Inspired by the unrelenting heat, and the above exquisite photo of Vivian Leigh, I wore pants to work today. I don’t often do this, partially because I find putting on a dress is easier than pairing a top with pants, and also because I own a finite amount of them. Like, two pair that fit and aren’t jeans. Technically the other pair is really for fall/winter, and my third pair are polka dot and adorable, but too big now, and therefore destined to become something else when I get around to feeling transformative.
I know the fab Gertie takes issue with pants, and has a post about them being weird and another about actually wearing them. There’s even another debating the historical accuracy of fly-front pants for her next book! Couture Allure has features about the Skinny Pant, as well as several other posts featuring vintage pant suit design, ski pants, and enormous pants from the 70s. This is a hot issue, people!
There are a handful of vintage Hollywood icons who are well-known for looking pretty incredible in pants. Some of my favorites, and most notable are:
Audrey Hepburn, who, regardless of what she wore, tended to look graceful, put-together and gorgeous.
Katherine Hepburn, an amazing lady with incredible talent, a well developed sense of adventure, and great gams.
Marlene Dietrich, an absolutely timeless, strong and sophisticated lady of style.
(Photo courtesy of “Of Stranger Sensibilities” blog)
Greta Garbo, regardless of whether or not this is a costume, she looks fantastic.
Last, but not least (and technically not actually vintage, but who cares!) Lady Sybil Crawley!
So, all these exquisite ladies can really pull off/put on a pair of pants, and that is actually something incredibly special. Since I am all about history, as well as fashion, I picked up a book not too long ago called “Women in Pants: Manly Maidens, Cowgirls, and Other Renegades” off of Amazon.com. (You can too!) It is a very interesting, illustrated and concise history of how women progressed from wearing floor-length bustle skirts to the sexy, and functional, pants suits of today.
Basically, there was a time (not really that long ago if you’re including, like, dinosaur times, too) when even working/labor class women wore long, heavy skirts and dresses all day, every day. Now, this might be fun if the only things on your to-do list were: sitting, embroidery, writing letters or leisurely walking. However, doing just about anything requiring actual physical effort was made infinitely more complicated, and dirty, by lugging around ten pounds of dragging fabric. This (eventually) led to the invention of blousy, shorter pants made to look similar to skirts (see above: Sexy Harem Pant), and while these were definitely taboo in big cities, working/country women had been transitioning to pants for many years. This transition was hurried by the charming Victorian habit of cross dressing for photographs and parties (hilarious), and the social effects of WWI.
Although the book primarily covers the major shifts at the turn of the 19th century, women wearing pants was taboo well into the 20th century. When my Dad started at Baylor in the mid 1960s, women on campus were still not allowed to wear pants. Granted, Baylor is a pretty conservative university, but it was happening regardless. (And a single generation removed is no great distance, in my opinion.)
In all honesty, I find it sort of amusing that men decided pants were masculine, since they’re the ones with serious “crotch issues” to deal with. Skirts would, I’m sure, be much more comfortable, however, the inherent vulnerability that accompanies short skirts, and constrained range of motion involved with long skirts, probably explains why both sexes sometimes default to pants. (If pants are the way I have to go, I will choose pajama pants every time! Amirite??)
Do you prefer pants over dresses/skirts? If so, why? Anyone have a favorite pants style? Skinny, bell bottom, gaucho, shorts even?