By Kathryn Graves, Crosswalk.com
As we’re all cooped up so much more than normal because of COVID-19, for many of us that means more chances to wear comfy loungewear, sweatshirts, and fuzzy socks.
Some of us throw yoga pants into that mix—but maybe only feel like they’re appropriate for at home or when we’re by ourselves. This could be a legitimate conviction, or just a reaction to the seemingly harsh attitude churches seem to have towards this particular clothing item.
But when things open back up again, what then? Should Christian women wear yoga pants? Before we answer the question posed in the title of this article, there are some other questions we also need to address: Are wardrobe choices an indication of your spiritual “level?”
Can an item of clothing be considered sinful? Is it legalistic to tell a woman what she can or cannot wear?
What is Christian modesty? And what are “yoga pants” anyway?
What Are Yoga Pants?
Let’s take the last question first. Yoga pants began, like the name suggests, as attire to wear to yoga class.
The fabric is stretchy knit and they all have a wide, flat elastic waistband. From there, the shape can either be more like leggings, or flared at the hem. Either way, the area from the waist to the knee is fitted close to the body. Some yoga pants are constructed of a heavy, ponte knit, but others are a lighter-weight, thinner fabric.
True to form, the fashion world is not content to leave an iconic pant alone, so a “new and improved” version has emerged with enhanced derriere shaping built right in. These pants are now paired by Instagram stylists with everything from sweatshirts and tees to blouses and blazers.
The object of the designers is to not cover any part of the pant from at least mid-hip to the ankle—and lately, many prefer cropped, waist-length tops with yoga pants
What makes these pants attractive to most women is their comfort. They are easy to move around in, and forgiving of extra fluff around one’s middle. They also pair well with both sneakers and lug-soled boots.
Why Such a Controversy?
You might wonder why such comfortable clothing has set off hot controversy. The problem is the clingy-ness of the fabric to a woman’s abdomen, hip, and thigh areas.
In addition, some fabric is so thin as to be almost invisible over curves, bumps, and wrinkles. Wearing such attire out in public without attempting to cover these areas sets off modesty radar among some Christians.
What Is Christian Modesty?
Reading the letters in the New Testament that the apostle Paul wrote helps shed light on this thorny issue. At some point in each letter, he brings up cultural difficulties faced by the local believers—and offers insight on how to live a practical life as a person of faith.
Peter also does this in his two letters, which were intended to circulate among several churches in Asia Minor. In 1 Peter 3:3-4, he even addressed what women wore. His advice? Don’t focus so much on the externals that we lose sight of the great truth of Christ living in us.
Evidently, the women of that day were very much like contemporary Christian women—concerned about their outward appearance.
Peter encouraged women to decide that cultivating their spiritual relationship with God was most important. I think he hit the proverbial nail on the head when he indicated that if our focus is correct, then all the other issues will fall gracefully into place.
It’s important to note that modesty is a posture of the heart, not a set of rules to shame women into submission. Both men and women are equally called to be modest towards God in all that God us given them. Read more about this here: 3 Things We Keep Getting Wrong about Modesty.
Can Clothing be Both Modest and Fashionable?
A woman might say, “But I want to be attractive.” My response is, “What, exactly, are you trying to attract?” I tell women it is possible to dress in fashionable styles while remaining modest. It’s as much about how we wear clothing as what clothing we wear.
In my book, Fashioned by God, I address this issue in the chapter “Pants Parade.” To summarize my view, I chose to quote actress Lauren Hutton when she said, “Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose.” I think choose is the keyword.
We choose what we want to convey about ourselves by the clothing choices we make. A woman must answer the question of what she intends to convey. Then all of her choices are much easier to make.
The chapter on pants in Fashioned by God details when, where, and how yoga pants, or leggings, may be appropriate attire for a stylish and fashionable—yet modest—look.
Is it Legalistic to Tell a Woman What to Wear?
Using the Bible as our guide, we can see that Paul and Peter were both careful to preach against using lists of behavior as spiritual tests. Rather, they offered principles upon which to build. We do well to follow their example. It’s easy to let the externals distract us, but we need to resist.
If we are each consumed with living our own lives to please the Lord and spread the gospel, we are less likely to be tripped up by another person’s choices.
We can make false assumptions about the motives or spirituality of others based on a first glance. Without even holding a conversation, we believe we know what they’re thinking. This is particularly true with hot-button issues like clothing choices.
A person’s wardrobe selections do act as a message board. Think about the teen girl dressed all in black, with black fingernails and dyed-black hair. What do you think she’s saying to the world?
Or consider the guy who wears baggy t-shirts and heavy necklaces, with his pants slung low. An older woman who consistently wears tops revealing cleavage and too much lipstick sends yet a different message. None of the above characters need to say a word for you to gain some sense that he or she is hiding their real self behind a costume—and that they want your attention.
The same might be true of a woman in skin-tight, practically transparent, derriere-enhancing yoga pants paired with a cropped, baggy sweater.
What kind of attention should we give? How about real friendship with no strings attached. What would Jesus do? is still a good question to ask ourselves.
We may want to take a step back and grant grace. Unless we really do know the other person quite well—and probably not even then—we cannot know what was in her mind when she got dressed that morning.
How to Stop the Madness
In any case, we need to think before we react to someone else, and we need to pay attention to ourselves. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit, and these never go out of style.
When we take care to “dress” our inner person with these qualities, our outer self will be easier to manage in a way that pleases God. Because, as 1 Peter 3:4 reminds us, that’s the whole point—living for Him, not ourselves.
Keeping the biblical view in mind, pay attention to the messages you are sending. Make an honest assessment of your wardrobe. Ask yourself what each item might say to people you meet.
A modestly-dressed, stylish woman is attractive, no matter her age.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Bluewater Globe
Kathryn Graves, author of Woven: Discovering Your Beautiful Tapestry of Confidence, Rest, and Focus, and Fashioned by God, holds a BA in Psychology, is a pastor’s wife and Bible teacher, and spent 15 years in the fashion industry. Kathryn is Mimi to five grandsons, and loves to play with color—including interior design, clothing, and painting with pastels. In addition to her website, find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.