Finding someone who shares my love for the European Church isn’t common, so I was a very happy girl to realize I was speaking to a minister who not only loved Europe, but had done European missions work. There was one city in particular we both had gone too, and I excitedly told him of a Bible-based, missions school, smack-dab in the heart of it. I shared how their pioneered church ran well over 400, and about their many outreach programs, which had special emphasis on trafficking victims. He looked totally surprised, “Wow! When I was there we only found one woman in the whole city who wore skirts, and she didn’t know of any others.” I cringed as I realized my friend would dismiss everyone I’d just described as unbelievers, or at the very least, spiritually immature. His assumption that Christian women will all choose to wear only skirts (and that men will require them to do so) caused him to see 97%+ of Christians as sinners, drastically reducing the size of the Body of Christ.
It’s only fair to consider both sides of an issue with such extreme consequences, and this is exactly the purpose of the following article. Read the argument for pants as moral sin, read Nathan’s responses, think through both and come to your own conclusions. Ask yourself-biblically, historically, logically-do godly women have a basis for believing they may choose their own garment-type? Or is this really a Heaven/Hell decision?
The Burden of Proof
As noted in the article on Jewelry, the restrictors of liberty bear the burden to prove their own case biblically, if they can’t, it falls. Just like we are innocent until proven guilty, we are at liberty unless proven constrained. It is not up to me to prove women can wear pants, it is up to them to prove they shouldn’t.
To provide a fair case against pants, I will quote a full article from the Holiness Handbook. I will quote it entirely in red with my responses in black. This is a fairly in-depth argument and it ends with the thinly veiled threat that if you disagree with the author of the Holiness Handbook, you have a significant likelihood of going to Hell. That represents a pretty high level of confidence on the part of the author that his view is unassailable, so we’ll see if his argument stands up to a biblical cross-examination.
As we evaluate his argument, keep in mind that two distinct things need to be proven. If either fails, then the case for women not being able to wear pants falls apart.
1) Is gender distinction biblically required in clothing?
2) If yes, do women’s pants fail to meet that standard described in Scripture?
Let’s hear his case:
Gender Distinctions in Old Covenant Clothing
Women and Men’s clothing
All through history, the clothing used by men and women have been unique so that there was a clear distinction between the genders. Thousands of years ago both men and women wore types of cloaks or types of robes, but even then there were differences that allowed a person to identify the gender.
There a long history of clothing being different for men and women. Some of this is preference based, with women typically preferring more ornamentation, some of this is based on the different body types of men and women, and some is based on the practical needs of men and women in their historic roles. I do agree with this statement, but I would caveat that for almost all of the history that the author references, the difference has not been in the type of garment, but rather slight differences in how the garment was trimmed or decorated. He acknowledges that men and women both wore robes, just with slight tweaks – they didn’t typically have a fundamentally different type of garment. Consequently, this historical claim is irrelevant to the discussion at hand.
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.
Among the Hebrews neither men or women was permitted by Mosaic Law to wear the same form of clothing as was used by the other. A few articles of feminine clothing carried somewhat the name and basic pattern, yet there was always sufficient difference in embossing, embroidery, and needlework so that in appearance the line of demarcation between man & women should be readily detected.
Since the author is quoting Old Testament ceremonial law, he still has a long way to go before he proves that such a commandment applies to New Testament believers. But we’ll save that question for now. Furthermore, there is a good argument from the original language that the verse actually is referring to a woman putting on the armor of a warrior as a part of pagan worship, but that argument isn’t necessary, so I won’t delve into it – I’ll link to another relevant article at the bottom. Let’s just ask, would Old Testament law permit women to wear pants?
What does the Bible say about how Old Testament women had to dress? Nothing. That’s right, there are no Old Testament laws that specify what the differences between men’s and women’s clothing must exist. There are some allusions in the prophets that suggest women’s robe may have been a bit longer than men’s (which were typically mid-calf), but other than that suggestion, the Bible says nothing. Note that I’m not saying there were no differences, I’m just say that the God didn’t ordain any specific differences – he just said for women not to try to look like men, and the details were left to them to work out.
