What Does the Bible Say About Women Wearing Pants?

Maybe you’ve wondered, Does God really care about what I wear?  As a Christian woman am I supposed to only wear dresses, or are pants O.K., too?  Does it really matter?

In our modern culture it is sometimes hard to know what to wear and still be considered a godly woman.  Because Christians disagree and judge each other on this issue quite often.

Some believe strongly that Christian women must only wear dresses, no pants of any kind, considering culottes (split skirt) as a form of pants. 

Others, who believe strongly that women must only wear dresses, believe that it is O.K. to wear culottes and long full-legged swim shorts.  While still others who believe in dresses only, don’t see anything wrong with wearing pajama pants, but only in their own homes.

Then there are others who believe just as strongly that women may, with a clear conscience, wear pants…of any kind…and anywhere.

But, the real question is, What would God have us ladies wear?  What style of dress honors Him? To find out, we must turn to the Word of God and ask, What does the Bible say about women wearing pants?

woman wearing pants walking park path

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My Testimony

I grew up wearing pants.  All the female members of my family wore them.  Wearing pants was never questioned.  My Mom just wanted us girls to always wear a dress or skirt for church services, with the idea that we should wear something nicer and different from what we wore for everyday life.  A dress was for special occasions.

When our girls were really young I began growing in the Lord and studying my Bible.  My desire was to be holy and to please God.  I did a study on dress and believed that the Bible was telling me that women should only wear dresses.  So, I got rid of all mine and my daughters’ pants.  We wore only dresses for many years.  However, we also wore culottes.

After a while our daughters began to question why I had them wear only dresses. So, I decided to revisit this belief.  Was I interpreting the scripture correctly? 

How was it that so many godly Christian men, pastors even, and godly women think that it is O.K. for women to wear pants?  Which one of us was misinterpreting the scriptures?

I did not want to impose upon my daughters any restrictions that God had not required.  I would have been as guilty as the Pharisees, making my own rules, and thus “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Mark 7:7)

So, I began to study the scriptures again, praying that God would teach me what was right.  I truly wanted to do what would please Him, but I also knew that there was no virtue in denying my flesh in ways that God did not require. (Colossians 2:20-23)

I also knew that there was no virtue in denying my flesh in ways that God did not require.

What Does the Bible Say About Women Wearing Pants?

As I studied, I realized some things concerning the issue of dress, which led to the discovery of, what was for me, a surprising truth about pants and dresses.  Read on to find out what that is. 

1)  “Breeches” Are Not Pants!

I revisited the scriptures in the Old Testament law that I had previously understood as indicating that pants were not allowed for women, starting with a verse we read this week in Exodus.

And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:  Exodus 28:42

I had previously reasoned that since breeches in the Bible were only mentioned as worn by men (priests), that only men could wear breeches. However, as I looked closer I realized something.  These breeches were not the pants we all know today!  These were actually undergarments—under-shorts!  These men were not wearing pants.  They wore robes as their outer garment!

And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.  Exodus 28:4

Furthermore, these breeches were one of the holy garments required of the priests, not men in general.  And worn only when offering the burnt offering in the holy place in the tabernacle.  (Leviticus 16:3-4, 23-24)

Just because priests are men, and required to wear undergarments in their service to God, didn’t mean that God was making a statement about what all Israelite men (or men in general) were required, or even allowed, to wear.  Nor about what women can and cannot wear.  This passage only speaks to the holy garments required of priests.  And nothing else.

 

2)  Robes Were The Outer Garment For Everyone In Biblical Times!

I then moved on to another verse I had heavily relied on to decide not to wear 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.  Deuteronomy 22:5

Reading this years ago, I thought, “Well, that’s pretty clear.  People in our western culture view dresses as only for women.  So, pants must be the garment for men.”

I also thought, “Historically, only men wore pants, at least until the 1900’s.  So, didn’t that mean that when women strayed from their norm of wearing dresses, they were wearing men’s garments?”

However, had I gone far enough back in my thoughts of history, I would have realized something important to this issue. I would have seen that actually historically, both men and women wore the same garment type…robes!

In fact, the garment God made for both Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was the same…coats of skins.

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.  Genesis 3:21

God did not make two different garment types, one for Adam and a different one for Eve. 

