May 21, 2024

Who Wears the Pants?

It is interesting how much controversy an article of clothing can generate– none more so than the question of should women wear pants.

My wife, Virtuous Blonde, is greatly anticipating the birth of our next child (February cannot come soon enough!), and since the ultrasound gave her an 85% chance for it to be a girl she’s got a problem.  She wears pants around the house and a skirt/dress to church normally, but she wants to dress a daughter in skirts and dresses all the time.  So, how can she expect her daughter to do it if she’s not doing it! 🙂

Should women wear skirts?  Should they wear them exclusively?  One side of the argument states that since our body types are roughly the same and since there’s more utility in a pair of pants, why not let the women wear them?

BJ discusses the origins of women wearing pants and has a lot of interesting insight:

The first attempt by the feminists to put their ideals into the practice was through the bloomer. This outfit, introduced by Elizabeth Smith Miller, included a skirt reaching half way between the knee and the ankle. Beneath the skirt, Turkish trousers coming down to the ankle were gathered with an elastic band. Although introduced by Elizabeth Smith Miller, this outfit was popularized by Amelia Bloomer from whom its named was derived. However, the bloomer’s existence was short lived. These “unsexed” women as they were referred to provoked a great controversy. It was so great that the feminists finally abandoned the bloomer. Also, the War Between the States focused all attention on the plight of the nation. As a result, the move for dress reform and women’s emancipation soon faded away.

Nevertheless, during the last quarter of the century, these issues reappeared, but the arguments were still the same. “Traditional dress, they said, was that of the female slave who served and pampered her male master. Only with rational dress could pure womanhood free herself from thralldom, attain health and vigor, and compete equally with men in all activities.”5 And gradually, this is what they did. Initially, the wearing of men’s clothes was restricted to the homes. But, it was not long before women wearing men’s clothes appeared on the streets.

He goes on to ask the question about whether God is pleased with women in pants, and he does not believe that God is.  Why not?  Because it’s a violation of the order– women intended to use pants to signify that they were equal with men.  Regardless of your position on whether or not women should speak in church, whether women should wear a head covering, or how long a women’s hair should be, you have to believe that Paul (and therefore the Holy Spirit) went to great lengths to show that there was to be a difference between men and women.

If the wearing of pants truly is a key battleground in the war against God-honoring family roles I might have to get Virtuous Blonde some more dresses/skirts sooner than February!

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20 thoughts on “Who Wears the Pants?

  1. Well, I wrote a long post answering the text, and then something on the server went wrong and it disappeared…
    Anyway, I consider this matter legalistic, and do not think it is really an issue deciding about our salvation.
    For me wearing this or that is simply feeling comfortable and looking decent, regardless of what it is I have on me. The same attitude is found in my church, where older women are more “traditional”, whereas younger women vary the clothing depending on weather, temperature and comfort.
    My shortende three pence…

  2. I used to feel the same way, Anna. That it was a legalistic matter. What I’m coming to feel convicted about, is that if my wearing skirts in any way lends more respect and dignity or honor to the role of Biblical womanhood and modesty than how can I not?

    To boil it all down in terms of me and my world you’d have to read my very first post here at MInTheGap, Little Girls in White Dresses. Surely I’m not the only woman greatly influenced by the trends IN the church, and I’m over thirty. (Granted, not much over!) ;O) My point is, with the teens and young marrieds facing the “clingy pants/shirts, cleavage baring shirts” culture, when we older women join the herd and abandon skirts/dresses I think it “dumbs down” what’s expected. Pretty soon, there’s not higher standard. If noone else is doing it, why should I? Right?

    I’m one of the only ones in our church that wears skirts and dresses only to church. I made a conscious decision to do this earlier in the year. Before that, I wore nice slacks sometimes. Interestingly (sadly) enough, my daughters always commented that I wasn’t wearing a dress. 8 years ago, with a different pastor and his wife (who always wore skirts/dresses), women wearing pants to church was rare. Amazing how what those in leadership do affects everyone else.

    If we don’t cling to some of these more basic tenets of modesty, eventually they’ll be lost. What we’re seeing now in church will become the “new modesty”. That’s how we are. How low can we go and still get away with it…

    On a funny note, my cousin’s great grandfather used to tell how he always thought women must have had strangely different legs than men since they had to wear such long full skirts. He said he was SO surprised on his wedding night to see that his wife actually had LEGS! Lol.

    And I do still wear pants around the house…but not as much as I used to. I’m gradually getting more and more skirts to my name and wearing them accordingly!

  3. The question that I have trouble answering, Anna, isn’t what is more convenient for weather, temperature and comfort. Those have obvious answers. And I definitely don’t think this rises to a salvation level issue.

