Legalism: Is It Sinful For Women To Wear Pants?

Is It Sinful For Women To Wear Pants?

Pants: articles of clothing or a tool of Satan?


The encroachment of legalism in our day, as in days past, is no laughing matter. Left unchecked, it can lead to a Pharisaic mindset and the eventual manifestation of dead works and idolatry within a once faithful congregation. Even amongst believers, it has become a very real problem. All Christians, I suspect, hold legalistic notions to one degree or another. However, when we make commandments of men out of these notions and impose them upon others, we jeopardize Christian liberty and congregational legitimacy. When we allow these carnal traditions to create divisions amongst the brethren, we need to take the matter seriously, repent, and strive to eradicate the errors and mindsets that generated them.

One clear example of legalism in our midst today, is this archaic notion that it is wrong for women to wear pants. I would challenge anyone to find a single passage of scripture prohibiting women from wearing pants; I said I would challenge anyone but I am not actually going to because it would be a waste of time. There is no prohibition against ‘pants wearing’ for women anywhere in the Bible; in fact, the Bible has little to say about clothing standards at all. The relatively few passages, especially in the New Testament, that directly pertain to clothing are mostly either exhortations towards godly modesty, right judgment, and humility — or else they are warnings against immodesty, unrighteous judgment, and pride. Consider the following passages at issue:

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; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

Titus 2:3 The aged women likewise, that [they be] in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 [To be] discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, ye wives, [be] in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation [coupled] with fear. 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; 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. 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: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: (in the spiritual sense of course, but as manifested in application) for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Nothing in the above references have anything to do with women wearing pants. Some may try to twist the meanings to make it apply as such (I will address this in the common objections section below), but there is no legitimate biblical justification for either prohibiting women from wearing pants or looking down upon (or otherwise unjustly judging) those who do.

Man-made Traditions vs. The Word of God

As discussed in a recent article, beyond the call for modesty and humility, the Bible has little to say about attire — especially in the New Testament. The scriptural call for soberness and temperance also makes it clear that dress should not only be modest and humble, but reasonable as well. We do not want to stand out, making spectacles of ourselves; we definitely do not want to do this out of ill-conceived notions of prideful religiosity, extremism, or any other such manifestation of folly.

If a congregation allows a modest pair of pants to affect church fellowship, church discipline, and Christian unity, that congregation has a problem on its hands that goes well beyond clothing. That congregation has moved into the realm of making man-made traditions, cultural preferences, anachronistic distinctions, and the like, doctrines when they are nothing more than commandments of men. Thus, I reiterate the point that if we go beyond scripture, and make even modest and reasonable clothing a point of separation, then we become like those in Isaiah 65:5 who say “Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.”

Common Objections

Deuteronomy 22:5 clearly teaches that women must not wear pants.

Deuteronomy 22:5 clearly teaches no such thing. This passage reads as follows:

AV/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.”

LITV: “There shall not be the thing of a man on a woman, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment. For whoever does these things is an abomination to Jehovah your God.”

YLT: “The habiliments of a man are not on a woman, nor doth a man put on the garment of a woman, for the abomination of Jehovah thy God [is] any one doing these.”

Many will be shocked to learn that the two parts of the first sentence are not directly parallel. Notice that God did not state “[The woman shall not put on a man’s garment], neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment.” God could have worded it like this, but He did not. I believe that He did not use such wording because He is dealing with two different, albeit related, issues. One issue pertains to the prohibition of women wearing the habiliments of strong men and the other pertains to the prohibition against strong men wearing the garments of women.

That word translated as habiliments in Young’s Literal Translation (the YLT) is key to the understanding of this passage; the word in the Hebrew is kĕliy (Strong’s #H3627) and it literally means:

a) article, object (general); b) utensil, implement, apparatus, vessel; 1) implement (of hunting or war); 2) implement (of music); 3) implement, tool (of labour); 4) equipment, yoke (of oxen); 5) utensils, furniture; c) vessel, receptacle (general); d) vessels (boats) of paper-reed.

In the AV/KJV, the word is translated as:

Vessel 166 times, instrument 39 times, weapon 21 times, jewel 21 times, armourbearer (when followed by Strong’s #05375) 18 times, stuff 14 times, thing 11 times, armour 10 times, furniture 7 times, carriage 3 times, bag 2 times, and miscellaneously 13 times (but never as either garment or clothes).

