The Duggars may have originally made a name for themselves for simply being a family with a lot of children, but over the years, other aspects of their unconventional life have interested viewers. For one, Duggar matriarch Michelle has homeschooled all 19 of her children, and they've generally shunned "secular life," not even owning a TV even though they literally had their own TV show. Their strict rules around dating became pretty intriguing as some of the eldest kids reached young adulthood (no hugs or unsupervised phone calls!), as did the family's similarly strict rules about modest dressing. Wondering why the Duggars don't wear pants? It might seem like a strange expectation in this day and age that girls and women should only ever wear skirts and dresses, but for the Duggars, it's definitely a big deal. And it all comes down to their super devout religious beliefs.
There has long been much speculation over exactly what the Duggars believe, and many have assumed that the family is part of the controversial "Quiverfull" movement — a sect of conservative Christianity that advocates avoiding contraception and, basically, having as many kids as possible. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar have since said that they are not actually Quiverfull Christians though, according to The Huffington Post, but that they are instead "simply Bible-believing Christians who desire to follow God’s Word and apply it to our lives."
Since then, InTouch Weekly reported that the family is actually part of the Independent Fundamental Baptist church, or more generally, as People noted, followers of the conservative patriarchal movement. But while the Duggars' exact religious affiliation might not be known, there are plenty of things that are pretty clear — including why they choose to dress the way they do.
In 2013, Michelle Duggar discussed the family's policy of modest dress in a TLC Q&A, and said that, while it originally started out as simply a personal choice, it was ultimately the family's interpretation of religious scripture that led them to adopt the "no pants" rule. Michelle said,
As we studied as a family, we found we could come up with our idea of what we thought modesty was, but we really wanted to see what the scriptures said about it. Our interpretation was that from the neck down to the knee should be covered. By keeping those private areas covered, there's not any 'defrauding' going on. My kids are taught the definition of defrauding as stirring up desires that cannot be righteously fulfilled. We don't believe in defrauding others by the way we dress.
Michelle also explained that dressing only in skirts and dresses was her way of "defining who [she is] as a woman," which, to outsiders, likely sounds kind of ridiculous — how could any item of clothing be inherently gendered, or able to define anyone's gender identity? But in an article for The Baptist Magazine, Grace Raab (who is not affiliated with the Duggars) explained the scripture-based reasoning behind her own choice to avoid pants.
For one, Raab quoted Deuteronomy 22:5, which 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.” To Raab — and presumably also to Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar — that meant that the scriptures were advocating men and women to dress differently, hence, the skirt/pants separation. Raab also wrote that multiple Bible verses refer to the danger of lust as being sinful, and pants, compared to loose skirts and dresses, could be considered provocative to men:
Some women do wear pants that aren‘t so bad, and yes, I admit that VERY loose fitting pants are not as revealing, but again, depending on how you move, even those can fit a little snugly. But do you really want to walk around in baggy pants? Sometimes that’s when women blur their gender identity the most, to be honest. The only real difference I’ve noticed between men’s jeans and women’s jeans is the body inside them.
Though the four eldest Duggar girls — Jana, Jill, Jessa and Jinger — didn't get into specifics about the Bible, they did discuss their preferences for skirts and dresses in their book, Growing Up Duggar. According to Cosmopolitan, the girls explained that keeping themselves covered up in long skirts and dresses is one way of preserving their bodies for their eventual husbands (something it sounds like they've accomplished, given that Jill, Jessa and Jinger — along with younger sister, Joy — are all married now). The girls wrote,
We do not dress modestly because we are ashamed of the body God has given us; quite the contrary. We realize that our body is a special gift from God and that He intends for it to be shared only with our future husband... We avoid low-cut, cleavage-showing, gaping, or bare-shouldered tops; and when needed, we wear an undershirt. We try to make it a habit to always cover the top of our shirt with our hand when we bend over. We don't want to play the peekaboo game with our neckline.
Interestingly enough though, now that some of the Duggar girls have started families of their own, it seems that their ideas about pants being immodest might be shifting. After marrying husband Jeremy Vuolo in Nov. 2016, Jinger Duggar shocked fans when she started posting photos on social media that showed her wearing (gasp!) shorts and pants. And most recently, mom-of-two Jill Duggar was also photographed wearing jeans out in public.
The explanation? Jinger's husband is thought have no problem with his wife wearing pants, and since she's married, she's no longer expected to follow her parents' rules. According to The Hollywood Gossip, Vuolo, a pastor at a church in Laredo, Texas, once gave a sermon in which he dismissed the idea that Christian women should be expected to wear skirts, and argued, "Jesus does not save people to make them wear skirts." But don't get too excited — as far as modesty goes, his beliefs are still pretty conservative. Vuolo said,
It is your liberty as to whether you dress modestly with a modest pair of pants, or with a skirt, or with a T-shirt, or with a blouse. It is not your liberty, women, to wear sensual, seductive clothing that is designed to draw the attention of your brothers.
In any case, it's clear that, in the Duggar world, the skirts versus pants debate is an important one — and that, in their Christian circle, they are not alone in their beliefs about what women should and should not wear. And although it is encouraging to see some of the Duggar girls branch out with their clothing choices after a lifetime of being told what to wear, it's still a bit disappointing that they are only able to do so after getting married (and possibly only after getting their husbands' approval).
Either way, the Duggars clearly view modest dress as an important part of their religion — or, at least a way to respect their parents' rules while they live under their roof.
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