The story of ladies’ trousers & styling tips

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Looking around in the streets nowadays, you will almost only see women wearing trousers; skirts and dresses are an exception. About 100 years ago, this was completely different. For a very long time, women weren’t even allowed to wear trousers. If they wanted to wear trousers nonetheless, they needed a good cause and the permission of the police. In this blogpost, I’m going to tell you the story of the ladies’ trousers and of course I show you a matching outfit.

RetroCat in einer grünen Marlene-Hose von The Seamstress of Bloomsbury

Women in Trousers

Although there is evidence for women wearing trousers in ancient times, afterwards, wearing trousers was for women of the European and American world a taboo, for a very long time. During emancipation movement, some women dared to wear trousers. One of them was the women’s rights and temperance advocate Amelia Bloomers.

Bloomers (clothing)

Bloomers, also called the bloomer, the Turkish dress, the American dress, or reform dress take their name from just mentioned Amelia Bloomer. They were developed in the 19th century as a healthful and comfortable alternative to the heavy, constricting dresses worn by women druing this time. This kind of dress consisted of a shorter skirt, under which some kind of pants were worn. It also skipped the unhealthy and uncomfortable corset.

But although some women from the women’s rights movement wore this kind of clothing, the majority of the societey didn’t accept the Bloomers. It took some more years, until more and more women started to wear trousers.

Ladies’ Trousers on the Upswing

At the beginning, the were ladies’ trousers for sports activities, like skiing for example, and then, they sometimes were part of womens’ workwear. Around 1910, some fashion designer from Paris designed ladies’ trousers, the so called Jupe-Culotte, as an alternative to the Hobble Skirt (read more about this strange piece of fashion in this blogpost). Some women in Paris and London already wore the Jupe-Culotte, however, mostly for special occasion. Women in trousers on the streets still caused trouble.

This started to change during World War I. Women were forced to replace men in the workplace. As everything was scarce during war time, women mostly wore the clothes as men did before: overalls, uniforms with trousers, and so on. After the end of WW I, it was quite hard to stop women again from wearing pants. So in the 1920s, ladies’ trousers were still worn. Coco Chanel is just one example. However, they still weren’t an everyday piece of fashion for women.

Fashion-Bloggerin RetroCat in einem Modeklassiker: Der Marlene-Hose

Marlene Dietrich in Trousers

In 1930, Marlene Dietrich sang in the movie Morocco while she was wearing men’s clothing, what a scandal! But this was nothing in comparison to Marlene Dietrich wearing men’s clothes on the streets as well. So her style was called tacky. Oh what a difference 80 years can make: By now, Marlene is seen as a style icon and in Germany, we even call the kind of trouseres she wore (high waisted with a wide leg) “Marlene-Hose“, which could be translated with Marlene Trousers. Other female artists, like Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo, followed here example. But still, ladies trousers in everday fashion definitely weren’t usual.


Shop “Marlene Trousers”:


Vintage-Bloggerin RetroCat mit Marlene-Hose und weißer Bluse im Stil der 30er und 40er

Ladies’ Trousers from the 1940s until now

During World War II, ladies trousers came back into fashion, for the same reasons as during World War I. But after 1945, society went back to old conventions in some parts, and many schools in Germany didn’t allow girls to wear trousers to school, for example. Skirts and dresses were still the preverred dress code for women.

In 1966, Yves Saint Laurent showed a suit for women, which was another step towards the general acceptance of ladies’ trousers. However, it still took some more years until the trouser suit for women got completely accepted by society. In 1970, for example, the German politician Richard Jaeger said, he is going to ban every woman from the plenary session, who dares to wear trousers. At the 14th of October in 1970, the female politician Lenelotte von Bothmer resisted this declaration and gave a speech in the German Bundetag wearing trousers, which caused a protest.

But in the end, all the male protest did not help. As mentioned before, trousers have largely replaced skirts and dresses in everyday life as well as in working environment. Exeptions are high summer and often evening attire.

Fun fact: Only on January 31 in 2013, the law that forbid women in Paris to wear trousers in public was officially abolished. 😉

Although I personally generally feel better in dresses and skirts, I’m very thankful we are finally allowed to choose what we want to wear! Comments like “This is how women should dress [in skirt and dresses]”, which I sometimes receive under my Instagram posts are not appreciated!

Styling Tip: The Winnie Pants and a white Blouse

The beautiful green trousers I’m wearing in the photos called “Winnie” by the Seamstress of Bloomsbury are an absolute eye-catcher. I absolutely adore the high waist, the wide legs and the Crepe de Chine fabric. The front tie, as well as the pockets add that certain something and are also super practical.

