Jewish Sexuality dot Com
|I Thought Levis Were Jewish|
|Written by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed|
|Monday, 02 November 2009|
Historically, pants are considered to be men’s apparel, and even if many women have become accustomed to wearing pants, even if there are differences in their styles, pants are still considered men’s clothing. According to this understanding, it is forbidden to woman to wear them. Furthermore, according to this understanding, since there is a basic prohibition for a woman to wear pants, it does not matter that many women today have become accustomed to wearing them, because of the underlining transgression.
However, according to the opinion of many Torah authorities, if many women have become accustomed to wearing pants, or if there is an obvious difference between men’s and women’s pants, then the prohibition of wearing men’s clothing would not apply regarding these pants, since they are known to be pants for women, not men. Thus, a woman who wants to wear pants under her skirt on a cold day in order to keep warm would not be violating the prohibition of wearing the clothes of the opposite sex.
However, this is the case just on the side of the issue concerning the prohibition of a woman wearing men’s clothing. For even when women’s pants may be permitted in this regard, there is still a prohibition to wear them on the basis of modesty. This is because the concept of modesty forbids a woman from highlighting the intimate contours of her body. Therefore, from time immemorial, out of a natural sense of modesty, Jewish women wore dresses and skirts, and not pants, since it is the nature of pants to highlight the hips, thighs and intimate parts of the body, while dresses cover them.
To summarize, according to all Torah authorities, it is forbidden for women to wear pants instead of dresses or skirts on the basis of modesty, and there are those who insist that the wearing of pants also violates the prohibition of dressing in the attire of the opposite sex.
Since most of the authorities of Jewish Law forbid pants on the basis of modesty, in a case where there is no infringement of modesty, it is not forbidden to wear pants. For instance, if a woman wants to wear pajama pants at night, since this is done in the privacy of her home, there is no problem with modesty, and thus it is permitted. Also, women who want to exercise in a gym where there are no men present are permitted to wear training pants. Women can also wear pants in the winter under their dresses, in order to keep their legs warm.
Sometimes the question is asked by women who are concerned with maintaining a modest appearance, but who are not interested in keeping all the laws of proper dress: what is preferable – to wear a short skirt that doesn’t reach the knees, or a pair of broad and relatively modest women’s pants? In this case, since wearing a short skirt is a clear and serious breach of modesty, it is better to wear pants, which is a lighter transgression.
(Based on, “P’ninai Halachah,” Vol.2, by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, P21.).
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