Posted in Blog, In the Word

Modest Dress: That Which Pertaineth to a Man

Since we moved last spring, we have been attending a new church. It took me a few months to notice that I have never seen any of the women of the congregation wearing pants. They wear skirts exclusively. (Very observant of me, I agree!)

When I asked the reason for their dress, I was told that they wished to uphold the standard in 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.

Let me first state the obvious: a particular form of dress is not a necessary requirement for salvation. Salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ, who died to cleanse me of my sins. But, as the new creature that I am in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), it is only fitting that my desire is to please God through seeking His Will in all I do (Proverbs 3:6 NLT).

So for the sake of seeking His Will for my dress, there are two questions I must ask while examining Deuteronomy 22:5:
First, applicability: Does this command, given to the Israelites during Old Testament Times, even apply to me today? Second, application: If it does apply,  what particular kind of clothing am I to wear in order to obey it?

  1. First, to address the issue of applicability: while I am not bound by Old Testament Law, it is equally true that my God is unchanging (Numbers 23:19, Isaiah 40:8). If it pleased Him 4000 years ago, surely it would please Him today as well. Furthermore, this particular commandment was worded very strongly. Women in men’s clothes did not just displease Him; they are called an abomination to Him. Surely what was once an abomination to Him must still be so. My freedom in Christ was not given to me so that I could dress in a way abominable to that God who gave me life! Yes, I consider that this verse most definitely applies to me today.
  2. It remains then to ascertain what kind of clothing I am meant to wear. I can’t simply interpret this verse to say that “women must not wear pants.” In Old Testament times, both women and men wore robes. There must have been some sort of variation between women’s and men’s apparel, but not in terms of pants or skirts. In my particular culture, while pants are considered appropriate apparel for both women and men, it must be admitted that skirts, as appropriate only for women, are more definitively “women’s clothing.” While it is possible, through colour and fit, to ensure that my apparel is obviously that of a woman, the easiest and most recognizable way to dress as a woman is to wear a skirt.

So I decided to wear skirts for a while — just to see. I wanted to get an idea of whether God would really be pleased with this little gift to Him. I recognize that any gift I can give to Him has only the value of the paper-and-crayons cards that my children give me for my birthday — no value at all, except the love and effort put into it for the sheer desire to please. It does not elevate my status in His eyes, so my only purpose is to please Him.

Worthy of note is that while I have changed my wardrobe considerably, I have not made many changes to the wardrobe of my daughters. (Well, Ann is a baby and still in sleepers!) But my toddler, Eleanor, alreaDSCN1156dy wears dresses most of the time — it has been my preference. After two boys, it has been a lot of fun to have a daughter — and explore the world of frilly, feminine little dresses. Now that Eleanor’s previously bald little head is beginning to sprout some hair, I have  delighted in pulling it into two teeny-weeny, curly little piggy-tails. Sure, she is cute in jeans, too, but what a pleasure it is to dress my sweet little girl to look the very picture of a sweet little girl!

 

I wonder if this is how God feels about us. Of course he loves us, whatever we wear. But just as I delight in dressing my little girl to really emphasize and celebrate that she is a little girl, rather than camouflage her into a more androgynous version of herself, do you think he takes especial delight in us when we dress in a way that emphasizes who we are as the women that he has created us to be? What better way to glorify my God through our dress than to use it to celebrate my femininity!

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Author:

Christian wife and homeschooling mother of five children, ages 1 through 9 years. Recently diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos. Trusting in Jesus for His plan for my life, and for my family. He was gracious to save my husband and myself 5 and 6 years ago, respectively. And really, He saved me just in time. Because how could I ever have handled this illness without Him?

4 thoughts on “Modest Dress: That Which Pertaineth to a Man

  1. Two years ago, we had moved away, so I had to attend a new church. The women at this church also wore skirts all the time. I began researching online to see why and found a Christian article explaining that many denominations take the verse that you mentioned and assume that it means that women should wear skirts. According to this article, though, if you translate directly from the Hebrew, this verse is actually referring to the fact that women should not dress in battle clothing like the men. The Lord knows your heart, though. If you feel that you’re glorifying Him by wearing skirts, then you are. I honestly believe that a woman can look very feminine in pants as well!

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    1. Yes, I have seen discussion around whether this verse from Deuteronomy refers to warriors and armour, but I personally think that’s a bit of a stretch. There is an interesting discussion on that here:

      http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/8101/a-purported-hebrew-translation-of-deuteronomy-225-is-it-accurate

      Not speaking Hebrew myself, however, I can only do my best with the text with my own admittedly limited understanding. (I am very interested in learning Hebrew — I am taking a course in Biblical Hebrew at a nearby church. I am not advanced enough to rely on my own Hebrew interpretation, however — I am still struggling with my aleph-bet! 🙂

      As for skirts, of course it’s not a salvation-issue. While I do believe that the most straight-forward interpretation of the text is in regard to clothing rather than armour, I can make no claim to having any better understanding of the Bible than any other Christian believer. Also, as you say, pants can look feminine, too. I merely find that I can generally celebrate my femininity more fully in skirts than I can in pants — also I find it easier to look modest in skirts. But that, too, is a generalization. Some pants are quite modest.

      The Lord knows our hearts, and the important thing is our obedience to His will as we find it in His Word. Thankfully, we are not bound by law to any person’s legalistic interpretation of His Word, but we are given the freedom to read His Word and respond to His Spirit for ourselves.

      Thank you so much for your thought-provoking comment!

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  2. I find this a fascinating topic. I have worn skirts 90% of the time for the pat year or longer, mainly for modesty and femininity, but also because I like them. Now when I wear pants inside the home, the girls looks at me funny and question why …

    We dress the girls in skirts, but are not opposed to them wearing pants if out in fields, climbing trees, etc. The older girls agree they look more like girls when wearing dresses instead of pants. You will notice, as your girls get older, pants are quite immodest in the stores for the age 8 up crowd. In this family of girls, I’m going to stick to skirts for as long as we can.

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  3. It is an interesting topic. I still wear pants once in a while, partly because I’m not going to replace my wardrobe all at once, and partly because, as you say, there are some activities for which pants are just better suited.

    But it’s funny that I’m starting to feel oddly uncomfortable in jeans. Not physically uncomfortable. I still think jeans are the most physically comfortable thing in the world to wear! But when I run out to the store in jeans, I am starting to feel uncomfortably exposed. I never would have thunk it before!

    You know, I didn’t notice for the longest time that you and your girls wear skirts all the time. It wasn’t until I was making the change to skirts, after moving here, that I realized that I had never seen you in anything but a skirt. I mention that because it’s a testimony to your non-judgemental attitude (or to my appalling lack of observational skills). You don’t judge others by the convictions that you hold, and I really think that’s commendable.

    I walk a line between feeling convicted about wearing skirts, and trying to stay away from legalism. It’s such a dividing issue for some skirt-wearing people. While I agree with the conviction, I hate that it can be such a “washing the outside of the cup” kind of thing.

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