” – Ephesians 5:24 (KJV)

God wants women to submit to their husbands in everything.  Everything includes how you dress and how you manage your appearance as well as many other things.

When you are married, you should dress to please your husband. Find out what colors he likes on you, find out what styles he likes and try to wear those types of clothes.

This also means you should dress sexy for your husband in the appropriate circumstances. If you know your husband will be taking you out for a night on the town, why not go pick up some sexy dress to wear for him? If you doubt whether this is right or wrong, I invite you read my post I referred to earlier What does Modesty mean in I Timothy 2:9.

There is nothing wrong with you looking sexy for your husband in the appropriate circumstances, whether that is wearing lingerie for him at home, or wearing a sexy dress for a night on the town, or wearing a sexy bathing suit for a trip to beach. Your body is work of art that God has graciously gifted to your husband, and you should not be hiding your beauty.

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

Yes big tee shirts and sweats are more comfortable than wearing attractive clothing. But as a Christian woman your appearance is important to God (see principle #1). If you are married, God has given you to your husband and your appearance should be (and most likely will be) important to him (see principle #4).

As believers, and specifically as a Christian woman, God wants you to do everything you can to the best of your ability. It is one thing if you are sick, or if you are doing some work around the house then your clothing might not be as attractive. But besides those limited times, a woman has duty to keep up her appearance, not only for God but also for her husband.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord”

Colossians 3:23(NIV)

Modern Christian women today mock the women of the 1950’s who prided themselves in making themselves pretty before their husbands came home from work – what was wrong with that? This is what God wants from Godly Christian women.

Does this mean you have to have a dress and nylons on each day and go to the beauty salon before your husband gets home? Of course not. But what it means is making sure you have showered, that you have done your hair and maybe you have an attractive pair of jeans on with a nice shirt when you husband gets home.

You should not view this as some dreary task, but it should be looked at as a privilege and honor that is given you by God, your ability to make yourself beautiful!

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

This is a very important principle for you as a Christian woman to understand.

In some cases it does matter what others think of how you are dressed. If you as a Christian woman wear the wrong clothing for the wrong occasion, it might offend others and also bring shame on Christ if they know you are a Christian.

You can wear a bikini to the beach, but if you wore it to Church others would be offended, and they would be right in being offended, because that is inappropriate attire for Church (see I Timothy 2:9).

But let’s turn the bikini situation around when you go to the beach. If you and your husband are going to the beach and you happen to be wearing a bikini, and there happens to be a family there from church they need to leave that between you and the Lord. The only exception I would say to this is if you were specifically going to the beach with a family whom you knew were opposed to bikinis, then temporarily out of respect you might not wear one in that instance.

You should not be picking dresses out for a night on the town with your husband, with the thought in your mind of “what would this person think or that person from church think if they saw me wearing this with him” – your thoughts should only be of two people, God and your husband.

God is not ashamed of your beauty, your husband is not ashamed of your beauty, and neither should you be ashamed of your beauty.

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

Many Christian women have since the early days of the church dressed with this idea in mind – that they cannot wear nice things for their husband or show their figure as they may cause other men to lust in doing so.  If you believe that Church tradition trumps Biblical theology, then I can’t help you. But if you understand that well-meaning men and women (even some Church fathers who came after the Apostles) added a lot of tradition to God’s Word then I can help you.

I invite you to read my post on What does the Bible say about Lust to fully understand the issue of lust from a Biblical perspective. A summary of what I said in that post is that Lust is not the same as sexual arousal.

There is no shame in a woman displaying her beauty, and there is no shame in men appreciating that beauty or even being sexually aroused by that beauty. Before you reject that premise, please read the post I just mentioned. Sin comes with how men handle their sexual arousal, or appreciation of the female form.

If he begins to think of how he can actually get you to go to bed with him (and you are not married) then those have become lustful thoughts, sexually covetous thoughts. But as a Christian woman you don’t have to go around at all time with a sheet over your entire body from head to toe as to not cause men to lust after you.

No scripture ever teaches this concept, it is completely added by the traditions of men.

Conclusion

I hope as a Christian woman you will search the Scriptures. Then discuss this respectfully with your husband. If you need to make changes, then make them. Know that God wants your best in all areas of your life, and dressing in beautiful ways appropriate to the occasion is what God has called you to. Do not hide the beautiful work of art that God has made, but display it in ways that please both God and your husband.

What does Modesty mean in I Timothy 2:9?

Standing girl in checked dress. Isolated with clipping path

I Timothy 2:9 is probably the most popular passage in all of Scripture that is taught by Christian teachers and preachers regarding how God want’s Christian women to dress.

“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)

What is the context of I Timothy 2:9?

Some people interpret I Timothy 2:9 as applying to Christian women at all times, as opposed to being specifically targeted at how women should dress for worship and instruction in the Church Assembly. This a faulty interpretation.

One of the first rules of proper Biblical Hermeneutics (interpretation of Scripture) is to take verses within the larger context of which they are written.

I Timothy, was a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to a young church planter who was working under him. In the beginning of I Timothy Paul writes to Timothy:

“2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine…”

I Timothy 1:2-3(KJV)

In the first chapter, Paul is encouraging to take on false teachers in the churches at Ephesus. In Chapter 2 of I Timothy, in verse 8 Paul moves to instructions for proper etiquette in worship and instruction in the Church assembly:

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

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;

10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. “

I Timothy 2:8-12(KJV)

Verse 8 is a clear jump into worship with men being told “to pray, lifting up holy hands”.

