Does the Bible forbid women from wearing pants?
Question: What does the biblical statute about a woman not wearing anything that pertains to a man mean today?
The law in Deuteronomy 22:5 does not refer to women wearing pants.
Deuteronomy 22:5 says: “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”.
Like many of the statutes, this law may have been needed partly because of the pagan customs in the surrounding cultures. The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary explains:
“Disguises were assumed at certain times in pagan temples. Maimonides…mentions that a man attired in a coloured female dress, in honour of Venus, Ashtaroth, or Astarte, and a woman equipped in armour, worshipped at the shrine of the statue of Mars…
“Asiatics, when they engaged in the worship of Ashtaroth, were accustomed, according to Philocorus, quoted by Townley (in his edition of Maimonides, note 33), to exchange the male and female dresses. In fact, all idolators confounded the sexes of their deities representing them sometimes as male, at other times as female; and hence, their worshippers, male and female, fell gradually into the custom, which became extensively prevalent, of changing their attire in adaptation to the sex of a particular divinity.”
God’s command to Israel forbade the people from incorporating pagan religious rites into true worship.
Does Deuteronomy 22:5 forbid women from wearing pants? No, it doesn’t.
In fact, clothing “that pertains to a man” at the time the verse was written would not have been understood to mean pants. Men in the Middle East through the history of the Old and New Testaments did not ordinarily wear pants, trousers or slacks; they wore robe-like garments. And in many cultures such as in China, women have commonly worn pants.
The scripture more specifically addresses and forbids transvestism and cross-dressing.
The underlying principle certainly applies to today. Men should dress in an appropriately masculine manner and women should dress in an appropriately feminine manner. Clothing manufacturers make pants designed for men, and pants, slacks and pantsuits designed for women. The Bible emphasizes modesty, and for women, slacks are often more modest than a short skirt.
One way to really understand this is when going into a clothing store woman should be purchasing items from the woman's section and men should be purchasing from the men's section this is simple and easy to do.
God does not intend for this scripture to be understood in an extreme or unreasonable way. For example, it’s perfectly fine for a woman to wear her husband’s old shirt when she’s painting or to put on her male friend’s jacket when she’s cold.
Closing remarks: What many fail to realize is that men's pants or trousers weren't worn in biblical times please see: When did Men Start Wearing Pants?
As you will see pants or trousers were not what God was referring to in Deuteronomy 22:5 to teach that it is in my opinion adding to the Word of God which is forbidden in scripture.
Deuteronomy 4:2 Do not add a thing to what I command you nor subtract from it, so that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I am delivering to you.
I was born and raised in the Apostolic Oneness Pentecostal movement and for years I practiced what I now term as the "Traditional Holiness Standards". I say traditional because that's all it is "tradition" its not supported by the scriptures and as Jesus told the Pharisees in Mark 7:13 "Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."