Furthermore, Deuteronomy 22:5 couldn’t have been a statement about garment type, as Clothes in the Ancient World were similar for both men and women.  Men and women, at that time, wore the same outer garment type…a robe and/or tunic.  Robes for men and robes for women were distinguished by the fabrics and colors of fabrics used to make them. Of course, Adam and Eve knew which robe was whose.

This command then had to do with gender distinctions, about wearing clothes that would confuse a person’s look.  A man was to look like a man.  A woman was to look like a woman.  A man’s robe had a different look from the woman’s robe. 

RELATED: Daughters of Grace | Women of the Bible Study

3)  Modest Apparel Is Not A Dress, But A Robe!

Lastly, I looked again at the verse 1 Timothy 2:9—

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;

Many refer back to the Greek for this issue of dress for women.

Therefore, let’s take a look at the Greek.  In the Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary, the Greek number for “apparel” is G2689.  The Greek word is “katastole” and according to Thayer’s Greek Definitions, means—

1) a lowering, letting down

2) a garment let down, dress, attire

One might see these definitions and conclude that God is saying here that women must wear dresses.  However, in that day, both men and women wore a robe!  (Luke 15:22, Mark 12:38, Luke 20:46)  Therefore, the dress, or attire, referred to in this verse was a robe!  And as there was only the one outer garment type being worn, the general term “apparel” fits.

Or, God would have led the English Bible translators to use a word for the specific feminine garment type…had there been one.

For more help growing in your walk with God, you’ll want to be sure to check out all these Practical Ways to Get Closer to God Today!

This verse isn’t giving specific rules for women’s dress.  The context of this passage is that women be concerned with godliness rather than an outward show of wealth (“costly array”, meaning “costly attire”) or outer beauty.  As is also the context of the similar passage, 1 Peter 3:3-5.

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair (braiding of hair), and of wearing of gold (gold jewelry), or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

1 Peter 3:3-5

The context is modesty…in behavior and outward appearance…which includes dress.

And even if this verse is viewed as giving specific rules for women’s clothing, it would be telling us to wear a modest robe!  Which were nothing like any of today’s American/European style of dresses!

In other words, the important thing to remember as we get dressed each day is the imperishable beauty of the hidden person of the heart. Not trying to show off expensive clothes, or draw the wrong kind of attention to ourselves. The general principle in all we do is to do all to the glory of God. Respectable apparel, modest clothing, honors the name of the Lord Jesus.

Culture and Scripture Interpretation

As I looked back at these three scripture references…Exodus 28:42, Deuteronomy 22:5, and 1 Timothy 2:9…I realized that I had committed a no-no of scripture interpretation…interpreting scripture according to today’s culture.

I’ve had others, church leaders, point out bathroom signs (the girl stick figure in a dress – the boy figure in pants), as “proof” that even the world at large knows who should wear which garment type. However, just because bathroom signs in our modern times, show a dress on the women’s door and pants on the men’s door, does not prove that pants are approved by God, or that God has approved them for men only.

Furthermore, since the time men first strayed from the garment type God made in the beginning, different cultures at different times have viewed pants as the feminine garment, or as allowed for both sexes.

When the Romans first encountered trousers in Gaul (France) they considered them unmanly.*

In the Roman world, the toga was the typical wrap garment for men on formal occasions. Casual wear consisted of a tunic. Earlier members of the military didn’t wear trousers, seeing them as effeminate like their Greek predecessors. (See When did Men Start Wearing Pants?)

Which illustrates why our pastors warn us against interpreting scripture based on the culture of the day.  Cultures change.

The bathroom signs (you know, the ones that have stick figures with pants on the boys’ sign and a dress on the girls’ sign) in Jesus’ day would have been the opposite of what we see today! 

Or, else they would have shown a robe for both!

woman in pants walking park path text overlay about what does the Bible say about women wearing pants

What then is the surprising truth I learned about pants and dresses?

Neither pants nor dresses are ever referred to in the Bible!

I finally understood that I had indeed been seeking rules of do’s and don’ts that made me feel better or more godly, but were actually of my own making.  The biblical rule for dress for both men and women is modesty (as defined by scripture) that reflects godliness of heart, whatever are the current culture and styles.

