By Larry Ray Hafley
From Oregon: “Will you please help me in regards to the wearing of pants suits by the women. I don’t think it is right. So far, we have been able to keep them out, but now I need help badly. Will you please help?
Our querist has touched a controversial and sensitive area. It is hoped that none will be harmed by the consideration of this Timely issue. Regardless of what is said, someone will be displeased. Therefore, with fear and trembling we tender these remarks for your thought and study.
One’s dress and outward adornment of the lack thereof, often manifests his character, or the loss thereof. The word of God teaches that modesty, dignity, and sobriety are to sit on the throne of the heart (Titus 2). When these principles reign, the individual’s attire will reveal and reflect it. Styles and fashions ebb and flow. Personal preferences vary and waver, but the immutable rules girding and guiding the meek and quiet spirit must remain inviolate. If the inner man is what it ought to be, the outer man will be also (Cf. Col. 3:9, 10; Eph. 4:22-24).
The rules of God respecting character are unalterable. However, the types and kinds of clothing differ from community to community, from nation to nation. For example, what is viewed as the “attire of an harlot” (Prov. 7:10) in New York is not that of the prostitute in Ankara, Turkey. Styles and fashions have moved boldly and radically in American society. Our personal choices have been appalled by apparel that ranges from the obscene and absurd to the wild and worldly. One cannot allow fad; fashion, or personal taste alone to determine his wardrobe. As long as one is not immodest, indecent, or allied with the appearance of evil, he has the privilege to wear new designs in clothing. One should not dress or undress in such a manner as to cause the word of God to be blasphemed.
Pants Suits And Worship
One may not like it, but the fact is that ladies’ pants suits are an acknowledged part of this country’s fashion scene. Are pants suits immodest? If so, they are wrong to wear anywhere. Are all pants suits sexually provocative? If so, they are sinful. Are pants suits necessarily identified with worldly philosophy or ungodly elements? If so, they are to be shunned (Rom. 12:1, 2; 1 Jn. 2:15-17; Titus 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 1:13-17). However, I cannot give an unqualified “yes” answer to the questions above. I believe pants suits are basically modest and as such are acceptable feminine attire.
“But what about the woman who wears them to worship?” Personally, I do not like them to be worn to worship. I would object if my wife wanted to wear them when we come together in the church. Different occasions and events naturally demand different types of clothing. It is not wrong in one sense to wear bib overalls to worship, but native propriety in most communities now prohibits it. It is comparable to wearing a tuxedo to a sand-lot baseball game. While pants suits may not be sinful in the assembly, they do not suit my idea of proper apparel.
So, should a dress committee stand in the foyer and demand that every woman who wears a pant suit, “Go home and put on a dress?” I think not. The lady who wears a pants suit may insist that I go home and exchange my leisure suit for a regular suit, or at least put on a tie before I lead singing, wait on the Lord’s table, or preach. Preaching without a tie around my neck may not suit the lady’s view of what is proper, but should she bar me from the pulpit? If she will let me preach in a tie-less men’s leisure suit, I will let her listen in a ladies’ pants suit.
“Way back” in the late ‘S0’s, I would not have dared to wear sideburns down past the middle of my ear. It would have been wrong because of the elements of the world that were generally associated with such a hair style for young men in this country. Today, however, the preachers who disdained Elvis Presley’s long sideburns in the ‘S0’s now have exact replicas growing from their temple to their ear lobe. See a 1957 picture of Elvis if you do not believe it. There is a parallel in some particulars regarding women’s pants suits. They are a modest style that will become, it appears, more and more acceptable in formal dress situations. One may not presently prefer the trend, but it does not inherently undermine womanly modesty and virtue.
Caution And Conclusion
Ladies, in my judgment, should be hesitant to wear pants suits to worship. All brethren should refrain from contentiousness over this matter. Do not stir strife and fan the fires of factionalism over your private, personal preferences.
Nothing has been said to lend support to a rebellious disposition. One who has a meek and quiet spirit will not flagrantly flaunt his “rights.” “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). Some brethren can be childish and selfish in some areas. If it is suggested that those who serve the Lord’s supper wear a tie, some will spitefully roll up their sleeves, unbutton their shirt, and say, in effect, “You can’t make me wear a tie!” This is beneath pettiness and immaturity. If we are “clothed with humility,” we will not be promoters of hostility.
Truth Magazine XXI: 16, p. 242
April 21, 1977