Wearing pants is very common for women nowadays. A century ago to see a woman wearing pants was inconceivable. Until the beginning of the 20th century, pants were a symbol of masculinity in the Western world. The first women who showed up in public wearing trousers were accused of breaking the dress code. And this was a punishable offense by law. In Paris, in the 1800s, a decree was issued stating that women are not allowed to wear trousers without special authorization. The first to wear pants when they were illegal were the feminists such as the George Sand (writer) and Sarah Bernhardt (actress). They were committed to breaking the rules and defying prejudices. However, at this time, the trousers were still a symbol of male power and gender segregation.
The social prejudices against women wearing trousers have diminished only after the First World War, due to practical reasons.
In 1920, it was Coco Chanel who started the wide leg pants trend for women. She was inspired by the outfit worn by the Venetian gondoliers in Italy. But it wasn’t until after the Second World War that the trousers were accepted as a reasonable dress code for women. During the war, the factories were lacking the workforce as the men left to fight. Hence women had to replace men, and they adopted the men’s work equipment (the work overalls).
Starting with the 1950s, the trousers designed for women take a more feminine outlook. Audrey Hepburn is the setting up the trend for cropped trousers. The next step in the evolution of pants for women was made when Yves Saint Laurent designed a formal suit for women, in 1966. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the society was genuinely prepared to allow women to dress as they please. This is the time of the hippie movement. The same style of pants is worn by both men and women, as a symbol of gender equity.
Wearing pants was, in the past, in turn, a symbol of defiance. Then a symbol for fighting a male-dominated system and a victory of ascending on the social scale. Nowadays, it is just standard attire, often chosen by women in the workplace.