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Is it a sin for a woman to wear pants? 

The Question:

Is it a sin for a woman to wear pants? MUST women always wear dresses?

The Answer:

Deuteronomy 22:5 (KJV) - 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 (NIV) A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.

The argument about whether it is sinful for a woman to wear pants is based primarily on this verse, stating that pants "pertain" to a man, so it is unholy for a woman to wear them. It is interesting that in Biblical times neither men nor women wore pants or trousers as in our culture today, so to brand all trouser-like garments as "pertaining to a man" and sinful for a woman to wear shows an ignorance of history and customs.

Biblical men and women wore robes, and the closest thing to our pants of today was when women pulled their skirt tails between their legs to the front, tucked into their girdle and formed a kind of pant to work in the fields. Yet I don't ever hear someone proclaiming that men ought to wear robes and NOT pants, as this originally was a form of women's clothing!

Exodus 20:26, 28:42-43 " And do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it- Make linen undergarments [breeches] as a covering for the body, reaching from the waist to the thigh. Aaron and his sons must wear them whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they will not incur guilt and die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants."

Leviticus 6:10 The priest shall then put on his linen clothes, with linen undergarments [breeches] next to his body, and shall remove the ashes of the burnt offering that the fire has consumed on the altar and place them beside the altar.

Leviticus 16:4 "This is how Aaron is to enter the sanctuary area: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments [breeches] next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on."

Some say that these verses prohibit women from wearing pants. In the KJV these garments are called breeches, which is an old fashioned way of saying trousers or pants. However the newer translations have the more correct translation "undergarments".

"Breeches" or undergarments in the Hebrew is miknac {mik-nawce'} from kamac {kaw-mas'} a primitive root, to store up, save (Qal) stored up (participle) in the sense of hiding.  It is translated in the KJV as "breeches", but literally means underwear, drawers, trousers, specifically a priestly undergarment of linen, which were clearly special undergarments worn by the priests ... not pants as men wear today.

And there is no indication that the average man wore these, just the priests. Notice in Leviticus 16:4 that these were "sacred garments" only worn for special occasions, and that the man had to wash himself before putting them on. The reason for wearing them was not to expose the priest's nakedness as he climbed the steps to the altar.

Revelation 1:6, 5:10 -and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father--to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen...You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."

Some even go so far as to say women aren't allowed to wear ANY "crotched garments", even underwear. I certainly don't think it's modest to go about in a dress without underwear. If anything, since we are a nation of kings and priests unto God, ALL of us, these verses would promote the wearing of underwear I would think.

As for undergarments, bras are a relatively new invention. Does that mean it isn't holy to wear them? I remember when burning your bra was a big deal (in the sixties) ... and how sinful many church people thought it was NOT to wear one! It's always amusing to me how people pick and chose what parts of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, with which to whack you over the head.

Deuteronomy 22:5 (KJV) - 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. Leviticus 18:22 (KJV) - Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. Leviticus 20:13(KJV) - If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

So if Deuteronomy 22:5 doesn't specifically address whether women should wear pants or not, what does it mean?

I've been thinking of the wording in Deuteronomy 22:5 ... "things which pertaineth to a man" ... or woman ... what are the distinctive things that a man or woman wears that defines their sexual identity? In Biblical days, both men and women wore robes and tunics ... so their garments were not that different... the woman's was longer and she wore a veil after marriage when outside the home. How do we apply that today? Not so easy really ... Should we make men wear shorter tunics and women longer ones?

The Hebrew word for woman in this verse is 'ishshah {ish-shaw'} translated in the KJV as wife 425, woman 324, one 10, married 5, female 2, meaning woman, wife, female:  woman (opposite of man), wife (woman married to a man), female (of animals), each, every (pronoun). It comes from 'iysh {eesh} translated in the KJV man 1002, men 210, one 188, husband 69, any 27, meaning man, male (in contrast to woman, female), husband, human being, person (in contrast to God), servant, mankind, champion, great man, whosoever, each (adjective).

In Genesis 2:23 the 'ishshah/'iysh combination is used, kind of a play on words: The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called `woman' ['ishshah] for she was taken out of man ['iysh]."

The word for man in Deuteronomy 22:5 verse is not what you would expect ('iysh), but geber {gheh'-ber} translated man 64, mighty 2, man child 1, every one 1; meaning man, strong man, warrior (emphasizing strength or ability to fight).

The Hebrew word here translated " shall not wear that which pertaineth" is one word: k@liy {kel-ee'} translated in the KJV, vessel 166, instrument 39, weapon 21, jewel 21, armourbearer + 05375 18, stuff 14, thing 11, armor 10, furniture 7, carriage 3, bag 2, misc 13. It means an 1a) article, object (general) 1b) utensil, implement, apparatus, vessel: implement (of hunting or war); implement (of music); implement, tool (of labor); equipment, yoke (of oxen); utensils, furniture 1c) vessel, receptacle (general);1d) vessels (boats) of paper-reed.

This would indicate to me that the garments referred to here would be specifically those implements of male attire suited to a warrior, emphasizing strength or ability to fight. In other words, garments and implements that make a woman resemble a male warrior.

The word used for "women's garment" is simlah {sim-law'} (through the idea of a cover assuming or resembling the shape of the object beneath); translated in the KJV as raiment 11, clothes 6, garment 6, apparel 2, cloth 2, clothing 2; meaning wrapper, mantle, covering garment, garments, clothes, raiment, a cloth. This would refer to garments that make the man resemble the shape of a woman.