Given that kĕliy or habiliments is never translated as garment or clothes, but is often translated in relation to instruments of war — many see this as a prohibition against women taking arms (e.g. fighting in wars or other battles) or otherwise performing those jobs or duties specifically assigned to men in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 22:5, the word garment means just that — it literally means wrapper, mantle, covering garment, garments, clothes, raiment, a cloth. In the AV/KJV, it is translated as raiment eleven times, clothes six times, garment six times, apparel twice, cloth twice, and clothing twice.

Also, consider the word for man in Deuteronomy 22:5; it is not the Hebrew word most commonly translated man. In the Old Testament, the most common Hebrew word for man is ‘adam (makes sense right?); the Strong’s number is H120. In the AV/KJV, ‘adam is translated as man, or men, 529 times.

In contrast, the word for man in Deuteronomy 22:5 is geber (Strong’s #H1397) and it literally means strong man or warrior (in the sense of emphasizing strength or ability to fight). This Hebrew word derives from the Hebrew primitive root word, gabar (Strong’s H1396) which means “1) to prevail, have strength, be strong, be powerful, be mighty, be great.”

So we see that for women, the focus is on instruments of war in Deuteronomy 22:5. It strongly appears that the passage is not meant to prohibit women from wearing men’s clothes (what if she could only afford to wear her husband’s clothes? What if she was cold and wanted to put on some of his garments?), but it is designed of God to prohibit women from donning the military armour of warriors / strong men. The passage may also have a broader meaning, encompassing other instruments authorized only for men, perhaps like certain religious instruments — given that strong men and warriors can refer to those who are strong in the spiritual sense.

If the prohibition is indeed against women (a) donning or carrying certain instruments of war, (b) engaging in warfare, and/or (c) donning/carrying any instrument of an occupational or religious nature restricted to use by men only, then every single erroneous judgment anyone has ever made about women wearing pants is indeed based solely upon man-made tradition and legalism (i.e. human error). This possibility, which is a very strong possibility, ought to make us very careful not to judge rashly on matters as unimportant as… the wearing of pants.

However, for the sake of hammering out the matter, let’s presume that it really isn’t about wearing armour and instruments of war (or any other occupational instrument designed exclusively for men), but it’s about clothing in general (even though the Hebrew words do not bear this out). Even in working under this presumption, it would be clear that the intent of the passage, so interpreted, would be the prohibition of cross-dressing (transvestism, transvestitism, transvestic fetishism) and similar attempts to blur the line between men and women, male and female, and the divine roles associated with each.

If a woman was wearing pants because she (a) wanted to be ‘the man,’ (b) wanted to become a man, (c) felt like a man, or (d) wanted to be seen as such, then clearly this verse would apply under the second interpretation. However, the mere fact that there are mens pants and womens pants, with clear distinctions between them, indicates that the majority of women who wear them are not doing so because they (1) are trying to be men, (2) trying to look like men, or (3) trying to usurp the authority of men simply because they put on a pair of women’s jeans.

Considering that a man wearing women’s pants, whether they be Capris, Palazzos, long-style Culottes, Gauchos, or any other kind, would most definitely stand out in a crowd, it becomes obvious that there are clear gender distinctions between mens pants and women’s pants. Even with jeans, a man wearing jeans made for women would have a hard time hiding it.

Women wearing skirts and dresses is common throughout large parts of the world, and has been common throughout human history — so there is something to be said for women wearing them. However, the issue is whether this fact, or anything else, makes it wrong for women to wear pants in our day. It is my staunch belief that women wearing the pants is wrong; but it isn’t wrong for them to wear the article of clothing by that name.

Consider that women in the east, at various times, wore pants or pants-like articles of clothing well before western women. Apparently it started in Persia and spread to parts of the existing ‘western world’ for a season sometime in, or around, the fourth century. The wearing of it died out in the west for centuries thereafter (although, as we will see below, the Bulgarians were wearing them in the 9th century).

Women wear pants today to identify with feminists (and/or the rock and roll culture) in particular, or else with the unsaved world in general.

