The Long and the Short of it: A Brief History of Pants

You don’t think twice when you go to the closet and pick out a pair of pants. For an important interview, you can choose a fashionable Chanel-style pantsuit that gives you that edge, or a simple pair of slacks coupled with a form fitted poplin shirt without out blinking an eye. But did you know that only a few decades ago, women wearing any type of pants would have caused an uproar?

Pants are notable for their symbol of power among women. In the 1970s on the ever popular Mary Tyler Moore show, Ms. Moore, who portrayed the character Mary Richards, wore pants. Not only was she the first woman on television who did so, she did it as a statement. She wasn’t just another male dominated woman in that era, she wore what she did at home. She unexpectedly paved a path that may be taken for granted today. Anything with two legs today is just another aspect of getting dressed. But as these pieces of clothing will display, these garments proved a point about femininity and how the sexes were portrayed by the outside world.

Throwing on your favorite pair of sweats seems to be normal. However, once upon a time, people couldn’t wear anything they wanted. There was a dress code that was followed whether it was realized or not. In the Victorian era, dresses were the main fashion—so much so that babies even wore them. Boys and girls were dressed alike in lacey, frilly frocks that were unisex in design. Until a certain age, all children wore white dresses, no pants, and grew their hair out. When taking a gander at older pictures, the clothing people wore could not help you differentiate between genders. There is a famous picture of Franklin Roosevelt sporting a dress, which at the time was the norm in fashion for young boys.

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Colors given to boys and girls were also opposite of what we traditionally use them as today. Blue was soft and seen as dainty for girls and pink was a strong color worn by boys. A long time ago, children clothing wasn’t given much thought. Now, on the other hand, we have tons of clothing stores just for children.

When boys were ready to wear pants, an entire celebration was created just for that moment. Imagine putting on a pair of your sweats and people cheering for you as you slid them on? Fashion is continuously evolving and trends we consider as norms now might completely die out in the future. Nowadays, women in the workforce have different types of careers, and what they wear does not define them. Elizabeth Smith Miller, born in 1822, wasn’t too keen on wearing layers of skirts and dresses. She was the first woman to don “Harem” pants or bloomers in public. They were big, poofy skirt-like pants that from afar could pass off as a dress instead of dealing with the tiers of petticoats. They were collected at the ankle, displaying a strong political declaration of the time.

Fashion finds itself in the center of statements exhibited. The cute romper dresses you get to freely choose from your closet, for example, come with a long history attached to them. The last few years, rompers themselves have been in the limelight thanks to male rompers. You can purchase them in a variety of colors or designs, which are created to break through the stereotypes.

Clothing once was designed to just not cover your body, but used as a status and political statement. Today, people are fortunate to wear what they wish and how they want.

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Rachael T. Campbell

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