The History of Trousers in Women’s Fashion

By Lindsay Rorschach

The ever-so-trending look of women wearing trousers with a chic sweater, graphic tee, or even an elegant top creates such a classic, feminine style. While trousers seem to be a staple in today’s closet for all occasions, there is a lot of history and controversy behind how this clothing item found its place in women’s closets.

Dating back to women’s fashion hundreds of years ago, women were predominantly seen in long, full-coverage dresses. The outfits were not designed for functionality but rather to accentuate the woman’s curves with tight corsets, petticoats, and long skirts below their ankles. In 1851, an American woman named Elizabeth Smith Miller became uncomfortable gardening in her restrictive yet acceptable outfit. She followed a trend she noticed in Europe and began wearing “Turkish Trousers,” which were baggy trousers that gathered at the ankles, worn under skirts, and eventually became known as “bloomers.” She published an article in her local newspaper about Turkish trousers to spread the look to other women who felt the same. This article received extreme backlash from the community; however, many women felt affected by this cause and began to take part.

A little while after Elizabeth Smith Miller’s article, in the early 1900s, a French designer, Paul Poiret, created a feminine pair of bloomers with intricate embroidery down the leg and a tapered cuff at the ankle. This allowed women to enjoy fashion without sacrificing functionality, yet Poiret’s design was still considered too provocative and received an enormous amount of criticism. As many women were still attempting to revolutionize fashion, Vogue printed its first magazine that featured a woman in trousers similar to Poiret’s in 1917. While going against popular opinion, Vogue continued to feature different variations of pants and bottoms for women in its magazine.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The most pivotal point for pants in women’s fashion was World War II when businesses began hiring women into stores, factories, and offices to support the war effort. As many of these women were entering the workforce, they found that their long dresses not only were restrictive but also dangerous in such working environments. Women had finally given in and were almost forced into changing their work attire and began wearing pants and trousers to work.

POMPEY HIGH WAISTED PLEATED PANTS Photo Courtesy of Alice + Olivia

While today the trouser style of pants is still seen as a clothing item related to work, the office, or being in a formal and corporate environment, it has made the transition to everyday style. It is chic, feminine, and so classy. Many brands like Alice and Olivia, Artizia, Cinq a Sept, and Zara have great trousers that are classic but also fun with detailing. We are finally celebrating the long journey of trousers!

Lindsay Rorschach

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