Is it “immodest” for women to wear pants?
We will answer this question in a series of questions and answers, considering that this “subject” is the most hypersensitive out of the entire Modesty issue.
But first we must clarify a few things:
As is written in our “ABOUT” page:
- Using an easy to understand Catechism ; one that explains the faith clearly is very helpful.
- One practice in particular that we would like to strongly encourage you put into good practice is praying the Holy Rosary and developing a good relationship with the Blessed Mother Mary. The book, “The Secret of the Rosary” by St. Louis de Montfort is short and easy to read and helps extremely in this area of Marian devotion.
- Also frequenting the Sacrament of Confession & attending the Holy Mass are key in cementing a deep love and devotion to our Faith.
Is it an intrinsic evil act for women to wear pants?
Well, first what is an intrinsic evil?
“An intrinsically evil act is a type of act that is, by its very nature, immoral. Intrinsically evil acts are inherently incompatible with the love of God and neighbor. What makes an act intrinsically evil is its moral object, that is, the end in terms of morality toward which that act is inherently ordered. By its very nature, independent of the intention of the person who chooses the act and independent of the circumstances, an intrinsically evil act is ordered toward an evil end, toward an end incompatible with God as our highest good and final end.
Intrinsically evil acts are always immoral, regardless of the intention or purpose for which the act was chosen, regardless of the circumstances or consequences of the act, and regardless of the other acts that are chosen before, during, or after the intrinsically evil act. Nothing can cause an intrinsically evil act to become moral. The only moral choice is to choose a different type of act, one that is not intrinsically evil.” source
The Catholic Church has not, nor ever, made the declaration that women wearing pants is an intrinsic evil. Though we do know for a fact that the Church protests greatly against the evil of Immodesty.
So, is it immodest?
This question is very broad; as there are very many types of pants out there. It is almost like asking if women wearing t-shirts are immodest. You would say that this t-shirt is immodest:
Whereas this t-shirt is very bulky, unfeminine and not extremely attractive but it IS modest:
Whereas this is a very feminine, attractive t-shirt that isn’t bulky or immodest:
Moving onto pants…
…Leggings & skinny jeans are very immodest if worn by themselves, they are too tight and you can see literally everything, including underwear lines:
Why is tightness an issue?
- The guidelines for clothing that the Catholic Church has given, asks for clothing to be worn that is not tight – fitting. Aside from that, all talks on modesty in clothing from good clergy coincide with agreement in tightness.
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Modesty – protect intimate center of person” – as this can be taken figuratively, it can ALSO be taken literally; modesty protects our intimate parts. It veils us in dignity. The breasts that give milk to our children are not for the whole world to see; in dignity and humble reverence and modesty, we veil them. The same with the most private areas of our bodies with which (if called to the married life) we use to co-operate with God to create new life – we do not promote these areas of our bodies for the world to see. It is normally something we hide, out of reverence, respect and dignity for ourselves and others.
- When wearing tight clothing, there is nothing but color protecting against showing everything. One could be wearing a red skin-tight shirt, while appearing to have turned their skin into red ; we can see every thing! How is that more modest or covering anything more than if nothing was worn? Is it just the fact that clothing is on the body?
- We are each called to practice custody of the eyes and certainly respect everyone out of their dignity as God’s creation. But this is not solely an issue of “just learning to overlook“, because aside from the problem of concupiscence, not all human beings in the world practice custody of the eyes or respect everyone enough to look the other way. It is our duty to them, as people with a soul and it is our duty to God, and out of reverence of our own bodies, to dress modestly.
- When it comes to tight clothing, and especially pants with tight private areas, my eyes go straight to the most intimate area; and I am a woman. It is not solely of attraction, like most men, but also of comparing: does she have a thigh gap? How much thinner/thicker is she than I am? Wow those are really tight pants! You can see everything! This is of course, our own cross to bear, and our issue to battle, but if we ourselves know this, than why do we not cover up such private areas on ourselves? Which moves us to our next point:
- Would you show your breasts – the entirety? Who decided where the stopping point is? Is it just plain human decency? Since they are created to feed children? – which is a beautiful thing, as God created it for such a purpose. Then what about your behind? We see EVERYTHING when you wear leggings; forget “custody of the eyes” or “men have problems”, it is an embarrassment for the wearer! And when you bend down – honey – it’s not pretty. I’m sorry to tell you. So back to the original question; would you show your private parts to everyone? Then why are you doing so now? If women automatically cover themselves if someone walks in uninvited while they are dressing, why is wearing skin-tight clothing not a problem?
