Art & Style

The History of Women Wearing Pants as a Power Symbol

    A Man’s World

    Many of you may by now be familiar with the #MeToo movement. This new wave of feminism wanted to investigate how both genders execute their power through clothing choices. Let’s put it into perspective: is a man in a business suit likely to achieve less, the same, or more respect than a woman in a dress?

    Sadly, the latter ends up being the case in several situations. That is exactly what the #MeToo movement recognized. They began to see a connection between past influential female figures and their donning of traditionally masculine garments.

    Breaking the Rules

    In today’s day and age, if a woman wanted to wear pants there would be no doubts about it. She would not be posing any threat against the societal ‘norms.’ Unfortunately, things were not quite so easy back in the 15th century for the French heroine, Joan of Arc.

    This female figure was spotted cross-dressing on some occasions. Unfortunately, society had a hard time accepting her outfit decisions. Being dramatic as ever, the bishop concluded that Joan must have been under the command of the devil to dress in such a way. She was burned at stake as a result.

    Taking a Stand

    Joan of Arc has always remained an influential figure in history. She made such an impact on one woman that she decided to undo all the wrongs posed on her. In 1850, Civil Rights activist Amelia Bloomer popularized a garment not traditionally worn by women.

    These baggy pants were invented by Elizabeth Miller and were later named ‘bloomers’ after her. She wore these in an attempt to liberate women from the big dresses causing them to overheat and sometimes impair their breathing. She suffered a vast deal of harassment. The patriarchal forces deemed this wildly inappropriate for women, but Bloomer was resilient. She may not have known it at the time, but Bloomer paved the way for a fashion revolution.

    Getting Somewhere

    We’d never thought we’d see the day, but here it was! Slowly but surely, society was beginning to allow women more liberation in their clothing choices. By the 20th century, women’s pants were accepted as “occasional dressing only.”

    Things seemed to improve from here, as society began to see some famous faced sporting the latest trend. Marlene Dietrich was one of the celebrity’s brave enough to be snapped wearing pantsuits. This may not seem like such a big deal now but believe us, back then to see something like this was huge. Despite this, the rule only allowed famous people to get away with such a pursuit.

    Unjust Treatment

    It would appear that while celebrities were enjoying being papped in their transgressive new clothes, normal women were still not allowed to wear pants. In 1993, the law became a widespread issue.

    The “Pantsuit Rebellion” put an end to the rule preventing women in Congress wearing pants. This was a huge step for humanity in achieving tolerance for what women wanted to wear.

    Bringing Big Names Into the Plan

    Here’s a fun fact you probably didn’t know about Yves Saint Laurent. The French designer was one of the very first pioneers for women’s pants. He used his creative flair to offer various options for the female gender, including his iconic “Le Smoking” suit. He worked hard to liberate women from their restrictive dresses.

    There was no attempt to make these pants a new, more feminine form of clothing. That is what made Saint Laurent’s work so influential. He was effectively putting women in men’s clothing in an attempt to normalize it, stopping patriarchy from viewing it in such a negative light.

    Making It Political

    All of these past efforts to turn women’s pants into a more everyday item of clothing certainly did not go unnoticed. Today, we can remember a series of iconic pop culture looks which challenge the original notions of feminine dress. Who recalls Diane Keaton’s 1977 “Annie Hall” outfit?

    How do you know we’ve succeeded? The simple fact that authorities do not react the way they used to towards this fashion choice.