Pants and Their Use Throughout Time. The first records of pants date back to Eastern Europe and Central Asia, specifically in nomadic peoples, where, according to archaeological records, both men and women wore this type of garment.
But in Western culture, the situation was not the same since the use of pants was exclusively for men until the twentieth century, when the limitations got considerably extended, accepting and normalizing the use of pants for women, a custom enforced by both road and legal means.
However, many women proceeded to wear pants as a way of protesting against the regulations that forbade them to wear this type of garment and because it provided them with greater comfort, freedom of movement, and for fashion reasons, even to pass themselves off as men to receive a higher salary, and also as a quest to convey an empowered feminine image, above all.
Introduction of the pants in a reformed form
Elizabeth Smith Miller, who was an advocate of women’s rights, introduced in 1851 a garment known as the Turkish dress, which consisted of a knee-length skirt over bloomers that were wide and tight at the ankle.
This model caused such a stir that the newspaper The Lily, which focused on women and their emancipation, included instructions on how to make it, which later came to be called the freedom garment.
This combination of garments was also present in women who worked in coal pits when, to have more comfort and practicality in their uniform, they began to wear pants under their skirts, being this striking for some photographers who documented this as a way to show women’s clothing in the mid to late nineteenth century.
Evolution of pants through time
In 1890, cycling was also imposed as a women’s discipline, for which a pair of bloomers for sports use was designed to serve for this activity. However, it did not get the expected acceptance, so at the beginning of the twentieth century, the rejected model received a reconsideration, as it allowed more freedom of movement and comfort, being that some laws already allowed the use of the same in sport.
In 1911, the couturier Paul Poiret launched the first women’s pants in straight cut and elegant style, as well as the aforementioned Turkish pants, to wear with blouses and long jackets, providing a lot of femininity to those who wore them.
In this decade, the use of pants came onto the scene in another sporting discipline, horse riding, because after the First World War, women who practiced this sport used the same model of pants worn by men.
Also popular was the use of pajamas with pants for sleeping, and from this (pajama pants) came the palazzo pants, straight pants worn with short tunics, blouses, and long jackets by the end of this decade.
By this decade, the use of pants was so popular and common that renowned actresses such as Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn wore them as normal, combining them with pieces such as tuxedos and fedora hats.
Another important figure who joined the use of pants was the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who even wore this garment in a formal event in 1933 and later posed in a photo on the south side of the White House.
In 1939, Vogue magazine made its first cover with women wearing them.
1940 – 1950
During World War II, in both the United States and Great Britain, women began to wear their husbands’ pants for housework, going to work in industries, and gardening, among others, since they were also at the front of their homes and in the case of Great Britain, there was clothing rationing.
As a result, by the summer of 1944, sales of women’s pants increased.
We also have that the actress Audrey Hepburn continued to contribute to the use and popularization of pants, but now the Capri type model is tight and short to the calf.
1960 – 1970
In the 1960s, André Courrèges introduced the famous jeans for women, giving way to branded denim pants. 1966, Yves Saint Laurent launched Le Smoking, the first tuxedo for women for formal occasions.
In 1969, Charlotte Reid, a Republican congresswoman, was the first woman to wear pants in Congress. Also, this year, actress and singer Barbra Streisand attended the Oscar ceremony, where she went up to receive her statuette wearing a pantsuit.
In 1972, the popularity of the press in the White House continued when the first lady at the time, Pat Nixon, posed in pants for a national magazine. In the same year, the Education Amendments of 1972 received a pass in the United States, providing that girls only should not be required to wear dresses to school, thus changing the guidelines for school dress.
And it was common to see actresses of the stature of Jane Fonda, Diana Rosa, Tatum O’Neal, and Diane Keaton attending formal events and ceremonies wearing pants and even the female tuxedo.
1980 – 1990
But this prohibition got challenged by Senators Barbara Mikulski and Carol Moseley Braun. They wore the garment despite the established limitation, being followed by the rest of the female staff as a sign of support, achieving the modification of the rule conditioning the use of pants to wear a jacket.
Pants are already part of our life and closet, as one of the most common and widely used garments. Today there is a wide variety of models, fabrics, and colors available in which we can find a pair of pants, as well as an endless number of combinations to create different outfits and outfits according to our body and style.
The trouser is undoubtedly one of the most versatile garments that exist in the world of fashion, which overcame and crossed barriers until today, a situation that we are grateful to our ancestors, and thus have available an excellent piece in our closets.