Whether or not Christian women should wear pants, slacks, or jeans is a long-standing issue among believers. It is, perhaps, an issue that has garnered more than its fair share of attention over the past few decades. The faithfulness of a daughter of God is not ultimately measured by what clothing she wears but by her walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).
There is a passage in the Old Testament that some use to address the matter of women wearing pants or jeans: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this” (Deuteronomy 22:5). This was a command for Israel to maintain gender distinctions in their clothing; it was also a prohibition against cross-dressing and transvestitism. Since no Israelite in that time wore pants or slacks—both genders wore some type of robe—we must ask ourselves how this would apply to different cultures. The general principle is that men and women ought to dress in a way appropriate for their culture, maintaining gender distinctions. Deuteronomy 22:5 does not forbid Scotsmen from wearing kilts, and it does not forbid a woman from wearing pants, as long as she is not trying to appear to be a man.
A discussion of grace is appropriate here, too. Christians are not under the law; rather, we are justified by faith in Christ (Romans 3:21–28). The believer in Christ Jesus is “dead” to the constraints of the law. “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6). A believer does not live by legalism, nor by license, but rather by grace.
The Bible contains no command governing the specific articles of clothing a woman should wear. No passage mentions dresses, skirts, pants, or slacks as either required or verboten. The issue in Scripture is modesty as well as gender distinction. Paul addressed Christian women concerning their attire: “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God” (1 Timothy 2:9–10). Women who worship God should be appropriately dressed, and their clothing choices should reflect humility, not ostentation; orderliness, not slovenliness; and moderation, not unrestraint.
The issue of Christian women wearing pants needs to be approached with grace. Scripturally, a woman should wear modest clothing, appropriate for her gender and for the situation. Are there pants made specifically for women that are modest and appropriate for some situations? Yes, and Christian women are free to wear them. Is there a biblical command that a woman must wear slacks? No, and Christian women are free to wear only dresses or skirts, if that is her choice. It’s a matter for a woman’s own conscience before the LORD. “Blessed is the one who does not condemn [her]self by what [she] approves” (Romans 14:22).
As we focus on the inward woman, God will take care of the outward woman, and we know that “each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14:12). Neither the one who wears pants nor the one who wears only skirts should condemn her sister in Christ.