What does the Bible say about women wearing pants?

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The first thing that we must understand when asking this question is that no one in the Bible wore pants. They did not exist back then—at least not in the form we have them today. Because of this, the Bible never dealt with the subject of women wearing pants. [Note: I have added an article on what the Israelites did wear when they were in Egypt and during the Exodus.] The Mosaic Law does, however, deal with the subject of cross-dressing. The Mosaic Law says, "A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God" (Deut. 22:5 NASB). The argument against women wearing pants that I always heard when I was in the UPC was this:

  1. Deut. 22:5 applies to us today. Even though we are not under the Mosaic Law anymore, something that is an abomination to God is always an abomination. (This is based off of Rev. 21:27, which says that "no one who practices abomination" (KJV) will enter into the New Jerusalem.)
  2. Since pants are men’s apparel, and dresses are women’s apparel, it is an abomination for a woman to wear pants or for a man to wear dresses.

Notice that I said that this is the argument that I heard during my time in the UPC. It is only fair to say that the official position paper of the UPC uses a different line of reasoning. They say, "[W]e should avoid…slacks on women because they immodestly reveal the feminine contours of upper leg, thigh, and hip1."

In this article I am going to take a look at both views, and then I’ll wrap up with an important point about hypocrisy.

Edit (1/2/07): I found another position paper from the UPCI on men and women’s apparel. In this other paper they do use a modified form of the Deut. 22:5 argument.

Are Slacks Automatically Immodest?

I think that it is ridiculous to say that slacks are inherently more immodest than dresses. Slacks and dresses can be immodest. It is possible that pants on a woman would have been considered immodest 200 years ago in many Western societies, but that’s pure conjecture. Either way, I know of no man in Western culture who is automatically thrown into temptation because a woman wears pants. What we have to deal with is what is modest today, not what was modest 200 years ago or 2,000 years ago. The Bible never defined modesty, it only told us to be modest.

Are Pants "Men’s Apparel"?

I do not think that pants can be thought of as only men’s apparel in modern Western culture. Cultures and dress codes change over time. They always have. When Deut. 22:5 was written men were probably wearing linen kilts and women were probably wearing "full-length, light weight, loose-fitting dresses2." In the mid-19th century men were wearing breeches and women were wearing dresses that did not show even their ankles. Yet now the dress code laid by the UPC is that women have to wear dresses but they can come up to the knee3. Why did they choose this style of apparel and not the style that was worn when Deut. 22:5 was written, or the style that was worn in the 19th century? The reason is that cultures and styles change, and the UPC apparently picked the style of apparel that happened to be in fashion when their doctrines started to develop.

There is no biblical excuse for taking a girl who is a third-generation wearer of pants and telling her that she has to only wear dresses. At some point we have to admit that culture has changed. Again, we’re concerned with what culture is now, not what it was in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Hypocrisy? The Pants Issue Can Be One Way or the Other, It Can’t Be Both

Let me talk to the preachers and teachers for a moment.

Many preachers and teachers in the UPC feel that Deut. 22:5 still applies to us today. I don’t take that view, but I’m not going to debate the point. What I will say is that if you are going to apply Deut. 22:5 to the pants vs. skirts debate then you have to apply it to everything. If you believe that it is an abomination for a woman to wear pants (because you feel that pants are men’s apparel) then you must be willing to make a complete prohibition against women wearing men’s apparel. For instance, many women in the UPC wear pajama pants but they will not wear pants in public. If pants are men’s apparel, and if it’s a sin for women to wear men’s apparel, then that means no pajama pants. It also means that a girl can’t put on her boyfriend’s jacket or her husband’s shirt, or any other article of clothing that is designed for a man.

It can be one way or the other, it can’t be both. It must be a complete prohibition or no prohibition at all. To preach against women wearing pants, and then allow your wife to wear pajama pants, is nothing less than total hypocrisy. If you do preach a complete prohibition against women wearing any men’s apparel then I will respect your view, even though I will continue to disagree with it. If you will not do that then I view your teaching as hypocritical in the extreme.

Conclusion

It is not safe to end this subject without pointing out that cross-dressing is almost definitely displeasing to God. When I say "cross-dressing" this is the usage that I am referring to:

Nearly every society throughout history has had a set of norms, views, guidelines, or laws regarding the wearing of clothing and what is appropriate for each gender. Cross-dressing is a behavior which runs counter to those norms4.