This “same type of garment” approach meshes with the clothes designed by God himself for the fallen Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:21 tells us that God made the same type of garment for Adam and Eve. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Whether there were subtle differences in the garments, the Bible doesn’t say, but we do know that the “coat” type of garment worked for both Adam and Eve.
So what about the article of clothing below? As the author says, this carries the name and basic pattern as men’s pants, but it is “sufficiently different in embroidery such that a demarcation can be readily detected.” If Old Testament men wore jeans, then Old Testament women would have certainly been allowed to wear these pants. So would the author allow women to wear pants in this style? He should. But he won’t. Let’s see how he justifies the claim that the New Testament gender distinctions are actually more strict than the Old Testament ones.
Are Pants Eternally Masculine?
What makes you think that pants are a man’s garment?
1) “Breeches” were an article of clothing designed by God for the priests who were all men. The word does not occur very often in scripture, but in every case it’s men’s apparel (Exodus 28:42, Leviticus 6:10, 16:4). According to the Hebrew lexicon, “breeches” means “trousers that extend to the knee, below the knee, or to the ankles.” This would include pants or culottes.
It seems a little disingenuous for the author to give you a “Hebrew Lexicon” definition of breeches which makes them sound like pants when the Bible describes them in a way that is far less favorable to the author’s case. Let’s look at the definition that the Bible gives of “breeches” in Exodus 28:42. “And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation…” The Hebrew word “miknac” is a derivation of a word for hiding (as in, to hide the private parts) because these were not “trousers,” they were underwear. The Bible makes it clear that they were worn under robes, by priests, for the purpose of hiding “nakedness.” They went from the waist to the thighs (they did not necessarily cover the thigh completely), which makes them equivalent in length and usage to modern boxer shorts. The particular need that priests had for them may have been related to the steep steps that they would sometimes climb in the performance of their duties.
Additionally, the Bible puts no restrictions on who else could wear such attire. In fact, other than a few pieces like the ephod, all of the priestly garments were of the same basic style worn by all men and women at the time. There is no reason to believe that the wearing of miknac was banned to men or women any more than it was banned to wear the robes, sashes, coats, and belts all described in Exodus 28 as the garments of priests. Yes, they probably couldn’t have worn the exact colors and styles as the priests, but the basic garments were all the same. There are other garments which only men are recorded wearing in Scripture, such as the “girdle” or belt – and it is mentioned far more times than breeches (38). If the author’s logic is true, he should be quick to decry women’s wearing of belts of any kind – the biblical case is much stronger. Proving that mosaic priests wore boxers is a pretty far stretch from proving that pants are a universally and irrevocably masculine garment.
2) Until Hollywood came along, everyone in our modern western culture (including lost people) knew that pants were men’s apparel and dresses were women’s apparel, and they dressed accordingly. Our culture’s acceptance of cross-dressing has resulted largely from the influence of television, the placement of women in the workforce, and the pressures of twentieth century feminism.
The author’s basic point is “everybody knows (or did know) that pants are an exclusively and irrevocably masculine garment, therefore it is true.” Do we apply that logic to any of our other beliefs? No. Because it is the bandwagon fallacy. Even if that was the case, it is no longer the case. I suspect that less than 1% of the western world would agree to the statement “pants are an exclusively male garment.” How long dead does the older generation have to be before we can acknowledge that the culture has changed the norm? Is 99.5% inadequate to call it a cultural shift?
John Wesley, the modern source of Holiness ideas of sanctification, had this to say: “As to matters of dress, I would recommend one never to be first in the fashion nor the last out of it.”
The author’s second claim is that the influences which changed the norm were bad and thus the change in culture should be resisted. I will address this claim momentarily, because he brings it up later.
