I wore pants almost exclusively for the first 22 years of my life. I rarely wore skirts, and when I did they were short. In 2011, I made the switch to skirts or dresses exclusively. Why? Personal conviction. This has always been my own choice. I’m sharing this blog – not to persuade others to do the same – but to share my story for those who are interested in making this change in their own lives.
I had always found long skirts and dresses to be beautiful in this gently feminine way. Around 2010, I had bought a couple of plaid skirts from Kohl’s. I believe those were the first below-the-knee skirts I’d ever had. I really enjoyed wearing those. It felt womanly. I’d wondered why some religious groups have women wear dresses or skirts only, but I’d never really explored the idea. Towards the end of 2010, that was something that kept crossing my mind.
First exposure to this lifestyle
The first time I ever walked among people who had the traditional gender roles with clothing was when I started going to an Apostolic Pentecostal church in January of 2011. Sure, I had seen women from Plain churches wearing their traditional dresses. I live in Ohio and there are many Mennonites as well as some Amish families not too far north of me. I had always thought their way of dressing had a beauty to it – feminine, modest, classic in a way. They were separate though. I wasn’t in those social circles and I had no friendships with anyone of that faith-based lifestyle. This was different. I was actually going to church with people that dressed and lived set apart from the mainstream (or “normal”) ways of the secular world. I remember looking around the church thinking how beautiful it was. It felt like finding something of old that you don’t see often anymore.
My initial thoughts
The dresses were feminine and yet not showing off skin to be beautiful. The skirts were long and many were loose, wrapped around them in a way that covered a woman yet still offered dignity. It was modest. It was womanly. But was it wrong for a woman to wear pants? I’d always worn pants. Of course, it didn’t seem wrong. That’s how I was raised. The jeans tightly wrapped around my thighs were not something I had ever questioned. How could it be wrong? Women have rights. We can wear what we want. Yet there was something that intrigued me about this wardrobe choice of theirs. I felt drawn to it.
Giving consideration to the idea
I bought a few long skirts. I’d never had ankle-length skirts before. I was afraid they’d be hard to walk in. I actually found them easier to walk in than pants. They were so comfortable! It felt like a nightgown. My legs were free. The skirts were flowy and feminine, even for someone like me who was more of a tomboy. I liked it. Something about it felt right. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was specifically, but it felt right. Of course, I still wore pants. You have to, right? I mean in the winter it gets cold and sometimes pants are more practical and if you don’t wear pants people will think you’re a religious nut. I kept thinking about it though. Could I choose to stop wearing pants? It was noticed by others that I was wearing a lot of skirts.
Wondering what God wants
I was still new in church (at the Apostolic church) and, while most women wore skirts, nobody ever really talked about why. I tried finding what the bible says about it using a concordance, but found no directions for gender-based clothing. There’s Deuteronomy 22:5 that says “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” (KJV), but there’s nothing that says pants are for men and skirts are for women. Besides, clothing varies in different cultures and changes over time. Nowadays we have men’s pants and women’s pants, and they are not the same. The word “abomination” got to me and I wondered what God considered to be for men and for women.
Has society strayed?
I started thinking about women’s clothing and gendered expectations over the years. It’s only been in the last couple of decades that it was socially acceptable for women to wear pants. For hundreds and hundreds of years, women wore beautiful dresses and long, flowing skirts. In the 1800s some women started wearing pants – some for practicality or comfort, others as a symbol of the women’s rights movement. During World War 2, women went to work in the factories and donned factory-safe work clothes while so many men were away at war. It wasn’t until after that it became common for women to wear trousers and such. Still, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that it really became socially acceptable to wear pants. Women took to wearing what was once for men as a sign of equality. I have an aunt who still remembers when she was in school and they started being allowed to wear pants to school. It has not been that many years. I was born in the 80s and just in that short time it has become odd for a woman to not wear pants. What’s right? Was this just culture? Are modern times the most progressive and righteous? Is the historical way more biblical?
I prayed for conviction and I got it
This weighed on my mind a lot. I liked skirts more and more. And I secretly struggled more and more with feeling like I didn’t want to wear pants. It felt wrong. I continued doing it because I had always done it. Also because it was expected of me to look and live like my family. I was more of a tomboy though and often wore shirts from the men’s department. I would put on a pair of pants and feel so bothered that I’d go change into a skirt. I couldn’t explain it. That’s just how I felt.
