From the Flappers to the Fifties; a tale of trousers in women’s fashion.

Many items of clothing may be traced back to ancient history, and indeed the same is true with trousers; being shown on women as early as two and a half thousand years back.

The late 1800s saw women wear trousers for industrial work but, generally, pre-20th Century Western culture dictated that trousers were considered as exclusive to men.

It was not until the early part of the 20th Century that trousers were started to be regularly worn by women although, at first, still only by those whose jobs necessitated it for practicality. This was particularly true during the World War One years; in factories and on farms, where women replaced men who had been called to military service.

The 1920s, and the dawn of the Flapper, heralded a boyish more masculine look and loose “sailor-style” leisurewear trousers emerged to be worn at home and on the beach. 

Although made more popular by 1930s fashion icons such as Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn trousers were still not generally regarded as being acceptable attire for women. 

Katherine Hepburn.

The actress Adrienne Ames is quoted as saying, ” I am not ashamed of being a woman. I intend to keep on looking like one. Trousers on women are quite hideous. You will never; I repeat never, see a woman wearing trousers on Park Avenue!”

Actress Carole Lombard was not a fan either. ” I have never seen a single woman who looked well in trousers”.

The 1940s saw World War Two and trousers again worn for practicality in war work. 

The “Make Do and Mend” campaign encouraged people to make their existing supplies of clothes last longer. 

In a bid to conserve clothing coupons women picked up their needle and thread and adjusted their husband’s trousers to fit themselves. As such they would hardly have been figure-flattering but, at a time of true hardship, “needs must”. 

After the Second World War the wearing of trousers by women became more socially acceptable as more began wearing trousers for leisure activities.

Film stars like Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, and Audrey Hepburn had made wearing trousers seem cool and sexy.

Audrey Hepburn.

The fifties was the first decade where many women were able to enjoy the freedom and comfortability of choosing trousers; styled for the female form, as an acceptable item of clothing. 

In conclusion it seems apparent that an item of clothing that is nowadays as much a part of every woman’s wardrobe, as it is a part of every mans, did not always hold this position.

Historically trousers were either worn for practicality in the workplace or as rebellious statement against convention.

As said by the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin in 1985:

“Sisters are doin’ it for themselves. 

Standin’ on their own two feet. 

And ringin’ on their own bells. 

Sisters are doin’ it for themselves.…”

Thank you for reading our latest blog post.



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