3) The universal symbol for designating a men’s bathroom is a stick figure wearing a pair of pants. The universal symbol for designating a woman’s bathroom is a stick figure wearing a dress. Even our sinful society recognizes that there is a difference in a man’s and woman’s clothing.
First off, let me take issue with the author’s use of the word “universal.” The fact is that the modern bathroom symbols did not originate until the 1960’s, and they came from an Anglo-American background. Prior to their widespread acceptance, countries around the world all had their own takes on differentiating gender on bathroom signs, many of which were not based on clothing differences. American inventions from the 60’s do not constitute an ancient tradition – that’s just revisionist history.
Regardless, this argument is essentially a restatement of the bandwagon fallacy. The author is once again saying “everyone agrees with me that pants can’t be worn by women.” This is not an argument at all, but rather an emotional appeal. Ask yourself this, would a bathroom sign designed for ancient God-fearing Jews (if such a thing had existed) show a difference between the silhouette of a man and a woman? No. They would both be wearing a robe with an identical silhouette. Choosing the right bathroom would be very confusing. If the standard God set under Mosaic law wouldn’t have met this rather silly “bathroom sign test,” then what evidence does the author present that the “bathroom sign test” is a brand-new law introduced in the New Testament? None.
But then, if we’re resorting to silly arguments, are you so sure it was a dress? Maybe it was a cape this whole time.
4) Pants are a symbol of authority, as evidenced by the saying ” I’m the one who wears the pants in the family.” Sadly, most women might as well wear the pants, since they rule their homes anyway!
This saying is the third consecutive appeal to the bandwagon fallacy which the author makes. Let me explain how. Pants are simply not a broadly used symbol of general authority. If you look at a country’s national seal, you may see an eagle, bear, lion, axe, mace, stars, a gavel, or many other things. You will never see a pair of pants displayed as a symbol of authority.
That said, I don’t dispute that there was a time when women did not wear pants. This saying originated in that culture and existed to describe a woman the functioning in a man’s role. The association was never between pants and authority generally, but between pants and men in particular. Does that mean that just because some people in the 19th century observed an association between pants and men, that such an association was firmly grounded in the Word of God and unchangeable? No. That association did exist, but does no longer. It could have been phrased in many other ways even at that time such as “I’m the ones who wears the work boots in the family” or “she’s the one who wears the apron.” Such a phrasing would not have then precluded women 100 years later from wearing work boots nor men from wearing an apron. This saying essentially proves that people agreed with the author 100 years ago, even if they don’t today. I suppose we should call that the dead bandwagon fallacy – “I’m right because all of the dead people agree with me.”
However, slang phrases like this one are a very ineffective appeal when searching for universal truth, because they are some of the shortest-lived pieces of culture. There are dozens of idioms your parents used which you do not, and many more that we use with no thought to the origin of phrase. We “dial” a phone number even though phones no longer have rotary dials and we “hang up” even though phones no longer have hooks on which to hang them. Phrases like “high on the hog” referred to a time when wealth meant you could afford to eat cuts of meat from the better parts of a pig. We have completely forgotten where this phrase comes from, but we still use it comfortably.
The Origin of Women’s Pants
Cross dressing is one of the devil’s clever moves to advance the “women’s liberation movement” and to obscure the Biblical distinction between man and woman. “Unisex clothing” began to show up in the factories during WWII when women first started wearing slacks. At the same time: short hair, cigarettes, swearing became acceptable feminine behavior. Down that same path has come to Abortion, Divorce, Single Parent homes, extreme feminism.
Now the author restates his previous argument that the cultural forces which led women to wear pants were universally bad and, thus, the change in culture should be resisted. This is more interesting argument than his previous ones, so let’s break it down.