I do think that we can extrapolate from Scripture that God would be displeased with someone deliberately dressing in a manner that identifies them with the opposite gender. However, I do not think that a woman wearing pants should be considered cross-dressing. As I said before, women wearing pants is part of the accepted norm in modern Western culture.

  1. United Pentecostal Church International, Position Paper on Modesty, Accessed 2006-12-30 21:10:16 []
  2. Nelson’s Bible Manners & Customs: How the People of the Bible Really Lived, "5.2 The People of God Wandering In the Wilderness", ed. Howard F. Vos []
  3. United Pentecostal Church International, Position Paper on Modesty, Accessed 2006-12-30 21:10:16 []
  4. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Cross-dressing, Accessed 2006-12-30 23:20:05 []

275 thoughts on “What does the Bible say about women wearing pants?

  1. Antonio

    Deut. is Mosaic Law. Rom. 6:14b says, ” . . . for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” B/c we r not under law, we r not BOUND by the law. We r bound by Grace. We don’t preach the Sabbath. We don’t preach the Passover. We don’t preach circumcision. We don’t pay no attention 2 that Scripture that says we can’t eat ribs & bacon, nor do we listen 2 that Scripture that says we can’t eat shrimp & lobster. But we get here 2 this poor, pitiful little Scripture & we slam on the brakes & start coughing, choking & throwing up. Y? Y do we do that? Put that verse down, just like we’re put the rest of the law down. Gal. 5:3 tells u that if u ‘insist’ that we r bound by by Deut. 22:5 then we r compelled 2 keep the whole law. PUT THAT DOWN!!! Hebrews tells us we have a better covenant, with a better High Priest, & better promises. Look @ the last part of Exodus, all of Leviticus, & the 1st part of Numbers. With all the exactitude with which God speaks, if God had meant pants, He wooda said, “The woman shall not wear breeches.” It’s just that simple. God’s not talk’n about pants. He’s talk’n about cross-dressing. It’s time 4 all of us Oneness, Acts 2:38 believers 2 come n2 the light. A tight skirt with a li’l split is way more immodest than a pair of pants (unless she paints ’em on).

  2. Charlie

    You are saying God is silly putty! God changes according as the outlook of the majority changes! You’re saying whatever habits the majority practices in apparel, it’s sin to not conform! In 1880 women in pants in America were nearly unheard of. Before 1970 they were widely accepted. But you’re saying if a majority disapproves of something, God also disapproves! You are disallowing change. You are disallowing nonconformity. No leg garment of any configuration is sex typable as both sexes have legs. Did Jesus not understand Deut 22:5? In Luke 7 he said the Roman had the greatest faith. What was the Roman wearing? Blue jeans? Pants? In what type of below the waist garments did medieval European art masters depict MALE archangels? Pants were invented for riding horses. Here you are reeled in by PSYCHIATRY about “cross-dressing,” and psychiatry is virulently antichrist! If men want to “dress like men,” they should shave less. Forget about this “God is a pair of pants” nonsense. Deut 22:5 banned exchange of apparel by men and women in households as a sanitary law. Water was scarce and apparel was seldom washed. People are more used to their own germs than to others. Fabric can be a vector to transmit illness, as in the British giving smallpox infected blankets to native tribes in Pontiac’s War. In AD393 the Romans tossed men in pants out of their city as political subversives and seized their property. Men in 2019 wear skirts as men in Albania, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Ireland, Scotland, India, Bhutan, Spain, Portugal, Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, Hawaii and in at least 16 Arabic states (dervishes). Away with this asinine “cross-dressing” doctrine unless applied to bras on men or athletic supporters on women. Otherwise, anyone can literally wear anything. The same Christian families who raved against women in pants over 100 years ago, raised young boys in dresses and skirts. Those are leg and torso garments. Stop this fanaticism of sex typing human garments. Lust is involved here. Men like yourself want to see only females in skirts, as long as you have a near guarantee of only females wearing these, you can have opportunities to experience the beginning stages of sexual arousal! Men wore skirt apparel for 1,000s of years, suddenly we get to modern times and are told it’s abomination to God. No, just to the same conformist element that used to kill people by burning for not conforming!

  3. Ron

    Josh. You absolutely disobeying the word of God. And trying to Justifying your crookedness…
    The Bible says
    Galatians 1:8 (KJV) But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
    Philippians 2:12 (KJV) Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
    1 Corinthians 15:58 (KJV) Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
    God bless you!