There are people who actually believe this stuff; the Internet is full of sites with the most utterly inane arguments to this effect. I have seen the works of those who impute to women the most horrible and ridiculous of motives for wearing pants. The self-righteous, Bible-twisting nature of all of them is beyond belief; they exude legalism. The fact is that most women wear them simply for functional purposes; to charge them with having, or to imply that they have, other motives is most foolish and ungodly.

Most of the people writing these types of things are so holed-up in their own worlds and cultures that they have no choice but to frame things negatively (due to the limited light in which they can see and understand things outside of their own experiences). Although we are to be in the world, but not of it, these people act as though they are not even in it. Thus, they are unaware of what most people’s motives are, what they think and do, and why they think and do it. They fail to realise that we all have sin, we all are sin by nature; the ‘holier than thou’ accusations they make evidences how little they see it in themselves and how much they want to see it in others.

However, for the sake of argument, let’s say that the reason why western women started wearing pants again, in our modern age, was because of a feminist plot to blur the genders and their roles. Does this plot have any bearing on women today who have no such motive in wearing women’s pants and have likely never even heard of such a plot? Does the fact that a piece of clothing that was (a) once deemed by many to be only for men, (b) pushed on women for ill reasons decades ago, and (c) has now become a ‘staple’ article of clothing for women worldwide — does this make the article of clothing, when worn by women, sinful in itself? Has it now become some nefarious tool of the devil? Of course not.

Styles change for many reasons, some good, some bad, but as long as the gender lines and roles remain clear; as long as there is no ill motive or intent; and as long as the clothing is reasonable and modest — then the clothing, or the wearing of it, is not sinful in and of itself. Romans 14:14 declares that there is “nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him [it is] unclean.” Likewise 1 Corinthians 10:23 declares “All things are lawful for me…” Now there is a flip-side to these two passages, and I will address that below; however, I mention them here in the sense that whatever is not prohibited by God ought not be made sinful or unclean by men.

Women are required to dress modestly and pants are inherently immodest.

If pants are inherently immodest, then men should not wear them either. Some say that pants draw attention to the private areas; well, if they do so for women, they do so for men also. The fact that for millenia men throughout the world have worn items of clothing other than pants (see below) suggests that men do not have to wear them. In our day and age of openly aggressive and immoral women (not to mention homosexuals), men also need to dress reasonably and modestly.

So if the argument is that pants are inherently immodest only for women, remember that the same arguments can be made against men wearing them. Note also that such a notion is extremely subjective and many, many Christian men and women would readily disagree with the hypocrisy of it.

Moreover, many dresses, skirts, and the like can be far more provocative, sensual, enticing, etc, than a modest pair of pants/jeans. Modest jeans, in fact, stand out far less than dresses, skirts, etc. in many instances — including modest skirts and dresses. If the concern is for modesty, and not drawing unwanted attention from men, women may be better off in a pair of appropriate jeans in many cases. The use of accessories like cardigans, sweaters, longer shirts, etc. can minimize any concerns regarding pants.

Some say that since pants leave ‘space between the legs’ then women are immodest in wearing them. Again, the same can be said for men wearing them. Moreover, some skirts and dresses do the same. In fact, one can argue that since the privates are “shut in” when wearing pants (much like the hands are when wearing gloves), there is more modesty in wearing pants than in wearing dresses and skirts that need not be removed (enough said on that).

Now granted, if the pants are inappropriately tight, low cut, modified with slits, holes, etc., then there is a real modesty issue. Yet the same can be said of shirts, blouses, dresses, skirts, and sweaters for women. If women are wearing women’s [enter any article of clothing] that is modestly fit, without provocative cuts, slices, holes, etc, then it is nothing more than a stretch and a fancy to deem it sinful. When we judge women, look down upon them, distance ourselves from them, or ecclesiastically discipline them over the wearing of modest pants, we are engaging in nothing short of legalism. Thus, the fact remains that many ungodly women wear pants, but so do ungodly men. Many ungodly women wear dresses, but so do ungodly men. Many godly women where pants, and so do godly men. Many godly women where dresses… but here the parallel ends.

Pants are for men and dresses are for women, it’s always been that way.

