"Women Who Wear Pants"
In today's society there is no taboo if a girl or woman wears a pair of pants. Pants is the American word for this garment and trousers is the British word for pants.
Other words used to describe the clothing on her legs: pantaloons, slacks, jeans, pantsuit, Turkish trousers, knickerbockers,leggings, bloomers or my favorite "reform dress"!
The word "breeches" or "britches" are short pants whose origins go back to English Restoration Theatre as part of a costume worn by a woman who played a "male character". Women would dress in these tight breeches exposing her legs and these very tight breeches would show the form of her bottom! Very daring! And there was always reveal at the end of the play in in which this lovely "boy" wearing these breeches removes his wig so her hair tumbles out and then the actress exposes one of her breasts! The paying public of mostly men this was the only reason or an excellent reason to attend the theater.
The oldest pair of pants on record were found in western China and dated back somewhere between the 10th and 13th century BC. They are made of wool panels. Archaeologists believe both male and female worn pants much earlier in history . No one can pinpoint when humans began wearing any type of clothing. Was it really a fig leaf?
Why all the names? And why was it taboo for females to wear ,using the general term, pants?
If we skip to the mid nineteenth century American suffragist Elizabeth Smith Miller adopted the style of "Turkish trousers" under "knee length skirts" Miller worn her new garbs to visit Amelia Bloomer in Seneca Falls, New York in February 1851. The following month Amelia Bloomer wrote to her readers of her women's magazine "The Lily", she was adopting her clothing to match this modern suffragist and decided these "Turkish trousers" would be her style! And this fashion took off! Per her readers request Bloomer wrote instructions on how to make these trousers. And by June 1851, Turkish trousers were called bloomers in honor of Amelia Bloomer. There were bloomer picnics and grand bloomer dances. Bloomers were the height of fashion.
Amelia Bloomer, in May of 1851, introduced Susan B. Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton! And of course these suffragists were wearing bloomers when they met. And this meeting changed the world for women. Anthony and Stanton lead the way of the Suffrage Movement in the United States.
Also, bloomers were healthier for women to wear! Women's traditional clothing was killing her. Corsets crushing her ribs and constricting her internal organs.
Dr. Lydia Sayer Hasbrough who wore the radical "bloomers" or as Hasbrough liked to refer to these bloomers as "reform dress".
Dr. Hasbrough founded the women's magazine, "The Sibyl", subtitled:"A review of the Tastes, Errors, Fashions of Society." The word "Sibyl" is Greek for prophetess. The Sibyl stood for women's rights, universal suffrage and abolition of slavery. Published from 1856-1864. The Civil War pretty much stopped the presses.
Women through the ages would wear men's clothing for many reasons, to fight in wars, for comfort and better health and the ability to move easier. And for work! Dress like a man and make more money! Or an education in medicine! From the mid 19th century to early 20th century, bloomers were associated with the Suffrage Movement.
When I was a little girl I remember my legs freezing because all I had on my legs were kneesocks and a dress for school. Girls and women were not allowed to wear any type of clothing like pants on their legs! And this was the 1960's! When it snowed in winter.
But that was the dress code! All females were required to wear dresses to the office, school and fine dining! No exceptions. And it was not like women did not know the comfort of pants or trousers. But suffer they did.
Now who broke with tradition? Wearing the pants in house and in public!
In the early part of the 20th century, women and girls worn knickerbockers whilst playing at sports. Like cycling! And horseback riding.
In 1932, Marlene Dietrich dressed in a man's tuxedo and Katherine Hepburn worn trousers to the movie peremiere of "The Sign of the Cross" to the Bilmore Theater in Hollywood.
In 1939, Vogue published their first fashion spread of women wearing trousers.
During World War ll women went to work and worn their husband's pants for work!
In 1959 Government Code Section 1294.7 Protect the right to wear pants California Fair Employment and Housing Act: FEHA discrimination complaint form now includes an option for "denied the right to wear pants."
In 1960 Andre Courreges designed long trousers for women which lead to the era of designer pantsuits and designer jeans.
In 1960, First Lady Jackie Kennedy was photographed wearing pants and a sweater on Cape Cod, Massachusetts and then Jackie wore palazzo pants in Italy, 1962.
In 1969 Representative Charlotte Reid was the first Congresswoman to wear trousers in the US Congress.
1969 Barbra Streinsand wore the designer Arnold Scaasi pants to the Oscar's and Barbra won for "Funny Girl".
1972 First Lady Patricia Nixon was the 1st Lady to model pants in a national magazine.
In 1972 President Richard Nixon signed "Title IX" into law. "Dresses could no longer be required of girls to wear to public schools!
Women were not allowed to wear pants on the US Senate Floor until 1993! Senators Barbara Mikulski and Carol Moseley in defiance of the rule! wore trousers. The female staff followed suit and that year Senate Sergeant of Arms, Martha Pope allowed it as long as "you wear a jacket. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or First Lady Clinton was the 1st First Lady to have her portrait painted wearing pants.
We skip to 1992, Rome , Italy. An 18 year old girl had her first driving lesson and she was raped for an hour by her driving instructor. He threatened her that if she told anyone he would kill her! She told her parents who helped their daughter to report the rape to the police that night. The rapist was convicted and sentenced by Italian Supreme Court.
THEN, in 1998 the Courts overturned the conviction because the victim was wearing tight jeans and she would have to help to remove the tight jeans to be raped so she was consenting!! Women in the Parliament protested! Wearing a sign "JEANS AN ALIBI FOR RAPE". And in 1999 the Italian Courts overturned this absurd denim defense to the charge of rape.
So every April Denim Day raises awareness of sexual assault.
April 29th, 2020 is the next Denim Day!
Pants have allowed women and girls physical freedom through the ages. So never forget who wears the pants in your house or place of work or to any event- it is our right.