The Perennial Question: Pants

Several people have contacted me in regards to the Pants Question. Should women wear pants? What about cultural and historical differences? They are sincerely weighing the issue of pants, modesty and cultural identification so I would like to offer what I can on the subject.

Cara Michele sent me this link on an article regarding pants and Christian women. Dawn Marie helpfully pointed out that this author comes from a United Pentecostal Church background, who have traditionally maintained a skirts-only requirement for their female members. While the author does an extensive and accurate study into the Greek/Hebrew from key verses, I found that his argumentation may be rooted in trying to undo the more unpleasant aspects of his background. “Tossing Baby with Bathwater” might be a good euphemism to describe the entire article.

He makes a very convincing argument in regards to Deuteronomy verse (22:5) which most skirts-only folks use to justify their position. The context, according to the Hebrew lexicon, is for women to not wear militaristic garb or armor that were singularly male and for men to not wear what was singularly women’s clothing. I wasn’t too clear on what clothing or items was particularly female but I suppose that was clear to the Israelites. Fair enough, I can handle that interpretation.

The author warns against:

It is important that we do not have a knee-jerk reaction to every change in fashion. Clearly, some are indicative of moral decline, but many are not. As with everything, changes in fashion must be weighed against biblical truths to make the determination.

At the same time he thinks there only needs to be a “stylistic” difference between men’s and women’s clothing, with pants being acceptable as long as they look somehow appropriate to each sex. The glaring overlook in the entire article is the issue of Modesty. Yes, those hip-hugger, embroidered jeans may be considered feminine in comparison to loose carpenter pants of men, but they hardly convey sobriety and shame-facedness!

Ok, let’s get down to brass tacks. Do I wear pants? Yes, but not often and under particular circumstances. How do I decide if pants are modest or not? My undergirding principle is to not show my rear or undergarments. When I wear my favorite pair of pants, a loose linen/cotton blend pair, I match it with long button-down blouses that cover that central area. No pantyline woes!

If I go hiking, I wear a set of denim overalls for safety and durability. My husband, the wildlife, and stray hikers are the only others who see me in those. Again, no underwear showing and minimal rear-fitting. I would put my pants wearing at about 10% of my daily wear, with skirts and dresses in the remainder.

Does this mean that I give wholesale approbation to pants-wearing amongst the Christian female populace? Nope. I say this because the pants and the style in which they are worn are not modest. If you have the time, try cruising around some of the cultural boutiques of Modest Clothes. When you generally see pants in these shops, they are paired with long shirts, vests, dusters, or jackets. My favorite are Salwar Kameezes. [Spelling is fluid on that one!] Indian women wear loose cotton or silk paints with a long tunic over top, embroidered and well-sequined!

My second argument with dresses/skirts being more modest than pants is also culturally-based. Most of my readers, I’m guessing, are from Western European heritage, like it or not. There is still ingrained in our common psyche the model of a flowing dress and long hair as singularly feminine and modest. Catholics use Mary as their model, many protestant folks might think of Puritans, Laura Ingalls Wilder, or another stereotype.

Well, you might say, you’re just living up to a stereotype. Yes and No. Yes, because I would like to emulate holy, chaste, and humble women of the past. No, because I think I can turn the stereotypes to my favor. People can use their caricatures to identify me as a religious nut, as they often do, but when they get to know me, the wires get all crossed in their minds. “She’s not acting like a zealot….she’s funny, she gets angry sometimes, she’s not leaving tracts on my desk, she answers my questions without preaching…”

Religious stereotypes only help people remember there may be a fundamental difference in our outlooks. Think of Amish Christians. Think of hijab-wearing Muslim women. Wearing dresses in a non-dresses predominant but still within cultural memory climate is a way of being openly religious in a non-threatening way. People will accept you as you as a Christian, not as necessarily “one of the girls.” You may be surprised at how well strangers will respect you because you respect yourself enough to not give away your body to their gaze.


7 Responses to “The Perennial Question: Pants”

  1. 1 Dawn July 31, 2007 at 8:34 am

    Kudos for an awesome article!!!!

    Pants? What are those? 😉 I wear long johns underneath my skirt or dress in the winter but thats about it for me. Good heavens, me a size 24, wearing a pair of jeans? Ewwww gross! *shudders*. I’ll keep my fat hidden in a dress thank you…ROFL.
    Pants of any sort don’t look good on plus sized people that’s for sure. Either that, or these people just don’t realize what they look like in the selected pants they have on.
    But the “painted on” pants look on skinny women makes me cringe too. Sometimes I just want to ask them “can you breath alright in those”, because they look like they were glued on…LOL.
    Oh, praise the Lord…
    You mentioned those hip hugging jeans…ugh…those things need to be burned altogether! If a woman wants to wear jeans, then she needs to wear them appropriately.
    I haven’t seen a skinny enough woman yet that actually makes those hip hugging thingys look good. All I see are average (size 10) to size 16 women stuffing themselves in these jeans and it’s just the grossest thing.. 😦
    When wearing pants, it’s wise to use tact. Wear them tastefully..not with rolls hanging over the sides…*shudder*.