Even the deluded papists saw the folly in this debate. On November 13, 866 A.D. (yes, 866 A.D., not 1886 A.D.), “Pope” Nicholas I wrote the following to King Boris of Bulgaria:

We consider what you asked about pants (femoralia) to be irrelevant; for we do not wish the exterior style of your clothing to be changed, but rather the behavior of the inner man within you, nor do we desire to know what you are wearing except Christ — for however many of you have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ [Gal. 3:27] — but rather how you are progressing in faith and good works.

But since you ask concerning these matters in your simplicity, namely because you were afraid lest it be held against you as a sin, if you diverge in the slightest way from the custom of other Christians, and lest we seem to take anything away from your desire, we declare that in our books, pants (femoralia) are ordered to be made, not in order that women may use them, but that men may.

But act now so that, just as you passed from the old to the new man, [cf. Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:9-10] you pass from your prior custom to ours in all things; but really do what you please. For whether you or your women wear or do not wear pants (femoralia) neither impedes your salvation nor leads to any increase of your virtue.

Of course, because we have said that pants are ordered to be made, it should be noted that we put on pants spiritually, when we restrain the lust of the flesh through abstinence; for those places are constrained by pants in which the seats of luxury are known to be. This is why the first humans, when they felt illicit motions in their members after sin, ran into the leaves of a fig tree and wove loin cloths for themselves.[cf. Gen. 3:7] But these are spiritual pants, which you still could not bear, and, if I may speak with the Apostle, you are not yet able; for you are still carnal.[I Cor. 3:2] And thus we have said a few things on this matter, although, with God’s gift, we could say many more.

Sadly, it is clear that even the papists took a more lenient, less legalistic attitude than many of the Protestants in our day. Now this “Pope” states that in their society, pants, trousers, etc. were worn by men; however, in Bulgaria, both men and women wore them. Out of concern perhaps, for what the legalists had to say (and those affected by them), this King made his inquiry. The papist’s response that “whether you or your women wear or do not wear pants (femoralia) neither impedes your salvation nor leads to any increase of your virtue” should be heeded by all in our day. Also, the mere fact that Bulgarian men and women both wore trousers indicates that there was no universal rule against women wearing them (again the Persians and Indians did as well). It’s all about modesty, reasonableness, and the motive and intent behind wearing the pants — it is not about the physical material or style.

Consider also that although dresses, or dress-like garbs, are a common article of clothing for women worldwide (and have been throughout time), it would nonetheless be a good idea to look at the dress styles of old and to research the matter a bit more carefully than those who are quick to judge. As stated, pants-like clothing existed for women in the east without accusations of them wearing the clothing of men (at least as far as I can ascertain). More interestingly however, is the matter of the garb worn by men. It is not at all unusual to see men of the past wearing what looks to be women’s clothing. Men throughout the world wore items of clothing that looked very much like skirts, dresses, and feminine robes. Were they doing it in violation of Deuteronomy 22:5? Not at all! Firstly, Deuteronomy 22:5 appears to relate to instruments of war. However, even taking the alternative interpretation, there was no common, across the board, intent to cross-dress, walk as a transvestite, live or act like a woman, etc. They were simply wearing clothing acceptable in their culture for men; clothing deemed manly in their day, but not so much in our current society and culture.

There are many examples of such clothing styles. For instance, Polynesian men went to war wearing what we would call a grass skirt; were they sinning in light of this because skirts are for women? To many Americans, the Scottish Kilt looks a bit like a skirt; should we prohibit men from wearing kilts because it too closely resembles “womens wear;” should Christians really succumb to such a legalistic mindset? Or should we go the other extreme and fault women for wearing clothing today, that resembles what men of old wore, and what some still wear in their societies? One could even argue that wearing pants is a departure for men, i,e, that they departed from wearing kilts and other things that look, or looked, like womens skirts and dresses.

Some other examples include the Sarong and its multiple variations; to the uninformed, this common article of clothing found in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, etc., worn also by men, may look a bit feminine – are these men guilty of violating Deuteronomy 22:5? If so, then so are the Kenyan men who wear the traditional kikoi garb; or the Arabs and Persians who wear the Kaftan (which some could argue resembles a dress); or the Balkans in their Fustanellas; or the Bhutanese in their Ghos — none of these styles of clothing are typical menswear in western society (though they are clearly masculine, reasonable, and appropriate to those who are not quick to judge on such matters).