    What I do not know, and attempted to address, was the idea of does God have a preference? Certainly, on one level, He doesn’t because we can pray and talk to Him no matter what we are wearing (or not wearing!). But on another level, does what we wear say something about who we are? I have to say that it does.

    Since that is the case, what does what we wear say? If it says that I agree with the feminist movement– saying that men and women are equal– then it should be dresses for all God-fearing women. However, I’m not sure that’s the case, and that’s where the discussion has to take place.

    What does a dress say about a woman that a pair of pants does not? And this isn’t a question of what you think it says as much as what others looking at you think– and that’s a hard question.

  4. Two-levelled problem. Because on the one hand – what you wear distinguishes you as a Christian and characterizes you (now – in your eyes: positively, but maybe not so in the eyes of the world? – I really do not know…); but on the other hand – if you differ too much from your contemporaries, it may make the Gospel unpalatable to them (like them thinking – I do not want to be that strange).
    Difficult. Very tricky, very controversial, really.
    And, whether you want it or not – culture-conditioned.
    I found a very appropriate article on the subject:

    And then again another look, the same author:
    “But what do we do with people? We forget the process. We’re usually worrying about how to clean them up before they’re even caught! We want people to stop smoking, stop doing drugs, stop wearing clothes we don’t like, dye their hair back from purple to brown, take the metal out of their faces, and generally clean up their act before%u2014or shortly after%u2014they’ve had an encounter with Jesus. We want a clean tidy church, clean tidy disciples, and clean tidy friends.

    If Christians would have treated me this way, I don’t know if I ever would have gotten saved. But I met people who put up with my ignorance, my immodesty, my bad language, and my spiritual hodge-podge theology%u2014and reached out to me in genuine love. They saw beyond my messy exterior and looked into my heart. A heart that was hungry for God. I got loved into the kingdom, by real flesh and blood people who showed me, in practical ways, how much they cared about me. I gave my heart to Jesus because I could see Him in people who said they loved Him. I wanted to be like those people. I wanted to know the God they knew.

    After Jesus really got a hold of my heart, sure I changed some things… but it took awhile. Jesus had to fully win my heart before I was willing to make big changes for Him. But sometimes we expect people to make those changes before they are fully won. We want them to “prove” they love Jesus before they’re fully convinced. It’s putting the cart before the horse. ”

    Long three pence this time 🙂

  5. That’s a good point, Anna. We had a missionary yesterday that tried to drive home the parallel point– that we tend to (as Christians) try to reach only those people that are like us instead of trying to reach everyone.

    In that vein, we need to reach those that are around us, and realize that once they are saved everything will not change at the same time. We get more like Christ as we get to know Him more and want to please Him more.

  6. I like your long three-pence, Anna, just for the record (mine are usually longer!)…

    If a holier-than-thou attitude was assumed of me due to my choice of wearing skirts/dresses then that would be sad. I don’t think it is. I don’t look down on the ones that wear pants to church. Now if I stood up in church and apologized for wearing pants and said that I was mending my ways…sheesh, how self-righteous that would be! No way would I ever do that. I don’t want my dresses to make me seem “untouchable” or “too good”, and a lot of that inference depends upon the person doing the judging. I’ve felt “not good enough” around the divas of our church (in their very fashionable black slacks and pointy-toed boots, etc) but mostly because a “touch me not” attitude seemed to accompany the look. I have two ladies in mind that both dress ultra modern, one is easy to talk to, the other seems scared/uncomfortable around anyone not like her. I think it’s just shyness or social ineptness, so I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt.

    In our area also, pentecostal women have a “stigma”…they’re always the ones with their long hair in buns and long skirts with tennies. :O) So I see what you’re saying about the culture looking on and not wanting to be “that strange”.

    We definitely get too concerned about outward appearance. Probably you all see it more in the big city than we do in the small town (though we’ve got it here too). I’m the type of gal that invites people to church and assures them that they can wear whatever is comfortable, no big deal. But *I* definitely feel some responsibility that what I wear affects those around me. If it’s only my own children (and boys should see their mothers in skirts also, if girls should), then that’s enough.

    I am praying about sending a note to one of the only teenage girls in our church that still dresses modestly. A note to commend her and thank her. I’m just not sure if it will make her uncomfortable or not. Thus the prayer.

    If our culture is swirling down a neuter gender funnel, then I for one will go down kicking and screaming…wearing femininity like a badge…

  7. One of the interesting things that I’ve seen around here is that there is a pentecostal church that I know a few people from that mandate the long hair (don’t cut it or else you’re in sin!) and skirts. However, I’ve seen some of these women wear skirts that I can’t believe that their wearing! Long skirts with an inverted V slit in the front that makes it so immodest it’s not funny.

