Girls and Women Wearing Pants

Should I let my teenage girls wear pants? I was raised in a conservative Christian home where modesty in behavior and clothing were always stressed as matters of the highest importance for young girls. In particular, my mother made sure I understood that women should never wear pants, since "A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman's garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 22:5). Nowadays women wear pants all the time - not only around the house or in the yard but even at church. I find this extremely upsetting and confusing. How do I teach my teenage daughters to dress appropriately in a society like this?

With all due respect, we can’t help feeling that you’re “majoring in minors.” There is another way of looking at the biblical passage you quoted. As we see it, “appropriateness” in men’s and women’s clothing is a concept that changes from culture to culture and from one historical period to the next. What “pertains to a man” in this particular time and place may not be the same as that which “pertains to a man” in another context. This is one of those instances in which the Bible has to be read and interpreted against the background of the culture and historical period in which it was written.

A quick historical survey of male and female dress illustrates the point we’re trying to make. Among ancient peoples only the Celts seem to have developed trousers as a standard item of apparel for men. In Israel, Greece, and Rome males generally wore garments that you would probably describe as “skirts” (and even the Celts had their kilts). We can safely assume, then, that when Moses, in Deuteronomy 22:5, told the people that “a woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man,” he was not thinking of pants.

From a scriptural perspective, the important thing here is the principle. Men should be men and women should be women. It’s a mistake to become overly concerned about a particular garment or a specific style of clothing. As we’ve already say, that’s a matter of changing fashion. It’s been a very long time since pants were perceived as an exclusively male item of clothing in American society.

Where your teenage daughters are concerned, we’d suggest that you remember Ephesians 6:4: “Do not exasperate your children.” You have to expect a certain measure of conflict during the teen years, and you shouldn’t back down when a disagreement involves a difference of opinion about basic beliefs and values. At the same time, you have to be careful about exerting too much control in areas that don’t really matter. If you don’t exercise some discernment, you may end up alienating your girls unnecessarily. The important thing is to get through these turbulent years with as little damage as possible to the parent-child relationship and your own sanity.

Your basic rule of thumb should be, “Avoid major conflicts with teens if at all possible.” Some things just aren’t worth it. So don’t worry too much about your girls’ wardrobe. Obviously, garments that sport violent or offensive words or images need to go. The same thing can be said about female attire that is sexually provocative. When it comes to pants, however, we feel pretty strongly that you need to set your upbringing aside and find a way to compromise with contemporary culture. You don’t want to rock the boat unnecessarily.

If you’d like to discuss your concerns at greater length with a member of our staff, Focus on the Family has a team of counselors who would love to speak with you over the phone. If this option appeals to you, feel free to call and ask to speak with a counselor.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Losing Control & Liking It: How to Set Your Teen (and Yourself) Free

Why Christian Kids Rebel

Growing With

Feeding the Mouth That Bites You

Christian Research Institute

Insight for Living

Lee Strobel


Parenting Teens

Tips for Communicating With Teens

You May Also Like