Consider also the Japanese Hakama; I know several Aikido experts who would find someone a bit odd if they tried to argue that their clothing looks more like clothing for women and that they should wear pants instead. Given that both men and women now where the Hakama for martial arts purposes, should we say they are sinning, when they are simply wearing clothing suitable to the function at hand.

That leads to another point, functionality. Today, pants are often simply more functional, durable, affordable, and perhaps comfortable than some skirts or dresses (speculating on the latter, I wouldn’t know personally). Women wearing pants designed for women are not sinning for wearing them. I think pants make more sense when working in the garden, spring cleaning, and doing anything else where wear-and-tear and dirt can accumulate. Also, many women started wearing pants for the mere functionality when they had to take jobs usually filled by men because the men were away at war (World War I, II, etc.). To make the blanket argument that they are all sinning for wearing pants evidences a gross misunderstanding of what sin really is.

Godly women have been wearing dresses for ages, are you saying that they are all wrong?

It is true that godly women have been wearing dresses for quite some time; but godly women have been wearing, and will continue to wear pants for years to come; are you saying that they are all wrong? It’s an arbitrary argument and objection. Instead of making logically fallacious appeals to tradition; Christians need to focus on the word of God.

Why do you feel the need to be different; doesn’t Christian humility and unity demand that Christian women do what other Christian women do?

No; it demands no such thing. Conformity for the sake of weaker brethren is often good; however, conformity to uphold legalism is always bad and the Lord Jesus Christ never engaged in it when confronted by the Scribes and Pharisees. Therefore, this appeal to conformity only serves to feed and nourish legalism and error.

We need to set a proper example for the world and set ourselves apart from the unregenerate in it (so that the world can see Christ in us).

As I have stated in a previous post, beyond standards for sobriety, humility, and modesty, wearing certain articles of clothing does not improve our testimony. It does not make us more sincere or sanctified; nor does it prove a greater degree of earnestness or devotion. Those who think otherwise are trusting in religiousity and outward show.

We dress to protect ourselves from the elements and from lust; we do not dress to adhere to anachronistic traditions of men — especially not ones that encourage us to esteem ourselves over others. We set ourselves apart from the world, by God’s grace and effectual working, by (a) proclaiming the gospel without compromise and (b) adorning the doctrine of Christ with character and conduct meet for a Gospel profession (as God ordains and enables).

We do not set ourselves apart from the world by clothing (beyond what has been specified already) or other outward exhibitions of religious notion, custom and tradition. In reality, it is God who sets us apart, sanctifying us and making us holy in Christ. Traditions turned into commandments of men only serve to do injustice to the Christian cause and the glory and honour of Christ.

Even if the above is true, women still should not wear pants in the assembly of the saints.

This is true for those desiring to follow after the traditions of men. As stated in my recent post in my legalism series, we are to turn away from the notion of artificial, unbiblical dress codes imposed upon the worship service (See Modest pants have nothing to do with reverence towards God, preparation of the heart to hear His word, or any other such thing; those who believe otherwise are following in the error of outward show and religious exhibition. We are commanded to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, not in suits (or dress shirts) and dresses.

John Gill On Deuteronomy 22:5

I would like to turn to the commentary of one familiar source, to see what he had to say on the matter. John Gill, in his commentary, wrote:

Ver. 5. The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man,…. It being very unseemly and impudent, and contrary to the modesty of her sex; or there shall not be upon her any “instrument of a man” {f}, any utensil of his which he makes use of in his trade and business; as if she was employed in it, when her business was not to do the work of men, but to take care of her house and family; and so this law may be opposed to the customs of the Egyptians, as is thought, from whom the Israelites were lately come; whose women, as Herodotus {g} relates, used to trade and merchandise abroad, while the men kept at home; and the word also signifies armour {h}, as Onkelos renders it; and so here forbids women putting on a military habit and going with men to war, as was usual with the eastern women; and so Maimonides {i} illustrates it, by putting a mitre or an helmet on her head, and clothing herself with a coat of mail; and in like manner Josephus {k} explains it,

