Fashion and women, a combination like no other; like peanut butter & jelly. From the very start, women have used fashion as a tool, an expression, a movement. The progression of feminism over the years has been reflected to some extent in the trends and design statements of the fashion world.
Fashion has also been to restrain women, to bind them into a sense of submission. Back when men were the only ones who could have jobs, the designs they created were excessively feminine and nonfunctional. With tightly strung corsets and conservative cuts, women were told that they must accept the discomfort to look ‘proper’ and ‘infashion’. This started to change with the first wave of the feminist movement. It all started in the early 20th century when suffragettes were trying to get the equal right to vote; we had a very special lady - Amelia Bloomer, who pioneered the very first pant suit. It was a long tunic, with trousers. This was the very first time that a woman was publically wearing trousers, which was seen as a purely male right. Today, her name is synonymous with trousers, and she began the ripples in the fashion world when it came to the feminist movement. What we were ‘allowed’ to wear, defined who we were allowed to be.
Up next we have a name that has most definitely had a solid place in history; Coco Chanel! This legendary woman changed the way women dressed. She upgraded Amelia’s skirt suit into something more fashionable, yet with a straighter silhouette. She pushed for women to be taken more seriously in a man's world, without any ridiculous suffocating packaging. Seen in little black dresses, trousers and minimal clothing, she was a stark contrast of what people were expecting women to wear at that time. She took the runways by storm as hemlines got shorter, and perspectives broader.
In the 20’s, women of all sorts (and in large numbers) started to trade in the corset for a bob cut, and finally, the era of the exaggerated feminine figure came to an end. By the 30’s women swapped the skirt suits for actual menswear, and started rocking the looks on screen! This was the last of the glamour for a while as we slid into the time of the world war.
Since all the able-bodied men were off at war, women started to take to the workforce more urgently. They also adopted a more functional style; head scarves, jeans, boots. As some joined the army, pencil skirts were thrown out due to lack of practicality.
Sadly, post-war society regressed back to traditional gender roles, and women were sold the thought of being household creatures and focus on the shopping as men went back to work, femininity was back in fashion.
As the second wave of feminism took over in the 1960 ’s, another legendary fashion icon; Twiggy, brought the rise of the miniskirt, and a more boyish less feminine silhouette. In the 70’s the distinction between women and menswear blurred, with colourful flowy vibes all around, a true change was in the air.
The 3rd wave of feminism was the grungy, punk looks of the 90’s. Women reclaimed pink and added extra spunk to it. Getting more rough around the edges, we embraced the masculine.
We are currently in the 4th wave of feminism, where we still face inequality when it comes to being accepted as equals on all levels. In the workplace, women of high stature are still criticized for their appearances while on the other hand men are criticized for their words. We are still connected by what we wear, and what we represent in this fight for equality. In 2017, celebrities wore all black at the Golden Globes to protest against the sexual assault in the workplace. T-shirts stamped famously with the slogan ‘We should all be feminists’ is just the start! We’ve got a whole lot where that came from! Look out.