Paul’s ending of I Timothy, after giving the qualifications for Bishops and deacons, clearly gives the purpose for this entire first epistle to Timothy:

“14 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:

15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

I Timothy 3:14-15(KJV)

But what about the phrase “every where” in verse 8?

Some in order to apply all parts of I Timothy to all parts of Christian life(not just Church assembly etiquette), have attempted to use the Paul’s phrase of “ever where” to mean this equally applies inside and outside the Church assembly meetings. This is an incorrect interpretation, as this phrase is means for Church assemblies “every where”. Paul makes it clear at the end of his Epistle that this entire letter is aimed at proper etiquette in the Church, taking on false teachers, and the qualifications of Bishops and Deacons.

Four key words in I Timothy 2:9

Now that we understand the context I Timothy, as apply to Church assembly etiquette, we will look at four key words that are found in this passage.

Modest – This 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? But it is not specific to sexually revealing clothing.

With the word Kosmios, Paul is telling women to wear clothing that is appropriate for the given situation.

RomanWomensClothing

Apparel – This 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. A variety of stolas women might of worn are pictured above. 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.

When peasant women were working they might wear tunics (like men did), similar to this:

RomanManWearingTunic

The differences would have been in the coloring or extra straps worn by women.

When playing sports some Roman women actually wore bikinis as seen in this ancient Roman painting:

RomanBikini

 

Paul had just told women to wear appropriate clothing for worship and instruction with the Greek word Kosmios. Nowwith the word Katastole, he was telling women what the proper attire for Church worship and instruction was. They were to be fully clothed, as opposed to wearing tunics they may work in, or bikinis they might have played sports in.

Those Christians who still believe it is wrong for women to wear pants (and yes they are still out there and I grew up in Churches that taught this) take the Greek word stole, which refers to the Roman Stola’s that women war, and they go its most literal meaning – which means “long and flowing”. But this is not Paul’s intention in using this word. It was simply referring to what women in that day would understand as the dress that women generally wore when they went out to meetings and gatherings, or special occasions.

Paul is not saying that Christians must be frozen in time with fashion, and literally saying Christian women must wear ancient Roman stolas. If we take it that literally, then men can’t wear pants either, because men back in Paul’s day wore tunics and togas.

All Paul is saying is, it is appropriate and proper for a woman to be fully clothed and covered for Church gatherings.

Shamefacedness – this is an English translation of the Greek word Aidos, which means to show honor, respect or reverence to others. With Aidos, Paul was saying the attitude of a woman’s dress in the Church services was to be one of reverence for God, and respect for others.

Sobriety – this is an English translation of the Greek word Sophrosune, which means self-control. With Sophrosune, Paul was saying woman needed to dress for Church services in a way that showed self-control.

Is Paul forbidding women to have “broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array”?

Paul is not saying it is wrong for Christian woman to have nice hair, jewelry or dresses. What he is saying is, the Church assembly should not turn into a fashion show. Unfortunately in many of our modern Churches today – that is just the case. Paul is not saying women cannot wear nice Sunday dresses, he is just saying women should not go overboard or be trying to compete with one another in what they wear for worship.

So if we take I Timothy 2:9 in its full context, understanding the key phrases in it, this is what Paul was trying to tell us:

“I want men in all church assemblies everywhere to lift up holy hands, and do not be angry and doubt. In these same church assemblies, I want women to wear clothing that is appropriate for Church worship and instruction. Women should be fully clothed, in clothing that shows respect and self-control when they come for worship and instruction. I don’t want you to turn the church assembly into a fashion show with broided hair, fancy jewelry and costly clothing. I am writing all this to you so you will know how to behave when the church is assembled for worship and instruction.”

There is one other place where the Apostle Peter mentions “braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses”:

“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”

I Peter 3:1-4(NASB)

Here Peter makes a similar statement about women’s adornment. The word here translated as “dresses” in the NASB (and “apparel” in the KJV) comes from the Greek word Himation.  Himation simply refers to garments in general. It is a term that could apply to women or men’s garments depending on the context.

The context of I Peter 3:1-4 is not behavior specific to the Church assembly (as I Timothy is) but this is just talking about the general behavior of women as they go about their daily lives. This is not telling women that you cannot have your hair done, or wear jewelry or put on dresses. Even though the word “merely” is not in the original Greek, the NASB correctly adds this for emphasis as to what Peter is saying.

It is interesting to note there is no mention here of “Katastole,” referring to the more full and formal dress that Paul spoke of for women to wear in the Church assembly in I Timothy 2:9. Instead Peter refers simply to garments here.

Peter is saying a woman’s inner beauty is just as important as her outer beauty. Some Christians historically have incorrectly interpreted this passage as well as I Timothy 2 to say Christian women cannot wear makeup, or wear nice clothes. This is not Peter’s meaning, he simply wants to drive home the point, that you can look pretty on the outside as a woman with your outer adornments, but your inside person may still be ugly. God wants both the inside and outside of a woman to be beautiful.

Conclusion on Biblical modesty

While Paul’s Katastole requirement (women to be fully clothed) is confined to the Church assembly, that does not mean that the principle of modesty cannot apply elsewhere, when we understand that modesty means Christian women ought to wear clothing that is appropriate to the occasion.

What a woman wears to church may be very different than what she wears to Church. What a woman wears to beach may be very different than what she wears to work. What a woman wears for a date with her husband, may not be what she would wear for Church on Sunday.

In the end, whatever, we do as men or women, or whatever we wear should all be done in manner that would bring glory to God, and not bring shame to him in the eyes of the world:

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

I Corinthians 10:31(KJV)