Let’s first start with how men began to wear pants and then look at the earliest use among women. During the time the Bible was written and for thousands of years before, men and women both wore robes, which were essentially dresses. The skirt that we would recognize originated in pagan Egypt as a uni-sex garment. Women wore pants as early as the first millennium before Christ in ancient China and they continued to be worn in the East by various Eastern cultures across the centuries. This fact is not irrelevant to the adoption of women’s pants in the West, because many of the earliest designs appealed to Eastern styles.
Men adapted the use of pants slowly over the middle ages. Sometimes this progression looked more like what we would recognize as pants and other times they were undergarments or stockings. In general, this progression reflected the reality that pants are a very practical and appropriate garment. Although they originated with the upper class, sailors soon adapted and spread them as a practical garment for working in the rigging of a ship. Pants allow mobility, are well adapted to horseback riding, and keep you warm more effectively. They were worn almost universally by Western men by the 1700’s. This basic premise, that men adopted pants because they were practical, is accepted without much question. No preachers spend their sermon time researching the origin of men’s pants to find out if there were nefarious roots, or if we should go back to the clothing that the early Christians wore (which would certainly help us distinguish ourselves from the world).
Allow me to introduce an equally sound premise in regards to women’s adoption of pants. Women adopted pants because they were practical. Some of the earliest modern users of pants were the pit brow lasses of the British coal fields. Pants were infinitely more practical than long skirts for their backbreaking labor of separating coal from rocks. They were wearing pants in the 1850’s, along with other practical articles of clothing, such as a head covering to keep coal dust out of their hair.
The advent of the bicycle also led to women realizing that voluminous Victorian dresses were ill-suited to their new mode of transportation. There were even reports of women dying due to instances where they couldn’t see their pedals and lost control of their bikes. Many women at the turn of the 20th century adopted clothing that encased each leg separately and was much safer for riding (aka pants).
Factory work also played a significant role in adoption of pants, but that trend actually started in the first World War, not the second. Below you see women in an ammunition factory from the First World War wearing early pants. Pants were much safer for working with heavy equipment full of spinning cogs and gears.
Much more could be said about why women adopted pants – and men for that matter. But there is ample evidence that most regular women started wearing pants for deeply practical reasons, not reasons rooted in rebellion or a rejection of what the Bible says about gender.
Aren’t Pants Rebellious?
But what about the observation that the rise of women wearing pants was associated with other sins?
Various evils can coexist without being the cause of each other. During the same “golden age” in which all women wore dresses without question, there was that little problem where millions of black Africans were being kidnapped and shipped across the Atlantic as slaves under conditions in which half of them routinely died, often drowning in their own vomit. I wouldn’t actually blame dresses for that evil; that would be irrational – but no more irrational than blaming women’s pants for the rise of popularity in cigarettes. The author’s reasoning is known as the “post hoc” logical fallacy. When the rooster crows and then the sun comes up, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the rooster’s crowing is the cause of the sun’s rising.
Furthermore, at the same time women started wearing pants (and manning the Western factories), the United States defeated the greatest fascist forces in history, started granting rights to second-class citizen minorities, and gave women legal rights and education that were unparalleled in human history. Women in the workforce caused medical and economic advances that helped lengthen our lives and increase the effectiveness of church ministry, wars diminished in frequency and intensity, billions were lifted out of poverty, the gospel reached millions of new people. The 1900’s were by no means an era of unrestrained darkness – good things happened, and bad things happened. To associate pants with the bad but not the good is not particularly honest.
The whole purpose of the adoption of pants by women was inextricably tied to their service in the formal labor force. Women have been working alongside their brothers and husbands in the fields, on the frontiers, and in the family business for all of recorded history. Their adoption of pants to work in the factories is just an extension of the way things have always been. Most Holiness preachers take no issue with women in the modern workforce, so why do they take issue with the clothes that got them there?
