We recently received an e-mail from a lady who reads our blogs asking a question regarding our style of dress . . .
Sarah...awhile back, I read with interest your post on head coverings, and the ensuing discussion . . . I've been wondering about why the ladies in your family never appear to wear slacks. Could you elaborate a bit on how you came to this decision, scripturally speaking? I would appreciate reading your thoughts.
In response, I sent her an e-mail explaining the reasons why we dress the way we do. It was suggested that perhaps we could also share this e-mail on our blog . . . it is shared here in the hopes that it will be a blessing and encouragement to you, and that perhaps it may also provoke thought and discussion on this important topic:
Thank you for your question regarding our dress and what scriptural basis we have for it! (And thank you also for your patience in awaiting a response! :) I will do my best to answer your question . . .
First of all, I would like to share that we have not always worn dresses and skirts all of the time. It was a decision that we made about eight years ago after much study of Scripture and discussion together as a family. While Scripture does not say that women must wear dresses/skirts, there are many verses and principles that led us to this.
In Scripture, we see that women are commanded to dress in proper clothing, which as defined by Scripture, is modest and discreet: “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
These verses show that our dress should be modest and discreet. Noah Webster, in his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, defined modesty as:
“In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy [public disgrace; shame; etc.] fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.”
We see that modesty is first in the heart and is then expressed outwardly, and Scripture shows that this modesty is to be expressed in our dress. It is also closely tied with chastity and purity—both of which are to be expressed in the clothing that we wear.
For ones making a claim to godliness and seeking to follow the Lord, our dress should be reflective of that. Our dress should be in alignment with such godly attributes as sobriety (1 Timothy 3:11 and Titus2:5), gentleness and quietness (1 Peter 3:4), reverence in behavior (Titus 2:3), and chastity (1 Peter 3:2). One must examine their dress to find if it fits within these attributes . . . or does it instead reflect negative attributes such as boisterousness, looseness, worldliness, flirtatiousness, etc.?
Perhaps one of the greatest reasons to dress modestly (besides the fact that the Lord has commanded it) is to help men guard their eyes. Job hinted at the ‘battle’ that men must fight for purity when he declared “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). And in Scripture, Christ taught many times that looking at a woman with lust is adultery . . . so the act of simply ‘seeing’ can lead one to grave sin.
There is a passage in Scripture when speaking of sexual morality that exhorts all believers to not defraud a brother. It reads: “. . . and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:6-7).
To defraud a brother is to defeat or frustrate them wrongfully (definition taken from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.) Men do have a battle with their eyes, and they have a responsibility to guard their eyes. And as women, the way we dress has a profound impact on the men that are around us.
As women of God, we should earnestly seek to dress in a manner that helps our brothers in Christ (as well as other men) guard their eyes and hearts. We should seek to not defraud them, but to help aid them in their walk with Christ. Dressing in a manner that draws attention to our form (tight and/or form-fitting clothing, low-cut tops, sheer outfits, etc.) is contrary to this. Our clothing should reflect our desire to clothe ourselves modestly and discreetly. It should draw attention to our countenances and not to our bodies.
Another aspect of this is that we are to not be stumbling blocks to others. Christ declared “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to the man through whom the stumbling block comes!” (Matthew 18:7) By the way we dress, we can either be this stumbling block to our brothers in Christ (and other men), or we can strive, as much as we are able, to remove these stumbling blocks from before them by dressing modestly.
In the Old Testament, there is also instruction given that women are not to dress in the same manner as men: “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5.) While directed to Israel, there is a principle in that we can see that the dress of women should be distinctly different than that of men for women should not be dressing in the same manner as men do. Women should be dressing femininely and men should dress masculinely.
In light of what has been shared so far, when we examine whether pants are appropriate for women to wear, several things must first be looked at. First of all, we need to ask: “Are pants modest?” and “Could they defraud a brother?”
After reading (and hearing from my Dad, brother, and other men) how women wearing pants can affect men negatively, we came to the conclusion that pants without a longer top over them, do not fit within the standard of modesty. Pants closely fit the female form, and even loose ones still show the form of a woman well. Pants/slacks regardless of how tight or loose they are become tight across the back when bending over (or in other similar positions also) which reveals the form even more.
While a much smaller, yet still valid, aspect to whether or not to wear pants is asking the question: “are pants a distinctly masculine form of dress?” It was only in the past seventy years or so that women in America (and many other countries) began dressing in pants and prior to that, they wore dresses. Pants were known to be the male form of clothing and skirts/dresses were known to be for women. (And in our culture today, dresses and skirts are known to be distinctly feminine dress.)
Even though Scripture does not give direct instruction in things such as how low is too low for a neckline, or how long skirts should be, or the answer to the above question of whether or not it is all right to wear pants, we can determine fairly well the answer to these things simply by examining them in the light of Scripture (such as the verses shared so far.)
When examining the clothing that we wear, we should be asking things such as: Could this garment/style of dress cause a man to stumble or sin? Does it defraud a brother? Does it reflect the attributes of modesty, purity, chastity, sobriety, etc.? Is it feminine or masculine? In all of our dress—skirts, dresses, pants/slacks, tops, etc.—we need to examine it in light of all of these questions . . . and then dress accordingly.
This area of modesty is a important one, and it basically comes down to a desire to clothe ourselves in a manner that reflects the attributes of a godly woman which is pleasing to God and also in a manner that will shield and protect the hearts and eyes of our brothers in Christ, and also other men.
As believers in Christ, our “body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and . . . you are not your own . . . For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Our bodies are the temple of the Lord, and we should seek to clothe ourselves accordingly. To dress to honor Him in a manner that is modest and discreet. Dressing in a way that is not to satisfy or please ourselves (or others), but in a way that brings glory to God and in a way that is a witness to the world of the light of Christ shining through us.
I hope that helps to answer your question of what scriptural reasons we have for why we dress the way we do! If something is not clear enough or if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask—I would be happy to clarify something further or answer any other questions that you may have! :)
-Posted by Sarah