Bible Question:

Since we are under grace, does Deut. 22:5 mean that women should wear dresses?

Bible Answer:

God has unique roles for men and women in the marriage (Ephesians 5:22-32; Colossians 3:18-20; 1 Peter 3:1-7), in relation to their children (Genesis 18:19; Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:21), and in the church (1 Corinthians 11:3-16; 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:11-12; 3:1-6). Throughout Scripture God has directed us to maintain the distinction of men as men and women as women. This is contrary to our culture which seeks to blur that distinction. Our culture is anti-God and it is also against His divinely established principles.

God does not want men wearing women’s clothes nor women wearing men’s clothing. The difficult question is, “What is women’s clothing?” An example will help. At the time of Moses’ life, men wore long outer garments – like robes. They did not wear undergarments. For example, during the Old Testament period the priests wore underwear under their long outer garments which were like robes. This can be observed by comparing Exodus 20:26 with Exodus 28:42-43.

Make linen undergarments as a covering for the body, reaching from the waist to the thigh. Aaron and his sons must wear them whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the altar to minister in the Holy Place, so that they will not incur guilt and die. Exodus 28:42-43 (NASB)

And do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it. Exodus 20:26 (NASB)

This pattern of dress suggests that men normally wore long outer garments and they did not wear underwear. Both men and women used to wear long outer garments. How their garments differed is not always clear.

Deuteronomy 22:5 and 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 (wearing a veil) make it clear that men and women are not to purposely cross-dress. How men and women dress will change over time; otherwise, we would be wearing long outer garments without undergarments today. Fashion will change, and God does not prohibit that. 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 makes that point clear. The custom of the culture must not bring an offense to the gospel.

Scripture specifically mandates the dress code for Levitical priests and the High priest (Exodus 28, 39) and Nazirites (Numbers 6:1-18). Women are told to

. . . adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness.  1 Timothy 2:9-10 (NASB)

1 Peter 3:3-4 repeats the message,

And let not your adornment be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.  1 Peter 3:3-4 (NASB)

The principle is clear, women are to dress modestly and not be consumed with the external appearance. The first point is for the sake of the men, and the second point is that which God desires of godly women.


We want to avoid establishing rules that God does not establish. God generally establishes principles. His list of dos and don’ts (the Law) was given to show us that we are sinners (Rom. 7:7). God wants our heart!

Suggested Links:

Can men wear women’s clothes? What does Deuteronomy 22:5 mean?
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