- Yes, looking at each others bodies happens whether or not the other person is wearing tight pants; it could be another part of their body (which is still not right): so what is the point? The point is that the most private areas of your body – the reproductive areas are the most private and should be shown the respect and dignity required of it. The arms, legs, stomach, and so on are also not something to gawk at – but they are also not as intimate, or private as these other areas. Though of course it is with prudence and modesty, which we cover the correct areas properly as well. (the stomach, upper thighs, etc).
So, are there modest pants?
These (see below), by themselves are not modest either, for the same reason; they are too tight and you can see everything in the private areas. This is neither feminine, professional, or attractive. Truthfully, where do your eyes go when looking at this picture? As a woman, honestly I look straight at her bottom. And this happens every time.
These pants are more modest, as they are not tight, but they do not look very attractive either, in fact they make the wearer look sort of frumpy, which isn’t the end of the world, but if your goal is to look professional, feminine and so on, this may not be your first choice:
The main problem with pants is that it is almost impossible to find a pair that doesn’t highlight the private parts and are more tight there.
And here is another question that arises: if you shouldn’t be comfortable sporting your upper thighs: how then are skin-tight leggings/jeans any different in that area as well?
An easy fix to these two problems would be to wear tunics, or long shirts that drape over your privates and upper thigh:
Dress pants could also be a more modest option, as they do not usually accentuate the private areas. Though one should be prudent when bending over – HERE IS A GREAT TIP: bend your knees! Don’t stick your bottom up in the air! 🙂
Are pants feminine?
Putting a photo of a woman in a skirt/dress beside one of a woman in pants certainly answers the question. So as it is not really up for debate, the question of choosing to wear one or the other is more the question: do you want to dress more feminine? Then The dress/skirt may be the better option. But is the skirt/dress modest? That would be another question.
How about a couple?
If you are a woman who would like to look, dress, and act more ladylike, feminine, graceful and poised – wearing skirts and dresses may be the best option. This isn’t to say that you MUST – it is merely up to you to make a decision based on what your preferences and standards are as a Catholic Woman.
But isn’t considered mans clothing?
We could go back in history and look at the rigorous Feminist movement who began wearing pants as an act of defiance against the role of women. Most of them wore pants underneath shortened skirts to make a statement; this was considered immodest back then, but we can easily see that it is not immodest. The statement they were making however,
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the leading feminists of that era was vehemently against Christianity.
In “The Elevation of Womanhood” she wrote:
“To change the position of woman in dogmatic theology, where she is represented as the central figure in Paradise Lost…is to revolutionize the system; hence all who believe in progress within the Church should hail the present movement for woman’s emancipation, as that brings us to the next onward step in the new religion.”
The Woman’s Bible is a two-part non-fiction book, written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a committee of 26 women, published in 1895 and 1898 to challenge the traditional position of religious orthodoxy that woman should be subservient to man.
Referring to the Christian Bible, Stanton wrote: “I know no other books that so fully teach the subjection and degradation of woman.”
Amelia Bloomer, best known for her last name linked to the “bloomers” the Early feminists wore, is quoted as saying,
Moving right along – we do walk, sit, and feel differently when wearing pants, this is a no brainer. If wanting to find a way to do such things with more gracefulness and ease, wearing skirts may be the better choice for you.
And to the question; isn’t it an article of MANS clothing? Historically and Culturally men and women have different clothing yes, but pants are also worn by women in some places.
Our Lady actually appeared wearing Traditional Vietnamese clothing in the under the title, “Our Lady of LaVang”. she appeared wearing the traditional Vietnamese áo dài dress and holding a child in her arms, with two angels beside her.
Though there is no official Vatican recognition of this event as a Marian apparition, on June 19, 1998, Pope John Paul II publicly recognized the importance of Our Lady of La Vang and expressed desire to rebuild the La Vang Basilica in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the first vision.
The men of Scotland also wear what we would call, “Womens garb” …. they wear Kilts.
Women in ancient India also wore pants – either “bloomer-like” ones or pants underneath tunics.
In Biblical times, men and women wore their different clothing, but they would both be considered skirts in our modern time.
Bhutansese men wear sarongs, which are, basically skirts. So do Hawiian men. This website has a ton of many, many other customary “skirts” that men wear in different countries.