Furthermore, the practicality of pants has not diminished since their original introduction. Modest skirts and dresses restrain women from participation in many wholesome activities that men routinely participate in. I remember that my younger sister wanted to be an astronaut when she was young. While the dreams of a child may be far-fetched, it seemed even more far-fetched to tell her that being an astronaut was somehow a special sin for her because she couldn’t wear a skirt in space. Rock climbing, rappelling, parachuting, and many other sports require the wear of a safety harness that can only be worn in pants. Childhood activities like jumping on a trampoline, cart-wheeling, tree-climbing, or sitting cross-legged on the floor are nearly impossible without exposing underwear in a skirt or dress. Factory work, bicycle riding, horseback riding, skiing, and exercise of almost every kind are made much easier by the wear of pants. There is an epidemic of obesity is killing Americans, so limiting your wife’s options for exercise to activities performable in a jean skirt may be taking ten years off of her life.
But what about accusations against some of the particular women who wear the first in modern times to wear pants? What of it? Do you stop to research the moral character of the first person to wear a jacket or the inventor of the wrist watch before you put it on? Do you research the founder of every name brand before you buy an article of clothing in that line? If you do it for clothes, why not every product you buy? The fact is that there are sinners in the history of our world who invented things we eat, wear, or use in everyday life. Nothing in the Bible says that we must cleanse ourselves of any association with sinners, because, in the words of Paul, to do so we would have to go out of this world (if you are going to quote that we should abstain from the appearance of evil, you need to read more about that passage). The nature of fashion is such that people who come up with brand new fashions are often a bit abnormal. Take for instance the suit.
The inventor of the modern suit and popularizer of tooth-brushing, shaving, and regular bathing was a man named Beau Brummell. A self-obsessed playboy, he would spend hours in the morning attending to his appearance and then spend his afternoons and evenings gambling in high society. He eventually fled his country due to unpaid debts, ended up in debtor’s prison, and was released only to die from syphilis. How come nobody ever preaches against suits on this ground? I have made a separate biblical case that the origins of a practice do not preclude our participation, however, if you take issue with women’s pants based on the earliest originators, at least apply your own standard fairly and stop wearing suits (you should probably stop tooth-brushing too).
The New Testament Case Against Pants
Arguments against this doctrine
Some people argue that the principle of unique apparel between the man and woman as established in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 22:5) is not confirmed in the New Testament, thus is not applicable to us today under grace. But if we look at the reference book Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (printed over one hundred years before women wore pants) we see that it cross references Deuteronomy 22:5 to 1 Corinthians 11:3-14. That proves that men that studied the Bible hundreds of years before women wore pants, understood that 1 Corinthians 11 contains the same principle that is stated in Deuteronomy 22:5.
People may also argue that the principle of avoiding mixing certain materials in a garment as shown in Deuteronomy 22:11 should also apply today if verse 22:5 applies. The key to determining if an Old Testament law applies to us today under grace is whether the principle is repeated in the New Testament or not. In this case the principle of maintaining uniqueness in appearance between a man and woman is well established in the New Testament but that of avoiding mixing certain materials in a garment is not.
Now we get to the author’s New Testament justification. This is critical, because proving that there is a mosaic law forbidding something is a far cry from proving that it applies to believers freed from the law of Moses. I have written about this extensively here. However, I will address the argument in brief.
God has not changed, his character has not changed, and the things he cares about have not changed. However, God’s rules for his people absolutely change to accomplish God’s purposes. Animal sacrifice was once absolutely essential, now it is completely forbidden. The principle of needing to ask God’s forgiveness for our sins was the same throughout both covenants, but the expression of the principle changed. Simply proving that a principle exists in the New Testament does not prove that the expression of the principle now is the same as it was under Moses.
The New Testament expresses the principles of an unchanging God in rules which are sometimes new and sometimes a repetition of the Old Testament. However, the rules in the New Testament stand on their own. Sometimes they are inclusive of Old Testament rules and sometimes they are not. For instance, when Jesus says not to lust after a woman, this includes adultery, because it is not possible to commit adultery without lust. And to make things even clearer, adultery is also explicitly banned in the New Testament as well. However, there are other times where a principle is repeated, but the old covenant rule is no longer applicable. We should expect most of the principles to be repeated, because God hasn’t changed. But the expressions of the principles have changed – that’s the whole point. A few examples should be sufficient to illustrate this.