    Certainly it is something that must come from the heart, and be reflected on the outside or you’re always going to find someone that is pushing the limits.

  8. Uh, here I am again, taking a totally different approach to the question (I know you guys really like variety of input). Here’s my two cents:

    (MANY)little girls only want to wear dresses and, at least at that age, it has very little to do with what their mom wears.

    Just an observation. I’ve dealt more with training them as they get older on my blog. And I’m all for modesty.

  9. I somewhat agree with your observation, Rebecca. My girls have always loved wearing dresses. The whole spinny, twirly, princess-y thing…and I certainly have not been dresses only, though wearing skirts/dresses is something I’ve always gravitated towards.

    My sil has never ever liked wearing dresses, and her mother before her never did and never does. My niece who has been cared for by my mil since birth will NOT wear a dress. She refuses to and always has…she’s now 8 years old.

    I think it’s mostly a personality thing, but that it’s definitely influenced by the ones you hold in high esteem. And more often than not, I believe little girls prefer dresses…especially if it’s at all encouraged!

  10. I haven’t had a girl yet, so I can’t tell you how they will be. I’m sure that it’ll be something that will be impacted both by how “mom” dresses, how others dress, and whatever is working in her mind.

    What you wear definitely has an impact, and I commend you Rachel for your training of women to dress modestly.

  11. My dh & I were both concerned when I became convicted to be a mostly-dresses and skirts only wearing person that it might put up some walls or stereotypes with people. But what I began to realize was that it is mostly ABOVE the neck that makes you approachable and available. A sense and look of joy in your countenance goes ALOT further than what you wear (in a modest sense).

    I do not “wear” my skirts with a sense of legalism in the slightest, most of the time if someone notices I am wearing them now every time they see me I casually comment that it is SO much more comfortable after having had 4 babies…and that is ABSOLUTELY true for me. Then we move on to other conversation, I accept them where they are at. If the Lord moves on their heart in that direction, great. If not, I’m gonna love them into a relationship with the Lord regardless.

    PS. I was sent here by Mary at homesteepedhope! 🙂 I’ve actually been reading here for a while but just never commented!! Thanks for a great site!

  12. I think you have a good point, Jana– when being different we have to make sure that we’re both different for the right reason and that we’re pointing people to the right person– which is not ourselves.

    It’s interesting that you say that what makes you approachable is above the neck– and then listening to what women say about where men’s eyes go… Isn’t it kind of paradoxical?

  13. Jana, I really like your take on it. I am convicted about feminine dress too. And though it is unlikely I would worry too much about what others think about my dresses, I think you make a good point about how to be approachable, and what to say to be open and nice, instead of how I would be, which is full of self pride at how “righteous” I was. I needed that reminder before I jumped in thanks!!
    Mrs. Meg Logan

  14. I’ve not read all the comments listed, but i must make a comment about this issue.
    As a christian, i don’t single someone out b/c they don’t look/act/talk/dress like me, but instead embrace them to know Jesus. Now, i’ve heard a lot of talk about how christians have to be “approachable” but that’s only a man’s view. the bible instructs for you to continue to grow in Christ and to be separated from the world. you cannot very well be “separated” from the world if you’re “approachable” to the world. if an unsaved person wants Jesus, then by all means, they’re not going to stop at anything unless they get him, if their heart truly desires him. and to be saved, truly saved, you have to want Jesus more than anything else in this world. when you want something, really want something, you’ll stop at no cost to get what you want and that’s what it is to be like when an unsaved soul wants Jesus. Just last night, i had a girl talking to me online whose boyfriend had just broken up with her. she’s catholic and i was talking about God to her and then eventually said that she wanted to be saved, but she wasn’t going to say a prayer to be until she was just about to go to sleep. then when i told her about all the awesome things that God does and His people, she changed her mind and said “well i’m comfortable with going to the church i’m going to and the beliefs i believe, so i’ve changed my mind. i’m just going to keep living the way i’m living”. now quite frankly, as we see here, she didn’t want Jesus all that bad. when i wanted God and to be all he wanted me to be, i didn’t stop at any costs to get it. my parents and entire family is catholic and i’m united pentecostal. i was heavily persecuted before i was saved and converted from catholicism to pentecostalism, but that didn’t matter. it was just the devil trying to have my soul and although i didnt’ know that at the time, i had to WANT God bad enough to go all the way and not only half way. God will meet you wherever you are, but you have to keep pursuing him. you can’t be saved then go back to drugs and alcohol b/c it just got to be “too much to handle”. no. i don’t think so. our society has coaxed people into believing that everything in life is supposed to come easy. we live in a microwave world and that’s not of God. Although God is growing his people up fast in the ending days, God’s going to do things on his terms. the bible says that FEW will get into heaven and the FEW that will get into heaven will be the ones that want God bad enough and won’t stop at anything to get all of him.