This was back in my dark days of working at Kohl’s. It was early 2011. I was a freight assistant working 3rd shift unloading the semi-trucks. I typically wore a tee-shirt, jeans, and steel-toe boots to work. It was a physically demanding job, and there was nothing womanly about it. It was very much a man’s job. There I was – the not-so-outdoorsy tomboy – who prided herself on being strong enough to do a “man’s job”. Granted, it tore my body up and left me with arthritis at a young age, but I was determined to be strong as a man. My position was usually standing at the edge of the dock with the boxes being unloaded onto a skate wheel conveyor. It would get very cold on winter nights standing in that spot for hours. Even with pants, my legs would freeze and my hands would go numb despite gloves. The idea of wearing a skirt sounded insane.
If you read my testimony blogs, you’ll know that it was at this job I met a coworker who invited me to the Apostolic church and gave me a bible study. His name is Billy. I had started going to this church, but I was still wearing pants often. I came into work one night and Billy and I had on the same outfit – same shirt, same pants. That was the night the Lord opened my eyes and I realized I was wearing men’s clothes. I wanted to stop wearing pants, but I was afraid it would upset people. I prayed for conviction. This was also the story where I learned if you pray for conviction, you will get it. Another night at work not too long after that, I wore a pair of olive-green cargo pants. They were looser so I thought they were more modest and okay. I squatted to put a box away and they ripped open at the crotch. I spent the rest of the night with a bit of a breeze and a lot of conviction. That was my last time wearing pants (until I backslid). That might all sound incredibly silly or ridiculous, but this was how I felt. I realize this isn’t an instruction given in scripture. This was and is a matter of personal conviction.
Making the switch
I had so many pants and not many skirts. I didn’t want to get rid of my pants. I wanted to turn them into skirts. My sewing skills are basic at best, but I had hopes. I really struggled with guilt! I had just gotten several pairs of pants for Christmas. I think this was February of 2011 that I made the switch. We were very poor, and if I could get new clothes they almost always came from thrift stores. Getting something brand new was a special treat. My Mom and I had gone on a shopping splurge for Christmas, and she bought me not just one but several pairs of pants. I liked them! They are cute. I wanted to wear them, but I felt like I shouldn’t. That was something I really struggled with. I still remember the pair of jeans she liked the most on me. It might have actually been a couple years since I’d gotten brand-new pants. I felt like I was wasting her money and not being appreciative of the gifts she got me.
I also had to get up the money to go and buy new clothes. This was a $9 an hour job and I didn’t have much to replace my wardrobe. It is definitely expensive to replace an entire wardrobe with modest clothing and skirts below the knee. Modest clothes are often more expensive than mainstream clothing. It was years before I had the money to buy a modest dress, the kind that Apostolic women often wear to church. I found a few thrift stores that tend to have longer skirts, and I got them as able.
I didn’t necessarily announce it publicly, but I did tell those close to me I didn’t want to wear pants anymore. The reactions were not warm and fuzzy.
My family thought I had joined a cult. They were very against this conviction of mine. It was mentioned often and repeatedly. They were upset. I won’t get into details or tell stories here, but I will emphasize that my family was bothered by this choice of mine. That didn’t slide by quickly. It lasted months. It took a long time for them to seem okay with my choice. They are supportive of it now.
Friends and coworkers didn’t like the changes I was making. They started teasing me often for a few weeks, then every now and then for the following few months. It took a long time for people to adjust to my new normal. I didn’t understand why the same people who complimented me on how nice I looked in a skirt when I still wore pants now thought I looked like a religious extremist in the same skirt. I also didn’t understand why they were now making fun of my long hair which was exactly the same length as it was when I wore pants and people would call it beautiful.
Church folks didn’t say much, but I did realize my sense of fashion didn’t really align with theirs. I’m more Plain Jane. I’ve become okay with that.
I was surprised that strangers treated me differently. Men started opening doors for me and treating me more like a lady. In general, I was given more respect when dressing modestly and wearing skirts. That part I did not expect.
My own reaction was one of guilt and struggle at first, but eventually peace. This was a genuine conviction and it did not waver. I loved skirts more and more. I did not miss pants. I had no desire for them.
