Tag Archives: proper attire

02. Modesty, feminine traditions, headship; honor God without contention

Women are to dress modestly and femininely, act like women, and embrace the unique role of special protection under headship given by God — as by nature weaker than the man.

Dress in a way that honors God, without contention – Lois

Hair and head covering, slacks, pants, trousers, and dresses – Lois’ viewpoint

This Bible study is based on 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, NIV

Is a woman’s hair to be her head covering?

To me, 1 Corinthians 11:15 is the key to the issue of head coverings for women. I see this verse as indicating that a woman’s hair is to be her head covering, not a separate wrap that she would wear over her head. I believe the Scriptures are teaching some general principles here.

Are pants, slacks, or trousers proper attire for women?

When I was a girl in the 1950’s, girls were not allowed to wear slacks to public school. Dresses were considered the appropriate feminine attire for school, business, and church. Slacks or pants were acceptable feminine attire for casual social occasions in the 1950’s.

But in the early 1900’s, trousers were considered “severe bigotry” for a woman. I have a wonderful hardcover book called, “What Can a Woman Do?” that was published in Albany, New York in 1893. A chapter on personal appearance describes appropriate dresses for a woman, and adds this commentary:

“Custom makes laws as irrevocable as those of legislatures, and the time has not yet come, possibly never will, when a girl can snatch her hat from its nail and get out into the open air as quickly as her brother. There must necessarily be certain restrictions of sex, and no amount of reform will change the laws of nature…. The working dress of American ladies to-day is a happy compromise between the despotic fashions of a court and the severe bigotry of a reform costume of the coat and trousers pattern.”

Modesty, feminine traditions, and headship

I believe the Bible teaches that women are to dress modestly and in accordance with femine traditions of their day. Even today it is the Middle Eastern custom for women to wear a cloth covering over their head. For a woman to have appeared in public without a head-covering in the time Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians would have indicated rebellion to authority.

On the other hand, there are Scriptural principles that cannot be ignored. 1 Corinthians 11:3 begins this commentary on women’s head covering by pointing out that “the head of the woman is the man.”

Later in verse 14-15 the Scripture asks: “Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?”

Verse 15 concludes with the answer: “For long hair is given to her as a covering.”

Verse 4 indicates that a covering dishonors the head of a man: Verse 4 says, “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.”

Yet the Bible speaks of a special and binding Nazarite vow of commitment that a mother sometimes made for her unborn infant, or a man could make for himself. This vow included letting his hair grow long (Numbers 6:5). Sampson, Samuel, and possibly John the Baptist were among those who were set apart by a Nazarite vow.

A woman should look and dress like a woman

I believe Paul is teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 that a man should look and dress like a man and a woman should look and dress like a woman. For some women long hair is not difficult to manage and they enjoy this especially feminine touch. For others of us, long hair is very cumbersome, unbecoming, and time-consuming to manage. As such, it can become burdensome and a deterrant to the ministry God has for us to do.

If the Apostle Paul, or Jesus, were walking among us today, I believe they would instruct women to chose a feminine hairstyle and advise men to select a masculine hairstyle.

If they were speaking with women in the Middle Eastern countries where a cloth head covering is still worn today to symbolize woman’s submission, I belive they would instruct women to wear a head covering to show their lack of rebellion to authority.

In our American society where women have embraced women’s liberation and have attempted to be like men, I believe they would advise women to dress modestly and feminely, to act like women, and to embrace the unique role of special protection that God has given her since she is by nature weaker than the man (1 Peter 3:7).

Dress in a way that honors God, without contention

Paul concludes his instructions by saying in 1 Corinthians 11:16, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” (I believe the KJV expresses this verse a bit more clearly and I have quoted it here.)

Commentators differ in their interpretation of this passage. I tend to agree with those who believe that “no such custom” in this verse is not referring to “no such custom” of being contentious, but rather to “no such custom” of head covering in the doctrine of the churches of that day.

I believe this Scripture is teaching that we should not defy social traditions in a way that would bring reproach on the name of Christ, thus in a society where it is a reproach for women to go unveiled, she should be veiled.

I think this is teaching us that we are not to be contentious on the issue of head covering. Some women will wear a head covering for the glory of God. Some will dress modestly in accordance with accepted feminine attire of their day for the glory of God. Since either way we serve with a pure motive of honoring Christ, let us not be contentious among ourselves regarding this issue.


Next: Reader comment from Jo

This 2-part Bible Study was written by Tina and Lois in 2000-2001. Comment by Jo was received 2004.

Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted

01. Hair or head covering, breeches, robes and dresses?

Hair or head covering, breeches, robes, dresses? Greek ‘katakalupto’ = ‘hanging down, completely covers;’ ‘peribolaion’ = ‘cast on or thrown around like a coat.’

“I choose head covering and dresses” – Tina

Hair or head covering, breeches, robes and dresses – Tina’s viewpoint

This Bible study is based on 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, KJV

Is hair the covering?

During a Bible study I stumbled across these Scriptures. I had never read these Scriptures before and I had to find out what was meant by …“if a woman prays with her head uncovered she dishonors her head.”

I began by asking my friends what their interpretations of this Scripture were. I also wrote letters to several popular ministries. “Hair is the covering,” became the consistent reply.

I prayed about this and the more I prayed the less hair is the covering made sense to me. If hair is the covering then why aren’t men shaved bald? I asked myself and others. After all, hair is hair no matter how long it is or who’s head it is on! How can hair be a covering for a woman but not be a covering for a man?

No one could answer these questions with any kind of logic. The unsupported “Hair is the covering” continued to be the response.

When no one I asked to give me logical answers, I decided it was time to turn to the churches who taught about veiling. Men and women are equal in God s eyes, but God is a God of order. That being said this is what I have learned:

“For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered” verse 6.

The word covered in this verse is the word “katakalupto” which means something hanging down which completely covers. The word “also” is a clue that the hair is to be covered.

If hair is the only covering needed, a woman would never be uncovered: Therefore, it would never be necessary for the woman to cut her hair short.

“But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for [her] hair is given her for a covering” verse 15.

The word covering here is “peribolaion” which means “something cast on or thrown around like a coat.” This is a completely different word than in verse 6! This would mean that our hair would be removable:-) It seems to mean that the covering in this verse is a covering that can be put on and taken off. Hair can not be taken off and put on (at least not mine:-)).

“But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God” verse 16.

I am often confronted by it was just a custom in Corinth. My usual response is that Paul was probably addressing the fact that it was not the custom to go uncovered simply because he was just telling woman to be covered. Why would he have addressed the issue of covering in verses 3-15 otherwise?

For me this makes much more sense than the typical “Hair is the covering” response. This is why I choose to cover. Each woman has to decide for herself concerning the issue of covering.

Are breeches or pants proper attire for women?

“And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy [place]; that they bear not iniquity, and die: [it shall be] a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him” Exodus 28:42-43 KJV

I wear dresses 99% of the time because of the Scripture above. Through the ages, dresses are what women have worn.

During the time that men wore robes as well as the women, the men wore the breeches under their robes. Men would often times tie the robe under the girdles exposing the breeches. The women never did this.

Men, over time, discarded the robes but kept the breeches. The women continued to wear robes but over time changed the styles into what we now call dresses.


Next: Lois writes…

Tina came to us about two months after we started our email support group, and she became a leader in the group soon afterward. We appreciate her faithful service a a leader during our early years, 2000-2001. This 2-part Bible Study was written by Tina and Lois during those years.

Scripture taken from King James Version unless otherwise noted