From that time forward I’ve sought to wear clothes that aren’t immodestly revealing…no matter if I’m wearing a dress, a shirt and skirt, or a shirt and pants.

Modesty is God’s standard.  And by the way, we will all go back to God’s clothing type in Heaven.  We will ALL once again be wearing robes!  

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

Revelation 7:9

Which begs the question…should we not ALL be wearing robes even now?  And never have strayed from the garment type God gave us in Eden? 

Modesty is God’s standard.  And by the way, we will all go back to God’s clothing type in Heaven.  We will ALL once again be wearing robes! 

Side note…If pants are immodest for a woman, then they must also be considered immodest for a man.  The garment fits a man just like it fits a woman.  I mean, let’s be real.

If you feel more modest or feminine wearing a dress, then do so.  I like to wear skirts and dresses, too.  I especially like maxi skirts.

But we also need to understand that an American style dress is not as modest as the robes women wore in Paul’s day.  Those robes were far less form revealing.

The greater focus—as God is silent on the matter of modern day pants and dresses—whether women’s pants or men’s pants—is to rather dress modestly and keep… 

Drawing nigh to Him,

Teresa

*”Trousers In History” Fact Monster.© 2000–2017 Sandbox Networks, Inc., publishing as Fact Monster. 14 Aug. 2018  <https://www.factmonster.com/cool-stuff/fashion-and-dress/trousers-history/>. 


This post is part of our Exodus Bible Study.

Study Journal available >> HERE!


LET’S TALK ABOUT IT

Where do you fall on this issue of dress?  Have you ever faced this struggle about what to wear?  What are your thoughts on what I have shared here?  Remember, please be kind and gracious.


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16 Comments

  1. Thank you for this breakdown. I pray my man may recieve this revelation(Being a prophesied Apostle) I was told we are not to tue our hair up along with other things Jezebel has done to draw attention to herself. Whether I agree with something or not I submit to him, for Christ sake. It is difficult but not as difficult as what Christ has done for us. All trials and challenges I thank him for because he knows it was for him.

    1. Hi, Essence!
      I love your heart attitude about this topic! And know that God will reward such submission to Him and His design for marriage. We may not always agree with our husbands, and may lovingly share our opinions, but then trust God to take care of us in the situation. (But of course, when it is a matter of whether or not to disobey a command of God, we must always obey God’s Word over our husband.)
      Blessings! 💗

  2. Hi Teresa!

    I enjoyed your post about pants and dresses. This topic is currently something I am trying to understand. I grew up being told that women had to wear skirts/dresses and men had to wear pants. As I began reading the Bible more, I also began to question certain standards that have been passed down for many generations. I thought, if women have to continue to wear skirts/dresses, then men should continue to wear tunics. Furthermore, this is currently a standard for Apostolic/pentecostal christians. The only scripture they can use as evidence is Deuteronomy 22:5. “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.” Though, what belongs to a man and a women? How can one say pants are for men and dress/skirts are for women? Especially when no distinction of the type of apparel is made here. As you mentioned, there is a distinction in the types of robes men and women wore in the Bible. As such, there is also a difference in pants that men and women wear currently. So, this does bring me to believe that as long as a women is modest in the way she dresses, there is nothing wrong with wearing pants and skirts.

    1. Hi, Angie!
      Thank you for reading! This topic of pants and dresses for women was a difficult one for me to discern, as well. Praise the Lord that when we take the Bible as a whole, and take the whole counsel of God on a topic, we learn the balanced view of the matter. And I, too, agree that modesty is the rule when it comes to dress. But it can be hard to break away from what we’ve always been taught. Praise the Lord that He guides us into truth when we seek Him with all our hearts!
      Blessings! 💗

  3. In searching for what Sapphira may have worn, I came across your article. It was wonderful. Parking at Walmart yesterday I was, as always, struck by the clothes women choose to wear, especially in public. Of course most of them don’t know our Saviour, but still. Blessings, Sandy

  4. Here is one of the passages that is used to get women to dress a certain way and without jewelry and makeup. – 1 Peter 3:3–5, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.”

    What Peter said was quite clear… a woman’s beauty does not come from their outward adornment. True beauty does not come from what a woman wears. To God true beauty comes from what’s in the heart.