Wearing pants again
I backslid at the end of 2014 and started wearing pants again in Spring of 2017 if memory serves me correct. Even though I had been out of church for several years, I continued to wear skirts and not wear pants out of conviction. The conviction remained no matter how far I backslid. The only reason I even started wearing pants again was because I was painting apartments with my brother and doing so in a skirt was frustrating. It’s easier to climb ladders and paint and such while wearing pants. I went with my cousin to the Salvation Army thrift store and picked out a few pairs of pants just for painting. I think I got 5 pairs. It felt so weird trying them on. Having fabric wrapped around my legs was uncomfortable, a bit smothered. It felt so revealed. It felt wrong.
Other people rejoiced that I wore pants again. My family was so glad I looked “normal again”. There were a lot of compliments. No one seemed to care that I was bothered by it. This didn’t feel right to me. Before long, I started wearing pants again all the time. Besides, who was I to look holy when I wasn’t even going to church anymore?
It never stopped bothering me. Every single time – and I do mean literally every single time – I would put pants on I thought of my conviction to wear skirts. I didn’t really like the way that I looked in pants. I do like the way I look in skirts.
Coming back to church
I came back to church in autumn of 2019. A few short weeks after coming back, I was doing laundry one day and realized there were no pants in the laundry piles. I had gone back to wearing skirts without ever making an intentional decision to do so. It felt right. I thought about it and quickly decided to return to my convictions. I threw away all my pants and my shorts. I did not care. I did not feel guilty. I was glad to purge it.
Then and now
It’s 2022. It is now 11 years after I first felt the conviction to stop wearing pants. I still feel that way. I think that I will always dress this way. I still have the same general fashion style. I just wear skirts instead of pants. It feels right to me. This feels like me. It’s something that I love. I do not miss wearing pants at all; I have zero desire for that. I love my skirts.
I do feel a strong personal conviction to wear skirts out of modesty and also out of gender distinction. While the bible doesn’t specify which kinds of clothes are okay for which gender, I do feel that gender distinction is a biblical principle. We can see in Deuteronomy 22:5 that there must have been a clear distinction between men’s and women’s clothes for cross-dressing to be an abomination. In 1 Corinthians 11 there is distinction between hair length for men and women. I don’t think that is ever going to age out or become irrelevant. Looking at current times, the lines are blurred more and more. First clothing, then hair, then gender itself has left the path of what God’s people have traditionally done. The more society blurs the two genders, the more I cling to the old-fashioned ways. I can’t help but notice those who are blurring the lines are not living for God. Therefore, I will not adhere to their principles.
Most of the people that know me have adjusted, although there are still some who are bothered by my appearance. I’ve never heard a man speak against a woman dressing modestly or in traditional gendered clothing. I have seen some women get angry over another woman choosing to not wear pants. Over the years, I’ve learned to be confident in my choices and not be upset by other people having different opinions. I used to be so afraid to offend people. I was hesitant to talk about anything to do with my faith-based lifestyle. The more you love your choices, the less you care who disapproves.
When I meet new people and they only see me wear skirts, they generally assume it’s a religious matter and they don’t expect me to wear pants. The subject doesn’t usually come up, but if it does I’m comfortable talking about it. I’m open to questions or explanations.
One thing that has changed over the years is defense to explanation. When I was younger and newer to the faith, I always felt like I had to defend my faith. I got a lot of criticism on my beliefs, especially regarding my appearance. I got to a point that I was in attack mode without realizing it. I was quick to defend my actions. Even in the blogs I would do on my religious beliefs or lifestyle, I would often start with some kind of disclaimer that I’m not trying to control anybody or tell them what to do and I don’t want to offend anyone. Yet I can tell when I go back and read the old deleted blogs that I was on the defense from the very beginning. At some point, I became confident enough that criticism does not bother me anymore. My attitude switched from declaring and defending my faith to sharing and explaining my faith. That’s something to think about if you find yourself on a similar path.
Why I do it
Wearing skirts is a choice. I love it. Here’s why I do it.
If you’re considering switching to skirts only, I encourage you to try it out. Seek in prayer. Be open to revelation and conviction. If you try it and decide it’s not for you and you don’t feel convicted to do so, you can always go back to pants. You’re free to choose how you dress. If you feel drawn to dress this way, listen to the tug.