  4. Dina

    Last week I went to a church where, in general, women wear only dresses. I was wearing slacks and a very decent feminine top, I am slender, not curvy at all and don’t wear anything tight or provocative, in my heart, I have always been very modest, even before I was Christian, but I do feel very comfortable in pants. I brought an unsaved loved one with me, he has been having serious health problems, I have been praying a lot for him not only for physical but spiritual healing. When they did the altar call, reluctantly he went up there and repeated what the pastor was telling him, I was very touched and stood behind him praying and touching on his back. I noticed that another pastor signaled me to move a little and he started laying hands on him, I obeyed the instructions. At that moment, I told this pastor, very softly, I wanted to sing to my loved one, God put in my heart to sing “I am the God that healeth thee”. This pastor signaled me again to sort of wait, I respected that, I did not want to disrespect the agenda or the rules, I thought maybe at the end he would let me, but he did not and closed the service. Then he nicely explained to me that the reason why I was not allowed to sing was because I was wearing pants and he told me not to be upset. I said it was ok. But it got me thinking, what was more important my heart being connected with God at that moment and feeling the Holy Spirit in my heart sincerely, than a piece of fabric covering my legs. I was almost heart and disappointed. God bless.

  5. Debi

    Thank god we have love in our hearts and god forgives us continuously or we all would be in trouble
    Always have been Christian always had Jesus as my bestie have so many questions now that I’m alone
    Parents passed away in the ministry and it hurts too much to keep on asking and wondering why his only hears my small cries and I wonder about my heartbreaking prays that DISNT get answered

  6. Lizzy

    I honestly think women can wear pants Bc their r women pant made for women only so it not ok for them to wear men pants
    In the store there’s s men and women area I think you women should only be able to use the women pants in the women’s area the pant r made for women so I think it’s juts fine

  7. Laura

    I was very enlighted about the article “What Does the Bible Say” about women wearing pants. The article really helped me to understand.

    Thanks

  8. John

    Men can’t wear a skirt because it pertains to a woman, but women can have it both ways? C”mon, this is wrong. Just because the world doesn’t have an issue with it, doesn’t mean that it should be permitted in the Church. The world approves gay marriage, should we do the same? When did the world become our conscience? Why is it that its always women that have an issue with this? Eve was told not to eat of the tree, but she was deceived and Adam did nothing to try and stop it. God has made the man to be head of the wife. Men, please, let us be what God has called us to be. The flesh, that is self, likes to come up with all kinds of excuses to justify was is wrong. We have women with really short hair and wearing pants just like the husband. That’s confusion. There should be a very distinct difference between the two. We are not the world. Pants allow women to sit in ways that is not proper. I believe it’s self attempting to usurp the authority of man over the wife. I believe it’s self making every attemp to impose itself and not submit to God’s word as it pertains to the woman. The bible is not silent. It’s says to be holy in every way. It’s says not to wear that which pertains to men. What is the only clothing men are allowed to wear? You guessed it, pants or trousers. Obviously, they pertain to the man. It’s so obvious.

    1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

      John, who says that men can’t wear skirts? If the Israelites dressed like the Egyptians did–which archaeology indicates that they did–then the men wore linen skirts. There are men all over the world today who wear kilts.

      I can promise you that you’re not confused when you see a woman in pants. You know she’s a woman. You and I both know that you do. And even if you are confused about it, why would it matter? I’m not aware of any Scripture that says men and women have to walk around with a sign identifying our sex. If you’re not sure if someone is a man or a woman then why does it matter? Who cares? It doesn’t affect you unless you want to date them, and in that case you can go ask them.

      In Christ,
      Josh

      1. Joseph

        I would also say something about T-Shirts. Are all unisex items a sin because it is not a male nor female clothing item? What about colours? Can a man not wear pink or purple? If you draw a line at pants, which there is male and female pants, then you can not permit unisex items like t-shirts as well in my opinion.

    2. Nikki

      I think your perspective is very narrow, John. I get where your coming from but I believe the Bible is very clearly referring to cross dressing and that’s it. Everyone wore dresses back then. Lots of cultures still do (African, middle eastern and Irish/Scottish to name a few).Here in the States, everyone wears pants. No different. I respect your stand on the issue but it’s just not right.

  9. lolit

    I am a pentecostal for almost 3yrs and still hav many questions.there are teaching that i just ignore because i know humans are prone to mistakes.as what i believe and pray let the word from man fall to the ground and let the word from God rooted and bear fruit in my life..as His Spirit will guide and remind us of Jesus words..as we seek Him we will find Him if we seek Him with all our heart..press on church!

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