    which leads me to dress. i believe with everything inside of me that there are specific God ordained distinctions between man and woman. i don’t want to hear the bull about how dressing doesn’t determine your salvation. if you want to believe that then fine, but the fact of it is that once you’re saved, you cant’ stop there, you have to KEEP wanting God, no matter what and you have to KEEP pursuing God no matter the circumstance. a christian is defined as someone who is Christ-like. now i’m’ sorry, but Christ went to some pretty heavy extremes to get his point across and please God. what makes us so different? grant it, we’re not Jesus and we’re not born of God himself, but we were meant to be on this earth and we were formed by him and he knew us before we were even born. you can’t stand still. when you were a hell bound sinner you took a huge step and got saved. ok, great, now you’re a child of God. next you learn about God and what he did and all the wonderful things that come with being a christian, then you go through trials and obstacles in life and you learn how the devil will try his hardest to break you. fine, you get over that milestone, but what’s next? you still keep living in one chapter or do you move on to another? God’s word DOES NOT CHANGE, ever. Just because society and man’s views of the world have changed does not mean that it’s ok for you directly go against what God is saying. now the bible quite clearly states that women are to be kept silent in the church, be submissive and the man does the teaching and for the women not to be in authority over man, but for man to be in authority over woman. it also says that the older women are to teach the younger women, to be keepers of the home and to live a life that will profess godliness. now with that said, it also says not for women to wear costly array or to have broided hair and not to wear things that pertaineth to a man and to dress in modest apparel.
    that website explains all the translations of the bible and what the words are actually meaning by “modest apparel”. in short, apparel comes from a greek word meaning “long flowing garment”. it clearly instructs for WOMEN to wear MODEST APPAREL, the only time that word is ever used. now if the women are instructed to wear modest apparel, apparel meaning a long flowing garment and men are to be distinctively different, then gowns, dresses and skirts all fall into the category of “long and flowing” unless of course they are skin tight. i cannot see pants as being “long, flowing, garment, gown”. no, none of those words can describe any kind of pants. women were instructed to wear things of this nature, not men, who were made distinctively different from women. the man was formed first then the woman from the man. God knew what he was doing. feminism doesn’t. women are continually trying to be “equal” to a man when God quite clearly states that a woman is a weaker vessel. men and women are uniquely and differently designed. men are masculine, excelling in physical labor while women are feminine, excelling in love and nurture. take a picture of a woman in a nice, beautiful dress and a man in pants and a t-shirt. beautiful picture right? now have a picture with a man in the same attire and a woman in tight pants and a t-shirt. there is no distinction. they are wearing the exact same thing which is going against what God has said in his word. do not wear things that pertaineth to a man. women look beautiful in dresses and skirts and men look handsome in suits. men cannot look handsome or masculine, the way God created them, in a dress in the same aspect that women cannot look beautiful in pants. men like women because they’re soft and graceful and nurturing and beautiful. women are attracted to masculine, strong men. it is no more right to put a masculine, strong man in a beautiful dress than it is for a graceful, beautiful nurturing woman to be in a pair of pants. men were made to work outside, or inside, wherever, doing physical labor while women, like stated in proberbs, work with their hands making fine linens. now tell me, is it more practical for a man to be in pants or a dress working in a field? and if the man is to wear the pants, then women must wear the opposite, which would be……yep, a dress, as the bible instructs, a long flowing gown.
    it’s God’s word. end of story.

  15. Thanks, Mrs. Savoie, for sharing with us your point of view. Now, we know that there were times where both sexes wore robes, but there have always been a distinction made.

    It’s interesting, with our children, we were reading the Jungle Book the other night. If you’re familiar with the story, Mowgli, the “man-cub” found by Bagheera the panther is adopted by wolves. Well, I’m having a hard time getting my oldest to say that Mowgli is a she. (Most of the time, everything’s a “he”, but not Mowgli). Why? Because he has long hair. And it’s not even that long!

    There needs to be a distinction.

  16. What a woman wears does represent who she is. As Christian women we do need to dress modestly but not to the point of looking like puritans, so to speak. I dress for comfort, period, except most times, I do tend to dress a lot nicer for church. I am, after all, visiting my Father’s house.

  17. I am a new at a pentecostal church, and I want to have the whole pentecostal lifestyle church clothing etc,, I am a little worried about how to go about shopping and how much is enough as far as clothing for me and my 2 daughters etc,

  18. Hello, Erin
    Accidentally, pastor John Piper has something very interesting to say about it here.
    I listened to this sermon while driving home, but you may read it on-line or listen/watch iit, too.

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