The Old Testament says that rebellious children should be stoned (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). The New Testament makes it clear that the principle of children obeying their parents still applies under grace (Ephesians 6:1). Does that mean we apply the Old Covenant disciplinary approach of execution for disobedience? No. The principle hasn’t changed, the rule to apply it has.
The Old Testament forbade the Israelites from making any statues or graven images of any kind (Exodus 20:4). The New Testament makes it very clear that idolatry is still immoral (1 Corinthians 10:14). Does this mean that we apply the Old Covenant tactics of Gideon and destroy the Lincoln Memorial statue under cover of dark? No. The principle hasn’t changed, the rule to apply it has.
The Old Testament forbids the charging of interest to someone from your own nation (Leviticus 25:36). The New Testament repeats the principle of not taking advantage of people in need (Ephesians 4:28). Does this mean that we can’t do business with banks that charge interest? No. The principle hasn’t changed, the rule to apply it has.
The Old Testament forbids women wearing the same clothes as men (with loose guidelines). The New Testament repeats the principle that men and women should have some outward differentiation (as regards their hair). Does that mean we apply the Old Testament law in regards to their clothing? I’m afraid not. The principle hasn’t changed, the rule to apply it has.
So where do we find how we should express the principle now? The New Testament. What it says, we must do. What it does not say, is left to a matter of conscience (where do we draw the lines). If we apply the author’s logic uniformly, we would resurrect much of the previously fulfilled Old Testament laws and we would have to start stoning our rebellious children, destroying all statues under cover of dark, and boycotting the financial industry.
But in reality, there are several New Testament verses that confirm that uniqueness must be maintained between sexes. These range from the differences in hair length to the feminine or masculine actions of each. In 1Cor 6:9 we find that effeminate men are not going to inherit the Kingdom of God. How is it that a woman can be accepted when wearing men’s clothing (pants) but if a man wears a dress that they are automatically (and correctly I may add) assumed to be homosexuals? Shouldn’t the question presented in 1Cor 11:14 “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” also make us ask “Does not even nature itself teach you” that for a woman to wear man’s clothing is a shame? As already confirmed by the example of a man wearing a dress, nature does teach us different.
The author now reiterates his New Testament references, so let’s see if they contain any rules in themselves which would make us believe that women can’t wear pants. First, we can address 1 Corinthians 6:9 and say that that verse in the original language is actually talking about homosexual practice, as Natalie explained in depth here: (Separation from the world). Even if it’s not, it addresses men, and tells them in general that they shouldn’t act like women, but leaves the rules entirely up to conscience, not to their pastor.
The only other New Testament reference he has is entirely about hair and probably head coverings too (though, that is another topic). How do we get from hair, to saying that men and women’s clothing has to be more differentiated than it was in the Old Testament? I don’t know. By trying to link this passage to Deuteronomy, the author admits that the rule he’s striving to implement isn’t in the passage at all. On this, I agree with him, and so he leaves me no Scripture to address.
Another argument he raises in addition to the Scripture is “doesn’t nature itself teach us that a woman wearing pants is bad?” In order to make an appeal to “common sense” or “nature,” there has to be some widespread agreement on the issue. In fact, I can make this argument more strongly than he can, because 99% of the Western culture would agree with me when I ask “isn’t it common sense that a woman in pants can be feminine?” “Everyone knows” isn’t a logical proof under the best circumstances, but when you say that, and in fact everyone disagrees with you, it is a very thin argument indeed.
Is There a Double Standard?