    I was thinking about that quote you got up there from that guy…and I got to thinking….is it really a good idea for a born again Christian, serving God faithfully daily to be worried about the world’s fashion? I mean, who cares? If the clothing revealed in Hollywood and magazines and television is what is considered fashionable now, I think I will pass.

    As Christians we ought to look nice. After all, we represent the King of Kings. No clothing with rips, tears, stains, etc. Make sure your hair and teeth are brushed and just look presentable before going out the door. 🙂 This is why we have mirrors…although I think with some of the people I see, they forget to look in it before they leave the house 🙂

    God Bless You!

  2. 2 Cara Michele July 31, 2007 at 10:11 am

    Anna, thanks for the thoughtful post! 🙂

  3. 3 MInTheGap July 31, 2007 at 10:24 am

    You handled a tough question very gracefully. A lot of modesty is in how we wear something rather than what we wear. Pants are no different than other items– if someone’s cautious about what they show and are looking not to cause others to stumble, it’ll be reflected in what they wear and how they wear it.

  4. 4 Dr. Alice August 3, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    All I can say is, after being raised to wear skirts all the time, I feel half-dressed if I’m not wearing my white coat over scrub pants in the hospital, and I feel downright undressed the few times I’ve absolutely had to run errands on the way home in scrubs. I don’t know how much you ladylike women have heard men talking frankly about what they see when they look at a woman. In our culture today, you’ve probably heard a few such comments in everyday life. In my world, I’ve heard so much, whenever I remember what they actually think, I feel like a burqa would be a small price to pay to escape from them. Pants? No way. (And I’ve heard such comments from Christian men in a fairly religious/devout setting as well. . . )

  5. 5 Joahna C. Bulanadi April 25, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    Hi Ms. Anna. I’m from the Philippines. In our culture, women are allowed to wear pants and it is common even to some women affiliated to Christian Congregations. However, we have congregations here wherein women really do dresses or skirts as part of their daily lives. I am a Born Again Christian & I have been baptized in Jesus’ name last August 1999. I am now 26 years old. I have not been an active churchgoer for 6 years already an as a result, I have gone back to wearing jeans. I now have a 4 year old daughter. During my college days, when I have been a convert from Catholic to Born Again, most of my schoolmates were shocked with my manner of dressing. You know, I was wearing dresses & skirts. For this month, I find myself studying the Bible, daily because I wish to reconnect with God. I am looking forward to go back to church and I believe that time will come that I won’t be hesitant to wear dresses and skirts again. Actually, I’ve searched on Google : Is it alright for Christian women to wear pants. I’ve read your article and I agree with you. Now I have this question for strictly wearing dresses or skirts to be holy and modest..perhaps you could advise me. My daughter is 4 years old and she’s in Kindergarten. When she goes to Grade School, she will be attending her P.E. and other activities that would require her to wear pants. It would be inappropriate if she wears skirt to pair with her P.E. T-shirt. If she wears the required pants, is it alright? What about if they have swimming lessons? Or for example me, if I go swimming with my friends. Is it alright for Christian women to wear swimsuits? I hope to answers from you regarding this. God Bless!

  6. 6 Mac January 25, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Yes, it’s all right for Christian women to wear swimsuits. The swimsuit should go at least to the knees, to the collarbone, and to the elbows. It should be loose enough that the details of the covered parts are not displayed, such as the crotch, buttocks and the breasts, yet close fitting enough that it is obvious that the wearer is a woman. The fabric should not be of a sort that becomes translucent or sticks to the body when wet. The skirt should readily sink in the water, not float, to avoid improper exposure of the thighs.
    Here is a nice example of a proper women’s bathing-suit:
    Example of an immodest bathing-suit:
    The neck opening is too deep and points at the woman’s slot (space between her breasts), drawing the onlooker’s attention there. the skirt is too short, exposing the lower extremity of the thighs. The skirt is too full, requiring for “modesty” the wearing of (mannish) drawers or underpants, something that only trashy women like (most) actresses, dancers and prostitutes would wear only a few years earlier.

  1. 1 Home-Steeped Hope » Welcome to the Carnival of Modesty Trackback on August 10, 2007 at 4:03 am

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"I can't say I don't believe in your God, but I don't believe He meant the world to be as it is." ~Nicholas Higgins. North and South.

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you are licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what." No idea where that last quote came from, but I like it!

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