Vintage-Mode-Bloggerin RetroCat in einer klassischen Marlene-Hose inspiriert von den 30ern

A white blouse is a classic and matches the trousers perfectly. Mine is by the Seamstress of Bloomsbury and due to its many details like the wide sleeves, the bow and a lot of buttons a very special piece. (PS: You maybe already know the blouse from this and this outfitpost.) To stick to the 1930s/1940s vibes of this outfit, I teamed it with matching accessories. My lovely hat and scarf, as well as a pair of vintage gloves finish this look perfectly.

RetroCat mit Marlene-Hose, Bluse und Accessoires im Stil der 30er und 40er

Outfit Details:

Trousers “Winnie”: c/o The Seamstress of Bloomsbury

Blouse “Clarice”: c/o The Seamstress of Bloomsbury

Hat and scarf “Marlene”: Mein wunderbarer Hutsalon

Gloves: Vintage, similar here

Earrings: similar here

Shoes: Miss L-Fire, similar here

Sandra vom Vintage-Blog RetroCat mit dem Marlene-Hut von mein wunderbarer Hutsalon

More Fashion Classics:

Circle Skirt
Dirndl
Fishnets
Garter Belts
Houndstooth
Little Black Dress
Nylon Stockings
Pencil Skirt
Petticoat
Tights
Trousers

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5 thoughts on “Trousers & a retro Outfit, or: What happened when women started to wear Trousers

  1. Es wäre schön, wenn Frauen wirklich frei wählen könnten, was sie tragen.
    Heutzutage ist es eher so, dass frau sich erklären muss, wenn sie keine Hose trägt. Ganz verpönt scheint das Tragen von Strümpfen oder Strumpfhosen zu sein, wenn es nicht gerade Winter ist.
    Zumindest höre ich als ausschließliche Rockträgerin, die eigentlich nie nackte Beine hat, häufig entsprechende Kommentare. Wenn man dann noch sagt, dass man einfach die Materialien gerne auf der Haut spürt und das Tragegefühl liebt, ist es ganz aus.

    Von daher würde auch ich mir wünschen, dass wieder mehr Frauen Röcke, Kleider, Strümpfe tragen würden – dann würde ich mich nicht so oft rechtfertigen müssen.

    Liebe Grüße
    Annette

    1. Liebe Annette,

      das tut mir wirklich Leid zu hören. Glücklicherweise musste ich solche Erfahrungen nie machen.
      Im Gegenteil, ich erhalte eher positiven Zuspruch und bekomme Komplimente für meinen Stil, zu welchem definitiv Kleider/Röcke und Strümpfe gehören.
      Nichtsdestotrotz ist dieser Style in der heutigen Zeit natürlich eher ungewöhnlich und erntet sicherlich auch mal den ein oder anderen seltsamen Blick. Da stehe ich aber einfach drüber…

      Natürlich fände auch ich es schön, wenn wieder mehr Frauen Kleider, Röcke und Strümpfe tragen. Aber ich bin auch der Meinung, dass jeder tragen sollte, was er möchte. Und wenn sich der Großteil der Frauen nunmal in Hosen wohler fühlt, ist das absolut legitim…
      Ich versuche jedoch mit meinem Blog die Frauen zu ermutigen über ihren Schatten zu springen, die den klassischen Stil zwar schön finden, sich aber nicht zu trauen, ihn zu tragen.

      Liebe Grüße
      Sandra

  2. Liebe Sandra,
    es überrascht mich, dass Du andere Erfahrungen gemacht hast als ich, aber es freut mich auch sehr für Dich. Ich beobachte einfach bei uns Frauen einen gewissen Herdentrieb. Als ich noch in einem Umfeld gearbeitet habe, in dem Kostüme normale Arbeitskleidung war, wurde ich von meiner Chefin eher zum Rock ermuntert, damals war das gar nicht meins. Im jetzigen Arbeitsumfeld kleiden sich die Damen eher praktisch und jetzt bekomme ich entsprechende Kommentare von den Kolleginnen.
    Das scheint aber nicht so selten zu sein. Wenn Du magst, schau mal im Forum der Brigitte nach den Beiträgen von „justitia79“, das bin ich. Wenn ich dort meinen Kleidungsstil schildere, ernte ich Ablehnung, teilweise sogar recht heftig.

    Liebe Grüße
    Annette

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