A more valid argument in this paragraph refers to the perceived “double standard” of men not being allowed to wear dresses, but women being allowed to wear pants. I think this is one of the most compelling arguments the author makes, so I applaud him for coming up with it. Here’s why I submit there is no double standard. The standard is, men and women should embrace their God-given gender and strive to live up to the universal standards as well as the gender specific standards that God set for them in Scripture. I could make a biblical case for that in the New Testament, but as I suspect we are agreed, I won’t spend the time doing that.
If “embracing your gender specific roles” is the standard, how do we evaluate a man who we see in a dress? Well, if he’s Moroccan, he’s probably wearing a jellaba and he’s embracing his gender role. If he’s Indian, he’s probably wearing a dhoti and embracing his gender role. If he’s Scottish, he’s probably wearing a kilt and embracing his gender role. If he’s American, he may be wearing any of the above garments and embracing his gender role, or he may be wearing some sort of apron or lab coat that is relevant to his occupation and embracing his gender role. But if he puts on a cute, floral dress, the author is right that he is almost surely rejecting his gender role. He could also reject his gender role by putting on a cute, floral pair of women’s pants. A woman meanwhile can embrace her femininity in a pair of pants or she can reject it. She can also reject her gender role while wearing a dress or while wearing a type of “dress” designed for men. The standard is clear and even. Are you embracing your gender role that God gave you in your heart? If so, your dress will reflect your heart, but exactly what that looks like cannot be simply prescribed by a third party. And, oh, by the way, tasteful jewelry is one way women can embrace their femininity, as the Bible clearly prescribes.
And let’s be real, if you run your errands today, you will see women in pants as bank tellers, fast food workers, home-schooling mothers, and insurance agents. You don’t really go home and say “you wouldn’t believe it, but I counted 42 lesbians today!” Because you acknowledge that woman can embrace their gender roles while wearing pants.
Furthermore, the author has opened himself up to a double standard charge as well. If God’s Word is so set against men and women wearing “the same” clothing, here are some things that would fall into that category. Almost all of these things were first worn by men: T-shirts (originally invented for men’s military use), boots, tennis shoes, baseball style hats, belts, socks, sweaters, stockings, and hoodies. How come he thinks a “woman’s pair of pants” is absurd, but a woman’s belt, boots, t-shirt, scarf, hoodie, stockings, or socks are completely ok?
No doubt the acceptation of tearing down the clothing differences between the sexes was initiated by Satan to open the door to the homosexual spirits by weakening the conscience of our modern society. The rebellious nature that allows a woman professing to be a Christian to wear pants can also cause them to be lured deeper toward a lesbian desire. Peter stated that “after this manner in the old time the holy women adorned themselves being in subjection unto their own husbands”. Does dressing in equal attire to the husband display that they are under subjection to the man or even to God? The question is how important is it to you to get to heaven? Is rebellion for such a small indulgence of wearing clothing that the Bible prohibits, worth going to Hell?
1 Peter 3:3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 3:4 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. 3:5 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:
At this point, the author offers the unsubstantiated conjecture that homosexuality came from women’s pants. The only link he attempts to draw to prove this audacious claim is that wearing pants is “rebellion.” My answer to which is – rebellion is bad, don’t be in rebellion against legitimate authority. He does not successfully link pants to rebellion, either historically or in the modern age.
He references the matriarchs of the Jewish faith as evidence that holy women dress in a holy way. I agree with this wholeheartedly, and as I exposited at length, these women wore the same basic garments as their husbands, with only minor differences, and that under the Old Covenant. If they could do that in times past, then their example should be adequate to show that the most conservative women today can wear pants that are styled or embroidered differently from their husbands, and women who don’t think that Old Testament law applies to us should worry more about their hearts and actions than whether there is a rose embroidered on their pants.