“take heed, especially in war, that a woman do not make use of the habit of a man, or a man that of a woman;”

nor is he to be found fault with so much as he is by a learned writer {l}, since he does not restrain it wholly to war, though he thinks it may have a special regard to that; for no doubt the law respects the times of peace as well as war, in neither of which such a practice should obtain: but the Targum of Jonathan very wrongly limits it to the wearing fringed garments, and to phylacteries, which belonged to men:

neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment; which would betray effeminacy and softness unbecoming men, and would lead the way to many impurities, by giving an opportunity of mixing with women, and so to commit fornication and adultery with them; to prevent which and to preserve chastity this law seems to be made; and since in nature a difference of sexes is made, it is proper and necessary that this should be known by difference of dress, or otherwise many evils might follow; and this precept is agreeably to the law and light of nature: it is observed by an Heathen writer {m}, that there is a twofold distribution of the law, the one written, the other not written; what we use in civil things is written, what is from nature and use is unwritten, as to walk naked in the market, or to put on a woman’s garment: and change of the clothes of sexes was used among the Heathens by way of punishment, as of the soldiers that deserted, and of adulteresses {n}; so abominable was it accounted: indeed it may be lawful in some cases, where life is in danger, to escape that, and provided chastity is preserved:

for all that do so are an abomination to the Lord thy God; which is a reason sufficient why such a practice should not be used. Some from this clause have been led to conclude, that respect is had to some customs of this kind used in idolatrous worship, which are always abominable to the Lord. So Maimonides {o} observes, that in a book of the Zabians, called “Tomtom”, it is commanded, that a man should wear a woman’s garment coloured when he stood before the star of Venus, and likewise that a woman should put on a coat of mail and warlike armour when she stood before the star of Mars; which he takes to be one reason of this law, though besides that he gives another, because hereby concupiscence would be excited, and an occasion for whoredom given: that there was some such customs among the Heathens may be confirmed from Macrobius {p}, and Servius {q} as has been observed by Grotius; the former of which relates, that Philochorus affirmed that Venus is the moon, and that men sacrificed to her in women’s garments, and women in men’s; and for this reason, because she was thought to be both male and female; and the latter says, there was an image of Venus in Cyprus with a woman’s body and garment, and with the sceptre and distinction of a man, to whom the men sacrificed in women’s garments, and women in men’s garments; and, as the above learned commentator observes, there were many colonies of the Phoenicians in Cyprus, from whom this custom might come; and to prevent it obtaining among the Israelites in any degree, who were now coming into their country, it is thought this law was made; for the priests of the Assyrian Venus made use of women’s apparel {r}, and in the feasts of Bacchus men disguised themselves like women {s}.

As far as I can tell, Dr. Gill makes no clear reference to pants, trousers, or anything of the sort. This does not prove anything, but it is interesting at least, that in his given examples… armour comes up, but not pants.

What About T-Shirts, Cardigans, etc?

According to wikipedia:

T-shirts, as a slip on garment without buttons, originally became popular in the United States when they were issued by the U.S. Navy during or following the Spanish American War. These were a crew-necked, short-sleeved, white cotton undershirt to be worn under a uniform. It became common for sailors and Marines in work parties, the early submarines, and tropical climates to remove their uniform “jacket”, wearing (and soiling) only the undershirt. It is possible that the Navy uniform boards first discovered the T-shirt by watching dock crews.

Named the T-shirt due to the shape of the garment’s outline, they soon became popular as a bottom layer of clothing for workers in various industries, including agriculture. The T-shirt was easily fitted, easily cleaned, and inexpensive, and for this reason, it became the shirt of choice for young boys (perhaps more the choice of their mothers than of the boys themselves). Boys’ shirts were made in various colors and patterns.

By the time of the Great Depression, the T-shirt was often the default garment to be worn when doing farm or ranch chores, as well as other times when modesty called for a torso covering but conditions called for lightweight fabrics.

It is clear that T-Shirts were created originally for men (since only men served in the Navy back then); thus, is it a sin for a woman to wear a T-shirt (either under something else or otherwise)? If one is going to be consistent with their erroneous interpretation of Deuteronomy 22:5, then the answer must be yes.

According to several sources, (including cardigans were also exclusively menswear. As per the article titled “The Beginnings of the Cardigan:”

The accepted story of the cardigan sweater begins as far back as the mid 1800’s during the Crimean War. James Thomas Brudenell was the 7th Earl of Cardigan – and he’s who the sweater was named after. This British military commander served in this war and thus began the wearing of the cardigan sweater in popular culture.