Since elsewhere the Bible declares that homosexuality is an abomination to God, and also a man dressing to assume the form of a woman, or a woman dressing to assume the shape and likeness of a male warrior, then it is clear that Deuteronomy 22:5 is referring to what we call transvestitism or cross-dressing, a deliberate attempt to appear as the opposite sex, primarily for sexual purposes.

Are there any verses that give specific directives as to how women should dress? I have heard some say that the only garment that is appropriate for women to wear is the modern-day long dress.

I Timothy 2:9 (KJV) 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 (NIV) I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

The word for "apparel" in I Timothy 2:9 according to Strong's concordance is katastole {kat-as-tol-ay'} meaning 1) a lowering, letting down 2) a garment let down, dress, attire. Vine's has this to say about katastole: "connected with katastello, to send or let down; hence, dress, attire, in GENERAL (cp stole, a loose outer garment worn by KINGS and persons of rank, - Eng. stole); I Tim 2:9, "apparel"

Some use the term "apparel" in this verse in I Timothy 2:9 to attempt to claim that women should always wear dresses, and ONLY dresses.  But the word translated as apparel in the KJV refers to a long, loose fitting, outer garment worn by both men and women.

I fail to see in this definition the idea of a "woman's dress" as we know it in modern times. The emphasis should be on modesty in our attire ... Even a dress that goes from neck to ankle with long sleeves can be sexy ... Modesty is somewhat in the eyes of the beholder, you might say.

Modesty in Greek is kosmios {kos'-mee-os} translated in the KJV as modest 1, of good behavior 1; meaning well arranged, seemly, modest. In the dictionary, modest is defined as 1. Having or displaying a moderate estimation of one's own talents, abilities, and value. 2. Shy and retiring in disposition. 3. Observing conventional proprieties in speech, behavior or dress: DECOROUS. 4. Quiet and humble in appearance: UNPRETENTIOUS. 5. Not extreme: MODERATE.

I Timothy 2:9 (NIV) I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

Furthermore Paul qualifies what he means by "modest apparel" by using the words decency and propriety. Decency in the Greek is aidos {ahee-doce'} translated in the KJV as shamefacedness 1, reverence 1; meaning a sense of shame or honor, modesty, bashfulness, reverence, regard for others, respect. Propriety in the Greek is sophrosune {so-fros-oo'-nay} translated sobriety 2, soberness 1; 3 meaning 1) soundness of mind 2) self-control, sobriety, from sophron {so'-frone} meaning 1) of a sound mind, sane, in one's senses 2) curbing one's desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate.

So our decisions about what we wear should include regard for others and how they react to our garments, plus present an appearance designed to control and curb desire. There is also the idea of appropriateness of our clothing to a specific situation. What may be modest attire on the beach may not be appropriate for a church service or a formal dinner. Also, we should not follow our culture's penchant to try to be "sexy" or to "attract" the opposite sex.

Paul also includes cautionary remarks about overdoing jewelry and hairdos. Roman women spent hours on their toilette and often had many slaves to help them. Their garments were extremely ornate, embroidered, and costly, and their hair was dressed with elaborate braiding and jewels. They dressed to show off their wealth and social status and to draw attention to themselves. This Paul admonishes us not to do.

I Timothy 2:9 (NIV) I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

Paul also goes on to say that godly women should adorn themselves with good deeds that give honor to God. That is, we should be more concerned with the inward man and bringing honor to God than attracting undue attention by our attire.

Peter echoes this idea in I Peter 3:3-4: Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, 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.

The bottom line on women's clothing is that what constitutes "modest apparel" is one of those "doubtful disputations" that Paul talks about in Romans 14, and application in our times and culture is a matter of the heart before God. It's one of those things that can sidetrack us and shipwreck us if we aren't careful.

I think the most Biblical guideline for women's (or men's) clothing is that it not INTENTIONALLY provoke lust ... so I'd rule out skimpy, short, tight, etc also... As in all things, lust is usually in the eyes of the beholder ... and a long skirt wouldn't deter a spirit of lust! I also don't set myself up as judge on someone else's dress code ... because of my stand on Christian liberty!

However, I'm opposed to someone dictating what anyone should or should not wear, stating, "Well PAUL said you MUST wear a flowing DRESS 10 inches below the KNEE" or you're naked or something! Women didn't even wear dresses, as we know them in Paul's day. After all if clothing were ESSENTIAL for salvation, why did God create Adam and Eve without it?

I'm all for letting the Holy Spirit guide believers in their dress ... and putting the emphasis on the inward man ... that's the part that will last forever.  And not to go to extremes, as one very dear lady said one time in a Sunday School class, where we were discussing whether Christians should wear jewelry or not: "I was always taught that the more you took off for God, the closer you would get to Him". My comment was "Then the closest you are to Him is when you are in the shower!"

I come from a denomination that once went overboard on the dress issue in the past. Modesty starts in the heart not in the length of skirt thereof! And I have no problem with women wearing pants or even tasteful shorts. I believe God looks on the inward man. This issue so easily gets into legalism. Sanctification has little to do with dress or lack thereof ... "clothesline preaching" won't win anyone to Christ.

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