Abominations and Modesty
I would like to address at least two other arguments against pants which the author didn’t bring up. The first is the issue of abominations being unchangeable. This is a fundamentally arbitrary standard which has no inherent biblical basis other than “the Lord doesn’t change” which doesn’t differentiate how “abominations” are different than any other of the hundreds of other Old Testament rules which our unchanging God definitely changed. I address this in much more depth here for those who are interested. Even if you think that this verse in Deuteronomy still applies, there are still a tremendous number of clothes which women and men could wear which would meet the Old Testament standard. Deciding that pants aren’t distinct enough, but t-shirts are, still makes no sense.
The second is that women’s pants are inherently immodest. A few issues with that. First off, if you a do a Google image search for the word “skirt” you will find that less than 1 in 10 skirts shown would be considered appropriate in a Holiness church. So skirts aren’t inherently modest, but if you shop hard enough, you can find modest ones. Pants are no different. What defines modesty precisely is another discussion, but is certainly related to my discussion on where we draw the lines. But ask yourself this, do men have to be modest too? I think yes. Can men be modest in pants? Yes. Therefore women can be modest in pants, even if they have to look a little harder to find them.
I do not see that the author of the Holiness Handbook has fulfilled his burden of proof in restricting our Christian sisters to the wearing of the garments that he has authorized (which do overlap with men’s clothing such as t-shirts and boots, but don’t include pants). In regards to the two things he had to prove, I do not think that there is sufficient New Testament evidence to show that gender distinction is biblically required in clothing. Even if you think he has proven this point adequately, he certainly did not show that women’s pants fail to meet that standard described in Scripture. At least some women’s pants meet the Old Covenant standard for clothing and they must certainly then meet the New Covenant standard.
The author closes with the bold proclamation that those of us who disagree with his assessment of this completely non-essential issue risk going to Hell. To which I respond with Titus 3:9 “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.” This whole topic is fundamentally a striving about Old Testament law, or perhaps about a completely unstated hidden rule in the New Testament. That makes the whole topic unprofitable at best, and simply a matter of pride, vanity and control of others at worst.
Allow me to summarize all of the relevant arguments for women’s liberty to wear pants:
1) The passage in Deuteronomy may actually be referring to women wearing armor.
2) The OT law would have permitted women to wear pants if that was the custom of men at the time – men and women wore slightly different garments, not fundamentally different ones.
3) The New Testament references that men and women are different and that they must embrace their respective roles, but says nothing about a particular distinction being required in their clothing.
4) There is no effective link that can resurrect the verse in Deuteronomy without also resurrecting dozens of other Old Testament laws which address principles repeated in the New Testament (such as stoning your children).
5) The origin of pants for men was a matter of practicality, not rebellion. The origin of pants for women was fundamentally a matter of practicality, not rebellion.
6) Rebellion from some individuals that wore women’s pants does not taint pants any more than it taints any other clothing we wear (such as the “pagan” skirt and the prodigal suit inventor).
7) If pants are inappropriate for women for reasons related to their original, biblical, or current use by men, this would rule out socks, stockings, hose, t-shirts, boots, hoodies, belts, skirts, button down shirts, many styles of hats, and much more.
8) If some pants are modest enough for men, then there are some modest enough for women.
9) Restricting women from wearing pants precludes them from participation in many wholesome activities and from many forms of exercise which would help live longer, healthier lives.
Want to see someone take me on? Check out this full length rebuttal submitted by a reader.
Want more arguments in favor of women’s liberty to wear pants? Check out my answer to his rebuttal.
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Note that this article makes a lot of references to the history of fashion. I prefer to cite firsthand accounts, and I have done so in part by providing pictures from the times referenced. I didn’t think it was worth the time to write a truly authoritative study on the history of various articles of clothing, but I have seen enough sources to be confident that the facts I cited are true. Feel free to cross check other sources.
In depth commentary on Deuteronomy 22:5: http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1010-99192013000100001
John Wesley quote on Christians and fashion: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Wesley
History of bathroom signs: https://infographicplaza.com/the-history-of-bathroom-signs/
An overview of the history of the skirt: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skirt
An overview of the history of pants: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trousers
Inventor of the suit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beau_Brummell