    So, if a woman thinks only wearing dresses and no jewelry, and then having long hair is the beauty God is talking about, then she is doing what scripture says not to do… She is trying to derive her beauty from her outward appearance.

    God does not judge us or our beauty by what we look like on the outside. That is what the world does. God looks at the heart. Which is why he said that a truly beautiful woman adorns herself with a “gentle and quiet spirit.”

    Therefore, everyone dressing the same, having long hair, and wearing long dresses does not make a woman acceptable or beautiful in God’s sight… and is not at all what Peter had in mind.

    What is acceptable to God is to develop our relationship with Him, and then in so doing we develop inner beauty and Godly character. God deals with each believer on a personal basis. Someone living in frigid climates God would not expect them to wear dresses for instance. It is so important for believers to develop a close relationship with God and if He feels the person needs to dress differently then He will do that work in their hearts. Rules are for children. We as adults are to be guided by the Holy Spirit, Who is quite capable of guiding us.

    1 Samuel 16:7
    “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”

    If you are going to keep one law, then you better be able to keep every single one of them. James 2:10 “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.”

    1. Hi, Jen!
      Well said. The Bible tells us that modesty is the rule concerning our outward appearance, including what we wear. Thank you for reading and sharing here!
      Blessings! 💗

  5. This is something that I have been struggling with in my faith as well. I grew up in a Baptist church and school. We were only allowed to wear dresses, skirts or culottes that were below our knees if we knelt down. We were never allowed to wear pants. I recently accepted Jesus Christ into my heart and life as my Savior and my guide, so this was a big question for me. Other churches that preach the same as my childhood church allow their women to wear pants. Now I am not going to wear tight leggings or tight jeans, but I wondered if it was godly if I wore loose fitting pants. This has helped me a little, although I wonder if I were to wear pants again if I’d have my old Pastor in my mind telling it is wrong.

    1. Hi Jenni,
      I can totally relate to your feeling conflicted. It is a struggle to overcome ingrained teachings. My advice would be for you to continue to seek God to guide you into His truth on the matter. For it does not matter what others say, but only what God says. Let God’s Word determine your conviction on the matter, and then you will have peace about making the change in how you dress. (Romans 14:23) I will say this again, though, God made the same garment type for both Adam and Eve, “coats of skins.” It was man who much later chose a particular garment type (pants) to call a man’s garment. God’s standard for attire is modesty, not garment types.
      Praying for you! 💗

  6. Thank you so much for this thread, I have been in shambles going back and fourth on whats right or wrong, my mind is not 100% made up, I’m still going to pray over the matter and talk to God more, but I feel a lot better and not so pressured.. Thank you so much for your time and commitment into this! God Bless You!

    1. Hi, Bri!
      Thank you for reading! And sharing here about your struggle. You are absolutely right to continue to seek God’s truth on the matter and let His Word make up your mind for you. I’m praying for you that God will guide you in your search for truth.
      Blessings! 💗

    2. I completely understand what you mean by being in shambles. I myself have had such a struggle with this. I was taught shortly after I first got saved that pants on women were wrong. I stopped wearing them for about ten years, but went back to wearing them after I realized who I was becoming, a person who looked down on other women who wore pants, and I was very judgmental. I honestly wanted to wear pants again too. It seemed like being under bondage! I read Colossians 2-3 and the Lord gave me peace about wearing pants, but it seems this year I have seemed to struggle with this again. I’ve prayed and diligently sought the Lord on this matter. He has shown me many things from His word that gives me peace about wearing pants, but I still struggle , sometimes it can be a message or something that someone says, or even a bathroom sign as crazy as that is, that will cause me to question and worry. I just continue to seek the Lord and just submit my will to His, praying He gives me complete peace over this matter, it’s so hard to serve when you feel this struggle weighing you down!

  7. According to the bible a man should dress as aman dress pants and shirt , and woman should not dress men’s clothing for the name of God to be glorified in Jesus the almighty Amen

    1. Hi, Dhikange!
      I understand that it is taught by some that men are to wear pants and that women are not. But can you tell me where in the Bible that God said men are to wear pants? Or, where the Bible says that men are to wear dress pants and a shirt?