Is it wrong for women to wear pants to church?

Question:

“What is your opinion about girls wearing pants to church. Does it differ if it’s youth service?”

 

Answer:

To my readers who have a background other than Christian fundamentalism, this question may seem a bit odd, or even silly, however, there are plenty of Christian groups that do make a big deal out of women wearing pants.  I spent my whole life in churches where there was an extreme amount of fascination and fixation with clothes, with the things that are external and can be seen. There were a long discourse in the culture, and often good points were mentioned such as sexual promiscuity and women or men dressing in ways that highlighted sensuality and revealed the body generously. However, much of the time, the argument were superfluous, ignorant, and promoted legalism by letting the “holy” Christians (who lived by certain man-made rules) compare themselves to other faithful believers who didn’t.

I once heard of a European pastor who was flying on an airplane (as opposed to superman style) with his wife, and when the people next seat over found out he was a Christian, they were shocked that his wife wasn’t wearing a long skirt. In his re-telling of the story, they quizzically asked him “aren’t Christians those strange people who wear really long skirts?” The cultural mandate that some Christian groups have enforced, has pushed people away from the Gospel. In the eyes of outsiders it has minimalized Christianity to a strange dress code. In the eyes of many church members it has reduced salvation to a matter of obeying church rules, such as the wearing of certain clothes. Of course wearing skirts, or ties (or v-necks for that matter) is probably not evil, and a church can certainly decide to enforce such a policy, however, there will be a price to pay, starting from the rebellious teenagers who can’t understand why an “Unbiblical” rule is being enforced, ending with the nonbeliever who is afraid to seek help within the church because of the strange dress code.

Below are the three main issues that are argued where women are forbidden to wear pants.

 

1. The Bible says so?

It had often been touted that the Bible specifically teaches that women can only wear skirts or dresses and any alternative is an abomination. The proponents of such a (fantastic) view use Deut 22:5 to argue their point. And indeed upon first glance, it almost appears that the Bible does forbid men to wear women’s clothing, and vice versa. So the argument would conclude, men wear pants,  so women must wear skirts. Not so fast. Who said pants are for me? In fact who invented pants? And did the people of the Bible actually had or wore pants? A lot of these question need to set the background before we can start understanding what the Bible teaches. First, pants were not worn by the people of the Bible. That includes Jesus. Actually, the Son of God wore a robe, in our culture one might call it a dress. Second, the first use of pants in history, worn by some Central Asian and Iranian people of 6 BCE, were a clothing item for both sexes (Lever, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. Thames and Hudson, 1995, 2010. p. 15). Thirdly, the Bible does not speak of pants at all! The passage in Deut 22:5 speaks of cross dressing, men wearing “women’s” clothing in an attempt to look like a woman. If a man wore some women’s jeans, he would actually be guilty of the sin referenced in Deut 22:5. Interesting, while women who wear pants are called “cross-dressers” by some men/groups, if those men put on women’s jeans, they would also be “cross-dressers” by their own rules. How they came up with this, I wont even venture.

 

2. Culturally not Feminine?

Clothes are important, and they have many functions.  If you take a sociocultural/antropological class, you will find clothes have served a very strong purpose in maintaining order and identifying people in primitive societies. Even today your dress reflects the person you are, the culture you belong to, and very importantly, the gender you are. It has often been argued that women who wear pants look very masculine and therefore pants are sin. (I usually think “well that escalated quickly” and hope they don’t look at me and make the jump from “we don’t like your hair” to “your hair is sin”). God gifted male and female bodies with  differences in shape and appearances, so thankfully its easy enough to tell who’s who without clothes. And yet, clothing in every society reflects the feminine and the masculine, whatever shape or style it is. Irish men wear kilts (skirts) while Indian women wear pants. However, in both cultures, the way these items are worn, the way they are designed (dark manly kilts vs flowery feminine pants), and the standards, known by all, differentiate between the sexes. To conclude, as long as clothes serve to differentiate between the sexes and everyone knows where the difference is, the pants vs skirts argument fails as it depends merely on a persons perception.

 

3. Not very modest?

This is the most pressing part of the issue. It is alleged that pants are always more immodest than skirts. First off I will say both pants and skirts have the potential of being immodest (for details please see The Modesty Survey), however, to claim that pants are always worse, is simply hogwash.  So lets look at one picture, see the picture below and consider  which woman is likely to reveal more of her body? Which woman is likely to be more immodest? The one in pants, on the left? Uh-huh and I am Einstein’s grandson.

I sumbit to you that there are most definitely cases where pants are much more modest than skirts.

Case closed.

 

3 responses

  1. Lol, I’m so glad that I’m American. I don’t thin that’s appropriate for a female to wear a skirt. I believe that it’s appropriate to wear a dress but skirts especially I the Russian culture are very revealing and I don’t respect a person who is revealing. On the other hand, I’ve seen girls that wear pants and they are really revealing as well. I call them skinny jeans, and though I wear them. First off I’m a guy and secondly I get skinny jeans that aren’t tight on me. If we are to talk about what’s least revealing I would say just regular pants or a long dress. But, I won’t condemn someone because of what they are wearing. Unless if they come to church with short shorts and a shirt that’s barely a shirt. If they show way to much skin I would ask one of my girl-friends to confront her if she calls herself a Christian. That’s still not condemning them that’s just confronting them. I would have to say that I’ve seen girls that are way to risqué at church and I find it inappropriate. This is coming from a guy. All in all, ladies, if you want to respect yourselves and your body and keep your chin up with dignity be modest with what you wear. Don’t wear risqué things to get attention. A man will care for you for who you are, not by what you wear.

  2. honestly im a female and ive grown up in the russian culture, i attend a Pentecostal church in Springfield mo and i would say im more on the Americanized side of the fence… i agree that some Christians take it to a whole different level of holy when it comes to pants, but i also think that when it has to do with church and pants that’s different than wearing pants outside of church… church is a holy place, and especially if u attend a Russian church i think respect is a big part of it! respect the fact that the church has set rules against pants in the church and follow those… respect ur parents.. just like we didnt grow up in russia and had to go through what they did, they didnt grow up in our times.. God hasnt changed but surroundings around the younger/our generation have… i mean were in church all of a little time is it that difficult to listen? as i said i have NOTHING against pants/jeans any of them lol i wear them and probably always will wear them! in gatherings outside of church go for it wear those pants but personally i believe when u are in Gods house its not feminine to wear them! :)

  3. Women should dress like women. Pants are for men. Why is it so difficult?
    But… Everyone can and should dress up according to their faith and religion. If you feel it’s okay to go to church of your faith in pants, then do so. It’s a matter of you and God.
    I have no right to say it’s wrong or right.

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