Leggings: Lustful or Lounge Wear?

Betsy St. Amant Haddox

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Updated Aug 16, 2022
Leggings: Lustful or Lounge Wear?

Where do we draw lines with our wardrobe when the Bible doesn’t give specific parameters?

Part of me wants to make this the shortest article in history and simply answer the title question with “potentially both.” But it’s not that simple, which is why the issue of modesty in the church continues to be a hot-button issue across denominations. 

As always, it’s crucial to dive into God’s Word to determine any answer to tough questions. What does the Bible say about modesty? Are we as flawed, sinful, finite humans interpreting those Scriptures accurately? Where do we draw lines with our wardrobe when the Bible doesn’t give specific parameters? Is it a sin to dress a certain way if a fellow church member thinks I shouldn’t? What does God think? Are leggings really of the devil? 

These are just a few of the questions frequently ricocheting around the topic of modesty. And, just like an out-of-control pinball, we risk taking someone’s eye out if we handle the discussion poorly. 

Here are four points from Scripture to consider in this worldwide debate:

1. We’re Supposed to Glorify God with Our Bodies

1 Corinthians 16:19-20 (ESV) "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."

Are you able to wear leggings to the glory of God? Sure. Can you wear leggings in your home, sitting crisscross-applesauce while playing with your toddler to the glory of God? Yes! Can you take power walks in yoga pants and glean much-needed endorphins to the glory of God? Absolutely. Can you wear leggings and tunic sweaters while snagging your holiday coffee and Christmas shopping? Of course. Leggings (or yoga pants or any type of form-fitting workout pants) can serve a purpose. 

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

The Bible speaks clearly of freedom and Christian liberties. Whatever we do—whatever we eat, drink, wear, say, look at, etc.—should be to the glory of God. 

Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

So, when do our wardrobe choices cross over into not glorying God with our bodies? Consider point 2:

2. We’re Supposed to Wear Respectable Apparel

1 Timothy 2:8-10 (ESV) "I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works."

This is when it gets tricky because everyone has their own definition of respectable. For some denominations or individual families, respectable means women wear skirts/dresses at all times, never pants. For other churches conducting youth events, one-piece swimsuits are the law. One family might think two pieces are okay, so long as they aren’t string bikinis. Still other parents only allow their children to wear shorts that come to the knee, while other parents are fine so long as the shorts in question don’t show a rear-end. 

Who is right? What does the Bible say? 

It’s a gray area. The Bible doesn’t give specific hemline suggestions or forbid leggings/yoga pants or any type of form-fitting clothing. The Word simply reminds us that women should clothe themselves with respectable apparel, modesty, and self-control. 

The verses above go on to mention braided hair, pearls, and expensive garments, and are even repeated in 1 Peter:

1 Peter 3:3-4 (ESV) "Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious."

So does that mean women can’t wear jewelry at all? Or braid their hair when they don’t have time to shampoo? Of course not. The warning is referring to the emphasis of a woman’s intent. Is the external appearance more important to her than the outward? That’s what is most important—the heart. 

Scripture tells us in Proverbs 11:22 (ESV) "Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion." 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be considered a biblical hog! The point of these New Testament verses is to demonstrate the contrast. If a woman is beautiful according to external appearances and is flaunting expensive clothing and jewelry and sporting salon-perfect hair but has a brash, harsh, gaudy spirit, well…she might as well be a fancy pig. It’s a waste. 

The internal is always, always more important than the external, which brings us to the next point:

3. Context Matters

When it comes to clothing choices, context and environment matter—a lot. Wearing yoga pants to the gym or to a group exercise class and using the pants in the manner they were intended is a different context than wearing yoga pants or skintight leggings to church. (For the record, leggings were intended to be worn under longer dresses/tunic style tops—never with a short shirt. In this sense, leggings can actually make an outfit more modest…)

Not convinced about context? Then consider this. Wearing a one-piece swimsuit to the pool is considered modest compared to most other suits out there, right? But wearing that same swimsuit to a Sunday morning service or youth night at the skating rink would be a very different story! Context and environment matter. 

Showing your body or a lot of skin out of context can contribute to a man’s struggle with lust. Lust is real. Lust is hard. Most Christian men I know who struggle with lust hate it. They don’t want to. If they could flip a switch and have it never be an issue, they would. (Women also can struggle with lust, for that matter.)

But the context of the heart matters as much as the environment. 

Matthew 5:28 (ESV) "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Are you wearing leggings or yoga pants because you think it makes you look sexy, and you’re hoping to get a second glance? Then you’re in the wrong. That’s not the God-honoring heart posture and motivation we’re to have as Christian women. Are you wearing the pants (or any item of clothing) because it’s what is necessary for the task at hand? Then, great! Check your heart. Men are responsible for their sin, and there are opportunities for lust no matter what a woman is wearing. Behavior modification (or wardrobe adjustments) aren’t the cure for the root issue in a man’s heart. But as sisters in Christ, we can help our Christian brothers with their battle from a posture of love and compassion because that’s what the Body of Christ does. 

To sum it up:

Can a woman wear leggings and provoke lust, be it intentionally or accidentally? Yes. 

Can a man lust after a woman no matter what she’s wearing? Yes. 

Is the man responsible for his sin of lust? Yes. 

Is the woman responsible unto the Lord for dressing in respectable apparel with a proper heart posture? Yes. 

4. We aren’t the Holy Spirit

Leggings aren’t sinful in and of themselves. Leggings aren’t of the devil. Leggings have a purpose. It is possible to wear leggings to the glory of God. 

It’s also not up to us to judge another’s wardrobe. 

Romans 14:13 (ESV) "Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother."

I’ll admit—I’m the first to struggle with this. It’s hard not to scroll social media and see photos of my friends or my friends’ teenagers taking bikini selfies or heading off to a school dance in a micro-mini skirt and not internally scream WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? 

It’s very hard not to do that. And it's very easy to become a self-righteous Pharisee about it and declare, “I’d never let my kid dress like that” or “I’d never post something that indecent.” 

But we don’t know the full story. We don’t know what’s going on in that young woman’s heart or that mama’s brain. It’s not worth the energy to scoop and toss the rock, so lay it down and focus on your heart, motivations, and convictions. 

Because ultimately, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to convict each heart about how they present their bodies. Of course, there’s an obligation on children/teenagers toward their parents to obey the household rules, even if they don’t personally agree with them. But I think as parents, we all would agree that we want our children to eventually get to the point where they behave and respond out of a godly motive, rather than a sense of reluctant obedience. 

Trust the Holy Spirit to handle it.

And while we aren’t the Holy Spirit, as believers, we do have Him reminding us of our true identity in Christ—heirs. 

Romans 8:15 (ESV) "For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'”

If you, as a woman, stop and fully grasp your worth and value in Christ, you will not want to dress like the world. Your heart will be of a pure desire to honor and represent Him—your Heavenly King—like a true Princess would. You don’t need to dress for earthly attention when God Himself sees you, loves you, and has adopted you into His kingdom. 

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Jonathan Borba

Betsy_headshotBetsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of over twenty romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her hubby, two daughters, an impressive stash of coffee mugs, and one furry Schnauzer-toddler. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored to truth. When she’s not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can be found somewhere in the vicinity of an iced coffee. She is a regular contributor to iBelieve.com and offers author coaching and editorial services via Storyside LLC.