So what would you consider as modest apparel for a woman? Does the Old Testament law pertain to now -- woman in man's clothing and man in woman's? If so, then what would you consider man's clothing and woman's clothing? All men and woman wore skirts. So why is it that women who wear skirts or dresses are the only ones considered to be modest in a lot of Christian customs? Why do men believe that they are the only ones to wear jeans (revealing might I add) and shorts? Pretty much whatever they want.

Fashions vary widely between countries, cultures, and eras. The Scriptures do not impose requirements pertaining to particular styles of clothing, such as women may only wear dresses or only men may wear jeans. (Consider that jeans were not known in biblical days.) Instead we find guidelines controlling what we choose to wear.

You are correct that one rule given to the Israelites was a requirement that men and women's fashion were to be different and that difference was to be respected. "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). This rule is continued in the New Testament in I Corinthians 6:9 where the Greek word malakos refers a man acting as a female or dressing as a female. Paul said that such cannot inherit the kingdom of God. What constitutes male or female clothing has varied over the ages, but such differences that you find in the culture in which you live should be respected. Those differences may be great or subtle. My reference books tell me that in ancient Israel the primary difference between men and women's clothing was the embroidered hem on women's garments. However the fashions are expressed, Christians should accept them so long as they do not violate other standards God has set forth, such as the requirement that our nakedness be covered. See the article "Modest Apparel" for more details.

When discussing clothing, Paul stated, "in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works" (I Timothy 2:9-10). Three words are used to describe proper attire:

  • komois (translated as "modest" in this verse) refers to something that is orderly, of good behavior, or respectable.
  • aidos (translated as "propriety" in this verse) means with a sense of shame or bashfulness, or even a sense of reverence.
  • sophrosune (translated as "moderation" in this verse) means with sobriety, showing a soundness of mind, good sense, self-restraint, or with moderation.

In considering these terms, we realize that Christians are not to be fashion trend setters, especially in the realm of pushing the limits as to what society finds acceptable. We must remember that Christians represent God to the community. If the community finds fault in our attire, it will interfere with our ability to spread the gospel message. Our duty to teach the world about Christ is far more important than demanding rights to dress in outlandish ways. See also the sermon titled "The Rebel's Cause" and the article "You Can't Tell Me How to Dress!" for more information.


March 15, 2005