A Common Question About Clothes

One question that I’m often asked by pastors around the world is this: “Is it acceptable for Christian women to wear trousers considering that the Bible forbids women from wearing men’s clothing?”

This is good question that we can answer by applying some sound rules of interpretation and through a little cultural context.

First, let’s examine the Bible’s prohibition against women wearing men’s clothing (and visa-versa):

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 (Deut. 22:5).

We should begin by asking, “What was God’s intention in giving this commandment?” Was His goal to keep women from wearing trousers?

No, that couldn’t have been His intention, because no men in Israel wore trousers when God originally said this. Trousers were not considered to be men’s clothing or anyone’s clothing for that matter. In fact, what men wore in biblical days would seem more like women’s clothing to most of us today! That is a little bit of historical and cultural information that helps us to rightly interpret what God is trying to say.

So what was God’s intention?

We read that whoever wore clothing of the opposite sex was an abomination to the Lord. That sounds quite serious. If a man takes a woman’s scarf and places it on his head for three seconds, does that make him an abomination to God? That seems very doubtful.

It would seem more likely that what God was opposed to was people intentionally dressing so that they would appear to be the opposite sex. Why would anyone want to do such a thing? Only because he or she was hoping to seduce someone of the same sex, a sexual perversion referred to as transvestitism. I think we can understand how that would be considered an abomination to God.

Thus one cannot rightfully conclude that it is wrong for women to wear trousers based on Deuteronomy 22:5, unless she is doing so as a transvestite. As long as she still looks like a woman, she is not sinning by wearing trousers.

Of course, Scripture teaches that women should dress modestly (see 1 Tim. 2:9), and so trousers that are skintight and revealing are inappropriate (as are skintight dresses and skirts) because they could lead men to lust. Much of the clothing that women publicly wear in Western countries is completely inappropriate and is the kind of clothing that only prostitutes wear in developing countries. No Christian woman should publicly wear clothing with the goal of appearing “sexy.”