Anyone who knows me, knows that I wear trousers 95 per cent of the time – and often jeans. I don’t like dresses and skirts, unless it’s really hot, or a posh occasion and even then I’ll often divert to shorts or a dress which is actually hiding a pair of trousers.
Putting it bluntly I don’t find dresses comfortable or reflective of my personality and I don’t like them. I only like long, floaty skirts and will often wear shorts under them.
Even now in the world of business, I can be frowned upon for this, though people are careful not to mention it! Recently I was asked to take up a certain role (voluntarily) and my lack of corporate attire was mentioned!
Would you be surprised to learn that up until 1923, in the USA, it was illegal for women to wear trousers?
I can’t imagine not being able to wear jeans, leggings, shorts – and I would not have coped during earlier times being buttoned up and primped into any kind of dress. I suspect I’d have been the grumpiest Victorian or Edwardian woman.
A 100 years ago on May 28, 1923, the US Attorney General declared it was legal for women to wear trousers anywhere. The prohibition of trousers for women was enforced in most European countries and US States, not only for social custom, but believe it or, by laws that punished transgressors.
Not surprisingly several women did defy this ban, for example, runaway slave women often wore trousers for disguise, and in some cases to earn more money than women could earn – by appearing to be male. But, several prominent women activists were arrested and sentenced for wearing clothing that was deemed appropriate only for men.
Some women wore bloomers, the loose-fitting garment named after Amelia Bloomer, that women wore when cycling, playing tennis and horse-riding, although demure ladies still rode horseback, side-saddle in skirts. Queen Victoria’s prolific bloomers are often put up for auction today.
Unbelievably, many US states still passed and enforced laws against so-called ‘cross dressing’ during the 20thCentury.
It seems ridiculous however even today in the USA there are now ‘new’ arcane laws which discriminate against women, men, trans women and trans men and drag queens. What a farce – it appears in some places our laws are going backwards!
Banning women in the 20th century wearing trousers.
- Female senators were banned from wearing trousers on the senate floor until 1993.
- In Paris an old by-law meant that up until 2013, when it was revoked, women had to seek city permission before wearing trousers.
- Restrictions still remain today in some modern developed countries, but these are mostly confined to institutions imposing rules rather than legal bans. Some schools insist on ‘skirts only’ code for girls.
- One of my friends who began her teaching career in a secondary school in 1974 was not allowed to wear trousers, and one occasion, she had a male pupil on the floor trying to look up her skirt – which of course, could not have happened, had she been able to wear trousers!
- Some airlines have required their female flight attendants to wear skirts. British Airways, until 2016 and Virgin Atlantic until 2019.
Virgin Atlantic’s new ‘Be Yourself’ agenda launched their advert, and is their way to further inclusivity in the people they employ and features actors and personalities from the LGBTQ+ community. This allows crew to choose the uniform which best suits their own identity and bravo to them!
- Interestingly, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, at the end of May 592 years ago in 1431, charged with ‘heresy, witchcraft and violating divine law for dressing like a man’.
Gender -Neutral dress for schools.
Gender fluidity is becoming more visible in the media, and not surprisingly, children and young people are also beginning to question their gender identity or find that their gender identity changes over time.
For young people, it isn’t a big thing, but for many parents and the older generation, it’s often difficult for them to come to terms with. However, it is something that schools are having to discuss and consider, as it affects their pupils/students, with many identifying as gender neutral or as trans.
Although gradually, schools are beginning to address this, recognising the rights of pupils/students who feel they might not fit into the binary genders is, in my view, important.
One school recently caused an uproar with parents by banning all girls from wearing skirts, and said they should all wear trousers. They were moving towards a more gender neutral approach, however, they seem to have missed the point that some boys who would have worn trousers, might have liked the chance to wear a skirt. For me, it’s about choice within the broader context of having a school uniform. I have no problem with school uniforms as, for me, it creates a sense of belonging.
However, many other schools are taking a serious look at dress-code, and outdated rules appear to be relaxing.
Eighty state schools across the UK, including 40 primaries, have introduced gender-neutral policies, allowing girls to wear trousers, and boys to wear skirts if they wish.
The headteacher of a school in Birmingham, said ‘children are expected to wear uniform, but they can wear whatever part of that uniform they want.’
I so wish this had been the case when I was at school. I would have worn trousers then too had I been allowed – and I do identify quite happily as female.
It’s not, for me about my gender, it’s about being comfortable in my own skin. When I am, I perform better. I find fashion a ritual which just doesn’t interest me at all. I rarely get excited about clothes of any kind!
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