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 (Eph. 5:22-32; Col. 3:18-20; 1 Peter 3:1-7), in relation to their children (Gen. 18:19; Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:21), and in the church (1 Cor. 11:3-16; 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 2:11-12; 3:1-6). The role of women within a nation is negatively stated in Isa. 3:11-12.

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. Men and women used to both 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 (Ex. 28, 39) and Nazirites (Num. 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. (NASB) 1 Timothy 2:9-10

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. (NASB) 1 Peter 3:3-4

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.

Conclusion:

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!