See also this very thorough and informative video on the subject of men/women wearing pants!!
We could say that women wearing pants today encompasses what the early Feminists believed in. We can certainly say that pants are not the most feminine or ladylike approach to clothing. (We can also say that it’s a good thing corsets and long, heavy skirts of the 1800s/1900s are no longer in style!) But has the Church discouraged pants on women?
Nowhere is it said that pants on women is sinful or wrong. In fact, the Vatican’s official modesty guide, to be let in, shows a woman wearing pants. See photo.
Cardinal Giuseppe Siri wrote on the dangers of women wearing pants; but He recognises that trousers might not be thought of as immodest “because they cover more of a woman’s body than do modern women’s skirts” – unless, of course, they are provocatively tight-fitting. His main point, however, is to do with the psychology of women wearing trousers: he believes “Male dress is the visible aid to bringing about a mental attitude of being ‘like a man’” ie it changes the psychology of women.”
Another mention of pants on women can be found in, “The Responses of Pope Nicholas I to the Questions of the Bulgars A.D. 866 (Letter 99)”, in which Pope Nicholas I answers the question concerning the Bulgars women wearing pants:
“We consider what you asked about pants (femoralia) to be irrelevant; for we do not wish the exterior style of your clothing to be changed, but rather the behavior of the inner man within you, nor do we desire to know what you are wearing except Christ — for however many of you have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ [Gal. 3:27] — but rather how you are progressing in faith and good works. But since you ask concerning these matters in your simplicity, namely because you were afraid lest it be held against you as a sin, if you diverge in the slightest way from the custom of other Christians, and lest we seem to take anything away from your desire, we declare that in our books, pants (femoralia) are ordered to be made, not in order that women may use them, but that men may. But act now so that, just as you passed from the old to the new man, [cf. Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:9-10] you pass from your prior custom to ours in all things; but really do what you please. For whether you or your women wear or do not wear pants (femoralia) neither impedes your salvation nor leads to any increase of your virtue. Of course, because we have said that pants are ordered to be made, it should be noted that we put on pants spiritually, when we restrain the lust of the flesh through abstinence; for those places are constrained by pants in which the seats of luxury are known to be. This is why the first humans, when they felt illicit motions in their members after sin, ran into the leaves of a fig tree and wove loin cloths for themselves.[cf. Gen. 3:7] But these are spiritual pants, which you still could not bear, and, if I may speak with the Apostle, you are not yet able; for you are still carnal.[I Cor. 3:2] And thus we have said a few things on this matter, although, with God’s gift, we could say many more.”
Taking a look at what they were referring to as pants that Bulgarian women wore is also a large factor in why Pope Nicholas I said it wasn’t immodest. We can certainly say that it isn’t even close to what is worn on the street today, that are called “pants”.
Even the guidelines of Modest dress that Pope Pius XII first had given mention nothing of pants.
Saint Gianna Molla is pictured wearing pants when she skiied and climbed mountains.
A large portion of the weight of sinfulness is the desire of the person committing the sin. If a person has no idea of the consequences of seriousness of their actions, they are not punished as severely (though it DOES depend on the gravity of the sin!). Modesty in dress is one good example of this;
Most women have no sense of modesty or reverence for their bodes. But many times a woman dresses to incite pleasure and/or lustful glances purposefully. If this is indeed the goal of the wearer, than of course, it is immodest! More so than if the wearer has no idea of the feelings or scandal they are causing by their immodest clothing! It is still a scandal, and a sin, but less so than if they wore it out of spite, for vanity sake, to gain sexual attraction in the wrong way, and so on.
Those who make it their duty to incite hatred, disgust, or commit slander and rash judgement on others who dress differently are very much in danger of serious sin.
Those who write articles, publicly making fun of women who dress more modestly than the writer thinks is proper, are also in danger of serious sin.
Those who have serious scruples about modesty and how others should look, and go about giving information concerning Modesty in the wrong way (see this article) are in danger of serious sin.
Those who obcess themselves over who is wearing how much of an immodest outfit and so on, are in danger of sin.
In conclusion; immodesty is not the only sin (though it is a huge one!) and modesty is not the only virtue (though it is also a huge one). Making Modesty as if it were your religion and treating others uncharitably is not Christian. We are called to save our souls first; “Therefore every one of us shall render account to God for himself. Let us not therefore judge one another any more. But judge this rather, that you put not a stumblingblock or a scandal in your brother’s way.” Romans 14:12