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Pants for Ladies, Feminine or Feminist?
Leah K. Oxendine
Author requests article critique
From bell-bottom jeans, to skin-tight leggings, to sweat pants to capris, today one of the most commonly worn articles of clothing among women is pants!
How did it come to be this way? What caused women to begin wearing something that had always been considered ‘manly’ and masculine? How have pants become so popular?
100 years ago, even 75, women wore skirts and dresses much more often. And of course, it was the norm in the late 1800's and back. But what started the wearing of pants for ladies? Pants for women in many countries didn’t become fashionable until the later 20th century. Women began wearing men's trousers (suitably altered) for outdoor work a hundred years earlier. And in the 1850's, here’s where we find our answer to where pants especially for women came from. The first pants for women came along in 1851 and these were the long, baggy Bloomers that narrowed to a cuff at the ankle.
Bloomers were invented by Elizabeth Smith Miller of Peterboro, New York(a lady who was thoroughly sick of wearing long skirts during everyday hobbies and jobs), along with Fabrizia Flynn, the wife of an Italian ambassador to Penrhiwceiber, South Wales.
But where did bloomers get their name, and how did they grow to become so popular?
An early feminist named Amelia Bloomer popularized these pants in the early 1850's(she is also where their name came from), and wore a “Bloomer” suit” herself while pursuing a new sport of the age: bicycling! Before the invention of bloomers, and bloomer suits, women were discouraged from riding bikes for their long, ankle-length(and longer) dresses could get caught in the wheels.
The Boston Transcript reported in May 1851, "The first 'Bloomer' made its appearance in our city yesterday." And Harper's magazine for September of that year wrote, "The ladies seem determined to reduce the volume of their dresses. This is manifested...at home by the general favor in which the 'bloomers' are held."
Worn below a knee-length skirt, the intention of bloomers was to preserve modesty while being less of a hassle to women’s activities than the full skirts of that period. To complete the outfit, one would don a short jacket and a broad-brimmed hat. In the 1850's bloomer suits were widely ridiculed in the press, and failed to become commonly accepted.
In fact, the word “bloomers” was sometimes used for the wearers of the garments, rather than the garments themselves! Amelia Bloomer herself dropped the fashion in 1859, saying that a new invention, the crinoline,/wiki/Crinoline was a sufficient reform that she could return to conventional dress.
The tradition of wearing bloomer suits was carried on for several years after coming about, however, in gymnasiums and sanitariums.
Some fashions, in the beginning, are labeled silly, unnatural and ridiculous, but then arise to much more later on. Bloomers were just the example.
Imagine a lady wearing these garments never embraced by womenkind! These strange articles of clothing which were basically pants! Something other than the long, full skirt of the age! Practically a man’s clothing, of all things! We can speculate on how the reaction to this strange new invention would have been.
To some women, it was a welcome addition to their wardrobe, and something that spurred them on in what cause they fought for. Some of these women were arising feminists, who believed firmly in such ideas as “women could do what men do” and “a woman’s job is not trapped in the home as a housewife.”
The bloomer costume was called the “American Dress” or “Reform Costume” by the women’s activists that wore it. Most of the ladies who wore this costume were also deeply involved in dress reform, abolition and women’s rights.
Even though we no longer see women in bloomer suits, (and neither did we after the Victorian era– they lasted until that time only, when bicycling suits were being used.)pants for women, overall, arose from bloomers, which opened the door to ladies and girls feeling comfortable and confident in pants, and over time, thinking of pants just like they would with skirts and dresses.
The donning of regular pants by women, particularly in America, came along in World War II when the men went to war and the ladies took their places in the work force.
It became very common at that time for the women working in the factories and entering into the military to wear baggy pants. Notice how this came about when women were forced to take the positions of men, and step into the other gender’s shoes. This fact alone, shows how pants were never very feminine to begin with; and even the supposedly modest Bloomers were popularized by ladies who had feminist views.
Ever since the invention of bloomers, (the very first women’s pants), ladies’ trousers have progressed from ‘conservative’ to liberal in leg exposure. In the 1960's, bell-bottom pants came around, and not much longer before the famous mini-skirts and short shorts. Standards sure do drop quickly, and just by researching the fashions of the years do you get a clear idea of how much has changed. So now remains the question, are pants feminine? By wearing pants, do we ladies put ourselves into not-so-feminine positions? Are we stepping into masculine roles?
Let’s go to the Word.
Deuteronomy 22:5 says
“The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”
It is true that pants didn’t exist in the time period this scripture was written in. But look at today! Men (at least in our country and culture) never wear skirts or dresses. It would be strange and just plain awkward if they did! We would no longer view men as men if they wore womanly garments. Isn’t it the same with us women? Isn’t it wrong of us to wear men’s clothing, even if it is modified to be ‘for women?’ Just because the tag says “for women”, does that mean it’s fine to wear pants? Of course not!
There are many things like that... for example, if you’re 18, you can smoke cigarettes. Just because the government says it’s fine to smoke(as long as you’re 18, of course!)does that mean it’s good for you and glorifying to God? Of course not!
Just because everyone wears immodest clothes nowadays, does that mean it’s something we ought to do? Definitely not!
It can be such a shallow thing to follow the fashions, because they are always changing, as we have seen. And so often they do not bring glory to our Maker, by being immodest and inappropriate, as well as tempting to the other gender’s eyes. And we mustn’t forget how much money one could spend trying to “keep up” with being trendy. The trends never stay the same. Someone is always trying to get new ideas for clothes out there, and if we look back to how Bloomers came about, that’s just how they began. Dress reform!
Today, our “wearing that which pertains to a man” would be pants. No matter how much pink or purple, no matter now much frills, embellishments and embroidery, pants will be pants.
No matter if worn with a pretty blouse, or camouflage jacket, pants can’t be feminine, for their beginning, the Bloomer costume, was worn and popularized by ladies who would be feminists in our world today. In World War II, women stepped in to fill the places of all the men who were away. They had to “wear the pants”, and many did that literally. Look back to the intentions of something, and that will tell you a lot about it. If women were doing what the men would have been doing, and basically wearing what they were wearing, than that is the opposite of feminine.
I am not telling you what you should do. We all must study for ourselves to see if what we read is true or not. We must all seek our Father’s counsel, and listen for what He wants us to do. He alone is all we need, and He alone is all-wise. I have a conviction, myself, that I have felt for some time now, about wearing pants. When I was younger, I didn’t blink an eye about it, but now I feel guilty about even wearing pants while riding our pedal go-cart.
So, in conclusion, I encourage you to think about what you wear... is it pleasing to the Lord? Remember sisters, we are ambassadors for Christ and representatives for Him here on earth. We want to make Him look as good as we can! (Even though His glory is exceedingly awesome already!) We want to bring glory to His Name.
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