But the cardigan sweater became very popular in the 17th century with the French and in the British Isles with the fisherman of the times. These sweaters proved to be invaluable on the cold seas.Once fashioned with harder materials like wool, this one piece sweater generally has buttons or other fastening pieces in the front. These buttons will help to close the front of the sweater either from the bottom to the top or perhaps only to the middle of the torso, depending on the style and the cut. Some cardigans will also have zippers instead of buttons that can help to secure the sweater in the front.

I am sure that if one wanted to invest the time, they would find other articles of clothing, accepted by many to be appropriate for women, that were originally made for men. Unless all of these are prohibited as well (by the misinterpretation of Deuteronomy 22:5), it would be ‘unfair’ to single out pants.

Am I Advocating Pants-wearing?

Not at all; as stated, as long as it is modest, humble, reasonable, and not worn for the intent of blurring the sexes, it matters little to me what a person wears. If a woman wants to wear dresses only, more power to her. If she wants to wear dresses and skirts, so be it — it makes no difference. If she wants to wear dresses, skirts, and pants, or pants only, so what? Is it modest? Is it appropriate/reasonable? Is it a form of clothing clearly made for women (i.e. is it a pair of pants or jeans designed for women)? If so, then there is no biblical prohibition against it. There may be traditions, cultural norms, and commandments of men to contend with; however, God does not pass judgment upon it – at least not in any way affirmed or declared in the Bible that I can find.

With that being said; Christian women are indeed not to be, or act as, feminists. They are not to try and blur the roles, or to usurp authority over men. Yet, they are not to be in bondage to the dictates of Pharisees (or those influenced by them) either; although they are to submit to their husbands in all things lawful. Thus, if the husband states that his own wife, and/or daughters, ought not to wear pants/trousers/jeans, then the wife and daughters are to honour this decision as unto God (and yet the husband should still check his motives, facts, and presumptions so as not to come across as being unduly dictatorial, Pharisaic, or otherwise ignorant).

I mentioned Romans 14:14 above, which states “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that [there is] nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him [it is] unclean.However, verse 15 goes on to state “But if thy brother be grieved with [thy] meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.” In other words, if wearing pants will cause your weaker brethren to stumble, then for their sakes — don’t wear them. If your wearing of such clothes will tempt other women to wear pants against their consciences, for their sakes, don’t wear pants – abstain. We are not called to abstain for the legalists and those amongst the brethren following in their error (imposing judgments upon others without warrant), but we are called to be mindful of the weaker brethren who may feel that they ought to act as you, or otherwise change their norms of dress (like boys and men ceasing to wear suits when they see your pants, against their consciences) because they feel that they need to proceed as you do. 1 Corinthians 8:4-13 reiterates this precept and attitude; ‘if [wearing pants or jeans] makes [your] brother to offend, [wear no pants] while the world standeth, lest [you] make [your] brother to offend.‘ Remember that as per 1 Corinthians 10:23 (to 33), all things (that are not prohibited by God in His word) are lawful for the believer, but all things are not expedient, nor do all things edify. Although we are not to let anyone judge us in either Old Testament signs or man-made commandments, nonetheless, we want to operate peaceably with all men where possible.

I cannot stress this enough, my argument has little to do with clothing and everything to do with rebutting the ungodly notion that men should be allowed to trample upon the liberty of others by imposing upon them religious rules and regulations that God nowhere imposes in His word. I really could not care less about pants themselves; what I care about is having unity amongst real Christians, unity that surpasses denominational lines and pet distinctions that have no foundation in Scripture. Nonetheless, to think that a prohibition against women donning the instruments and armour of war, misconstrued by men, is the cause of so many ill-thoughts, contentions, unbiblical rules and regulations, etc. — it just truly amazes me.

Nonetheless, to God be the glory. May He give us the grace and strength to love Him and to serve Him all the more.


Curt Wildy

  1 comment for “Legalism: Is It Sinful For Women To Wear Pants?

  1. Steve
    December 12, 2021 at 1:07 pm

    Thank for the insight.
    Essentially, God wants us to function as the genders by which we are created, as evidenced contextually in scripture.
    To dress or function as the opposite sex is an insult, impurity, dishonor and perversion.


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