History of Ladies Trousers – A Brief Story


Trousers were widely known as men’s wear and women are known to have worn only skirts and dresses looking like a garment.  Not until the 19th century when women started wearing pants for work and leisure. The increase in the recruitment of men for World War II created a huge vacuum in the shortage of men and workers available to work which actually brought about the participation of women in the forefront of industrial work and cultures that were initially dominated and taken over by men. This makes skirts and garment-like dresses to be considered unsafe for women under an industrial atmosphere. So there was a need to adopt men’s clothing styles for a maximum output for women. Trousers became fashionable for women early 20th century and as of today; it is being worn often compared to skirts. Various fashion styles (not function wise) have developed to fit the trousers with the women’s body better. A brief history of ladies trousers from 1900’s through 2010’s is briefly discussed below.

History of Ladies Trousers – 1900’s

The early 1900’s saw the need to adapt to using of trousers and it was introduced strictly for work-related purposes and not for fashion. A large number of women were involved in industrial activities during WWII because their men are being charged to war. Although, this was limited to certain elite and was still a leap away in catching any sort of popularity.

An early adaptation from women skirts to trousers.
An early adaptation from skirts to trousers.

History of Ladies Trousers – 1910’s through 1920’s

World War I made men’s wear to be a necessity for women from 1910’s through 1920’s while engaging in industrial work.  Coco Chanel who was then described as an amazing inventor stole her lover’s clothing and birthed an idea to design the first women’s trousers in the 1920’s which were solely for horseback riding.

Working women in a flour mill (England 1910's) during World War I.
Working women in a flour mill (England 1910’s) during World War I. (Photo by Reuters/Bain Collection/Library of Congress)
A photo of rebellious women (gender benders) from the 1920's.
A photo of gender benders from the 1920’s.

History of Ladies Trousers – 1930’s through 1940’s

The 1930’s saw a surge in popularity, especially with the urban women when Hollywood Glamazons Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn adopted men wear as part of their fashion style. This particular act produced fearless women who went ahead to try out wearing of trousers.  Also, Josephine Baker, a bombshell performer known majorly for wearing showgirl costumes and skirts was seen to be frequent in men’s wear in the 1930’s. The picture below shows a peek into Sears Catalogue of 1930’s and 1940’s.

Sears catalogue of ladies trousers 1930's and 1940's.
Sears catalogue of ladies trousers 1930’s and 1940’s.

Click to see more photographs during the era.

History of Ladies Trousers – 1950’s through the first half of 1960’s

Women after the World War II went deep into more feminize trousers that show off their amazing body in a way that is socially tolerated compared to baggy styles being worn in the previous days. Audrey Hepburn shows an incredible way to put on trousers in the 1956 film called  “Funny Face,” which till today still remain classic for women. Commercial aviation developed rapidly and so does the use of trousers by women, especially in western countries.

A flight passenger during the early years of commercial aviation.
A flight passenger during the early years of commercial aviation.
A 1950's trouser fashion for woman.
A 1950’s trouser fashion for woman.

History of Ladies Trousers – The second half of 1960’s through 1970’s

The hippy era that started from late 1960’s and extended till most of 1970’s brought a new dimension. Numerous wears like designer jeans, bare legs, and topless swimsuits were introduced. Also, trousers with flared bottom were pretty much popular. The college students, hippies and those who identified themselves as a part of the “counter-culture” popularized the jeans in its various styles and were seen wearing wacky and tacky pants. For the first time ever, ladies started wearing jeans in its various styles in the public which brought about a total counterculture lifestyle.

A preview of the “Miss Levi” spring collection.
A preview of the “Miss Levi” spring collection. (Photo by Mike Lawn/Getty Images)
A woman wearing star patterned flared jeans.
A woman wearing star patterned flared jeans. (Photo by R. Jones/Getty Images)

History of Ladies Trousers – 1980’s

The ’80s was a decade women preferred neutral colors and softer fabrics, compared to the 1970’s. The baggies got popular in the latter half with the introduction of various styles like stirrup pant which was the first stretchy fitted pant, dirty, boot cut, slim and super stiff jeans.

Trouser fashion catalogue of 1980's.
Trouser fashion catalogue of 1980’s.
Late 1980's Levi's Baggies Jeans.
Late 1980’s Levi’s Baggies Jeans.

History of Ladies Trousers – 1990’s

Early to late 90’s happens to be an era of denim of different styles that ranges from dirty jean to slim and boot cut jean to boyfriend and acid wash jeans. During this decade, jeans were the pants used for popular cultures.

In this decade, slimming pants with flat front became the uniform standard for women and they are worn on high heel shoes.

Jeans trend 1990's (All Saints)
Jeans trend 1990’s (All Saints)

History of Ladies Trousers – 2000 through 2010

Women trouser took an amazing shape form 2000-2010. Women have the full freedom to choose wears that fit into their careers, lifestyle and suit up to their satisfaction.

Despite the fact that western women are able to gain their freedom of dress, we still have some women around the world still operating under ban for example south Sudan. Not until recent when women in Paris were allowed to put on trousers. We are very much hoping we will get there as there are plenty of development to be made.

Trendy Teens of 2000’s

For further understanding on the evolution of ladies trousers, kindly visit the following sites:

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