Question: Are pants appropriate attire for a woman?
To answer this question, let us examine in more detail 1 Timothy 2:9: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety . . .”
“Modest apparel” in the original Greek is “kósmios katastole”. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines modesty, kósmios, as orderly, well-arranged, decent, modest. Modesty is also Biblically applied to one’s behavior and conduct.
Katastole or apparel, comes from the word kata and stole. Kata means down, a garment flowing down; and Stole is a long, loose outer garment, covering, or wrapping. Katastole means “a lowering, letting down; a garment let down, dress, attire” (KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon). Katastole is further defined as “A long garment or robe reaching down to the feet” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Zodhiates).
The commentator Adam Clark shares insight on katastole:
The apostle seems to refer here to different parts of the Grecian and Roman dress. The stola, seems to have been originally very simple. It was a long piece of cloth, doubled in the middle, and sewed up on both sides, leaving room only for the arms; at the top, a piece was cut out, or a slit made, through which the head passed. It hung down to the feet, both before and behind, and was girded with the zona round the body, just under the breasts. It was sometimes made with, sometimes without, sleeves; and, that it might sit the better, it was gathered on each shoulder with a band or buckle. Some of the Greek women wore them open on each side, from the bottom up above the knee, so as to discover a part of the thigh. These were termed showers (discoverers) of the thigh; but it was, in general, only young girls or immodest women who wore them thus.
The katastole seems to have been the same as the pallium or mantle, which, being made nearly in the form of the stola, hung down to the waist, both in back and front, was gathered on the shoulder with a band or buckle, had a hole or slit at top for the head to pass through, and hung loosely over the stola, without being confined by the zona or girdle.. . . . A more modest and becoming dress than the Grecian was never invented; it was, in a great measure, revived in England about the year 1805, and in it, simplicity, decency, and elegance were united; but it soon gave place to another mode, in which frippery and nonsense once more prevailed. It was too rational to last long; and too much like religious simplicity to be suffered in a land of shadows, and a world of painted outsides.
The Bible standard of dress for a woman is that she be adorned in “kósmios katastole”—a modest, decent garment that is long, loose and flowing. A crotched garment, i.e. pants are not “let down” nor “flowing.” Hence, pants as well as mini-skirts, short dresses, tight clothes, etc. are not modest apparel for a woman professing godliness.
In addition to the scriptural teaching of modest apparel, it is very important to consider other aspects of the issue of women wearing pants, a man’s garment. The Old Testament teaches that a woman should not wear that which pertaineth to a man (Deuteronomy 22:5).
“Breeches” were an article of clothing that the priests wore in the Old Testament (Exodus 28:42). According to the Hebrew lexicon, “breeches” means “trousers that extend to the knee, below the knee, or to the ankles.” In Bible times, the women did not wear crotched garments. It was not until the twentieth century, in the western world, that women began wearing trousers. During the World Wars when their husbands were gone to war, women left their homes to work in factories, etc. and many began wearing pants on the job. With the feminist movement, there was a push for women to leave their roles as “home makers” and compete with men in the workplace and in society. There was a breakdown of the God-appointed roles of men and women in the home and in society. Women wearing pants was just one area that spoke of the spirit behind the feminist movement. Pants were a symbol of authority, thus the question: “Who wears the pants in the family?” Unfortunately, many holiness people have been greatly affected by the feminist mind-set which is far from what the Scripture teaches.
God created men and women differently and He expects them to conduct themselves appropriately for their gender. Society is doing all it can to break down the barriers between men and women, and dress is just one such area. The universal symbol for designating the men’s bathroom is a stick figure wearing a pair of pants. The women’s bathroom is a stick figure wearing a dress. While it is being lost, even our sinful society recognizes that there is a difference.
In western cultures, women dressed in modest apparel stand out from society, but the people around still recognize them as “holiness” people. It should tell us something when the world itself sees a woman in a modest dress as a holiness Christian.
For almost 6000 years, women traditionally wore long dresses, robes etc. It is only in the last 100 years that dresses have become “impractical” to wear. It is noteworthy that even in society, when a woman wants to be feminine and recognized as a lady, she wears a dress.
God’s word has not changed and His way is still right and it is perfect. It is vital that Christian men and women act as such—Christian—and fill the place to which God has called them. While it is contrary to the scripture for a woman to wear pants, the spirit behind it is even more wrong. May the Lord give His people vision and understanding that they may be a shining light until the day of His return.