Three cheers for women wearing pants and all that signifies! hurrah, hurrah, hurrah.
Watching Hillary Clinton accept the presidential nomination last week made me truly appreciate how times have changed since my youth! Beyond her political and policy acumen, she has claimed the right to be Queen of the Pantsuit, demonstrating daily that it can be a colorful, versatile and seemingly indestructible partner in life.
When I was growing up, it was skirts only for girls at school. Even in college, at the University of Miami (1958-1962), women were not allowed to wear slacks anywhere on campus. What was provocative to a college administrator about young women wearing pants?
Other restrictions for women only included a rule against wearing sandals on campus (this, in a tropical climate), living off campus, as well as adhering to a nightly curfew. My feminine consciousness at that time was so underground, that it never occurred to me to organise with other women on campus to protest that regulation.We grumbled about the double standard, but were too ignorant and felt too powerless to do anything about it. I am very grateful for the women who came after me and blazed the trail for the rest of us to wear whatever we damn please.
My generation lived on the cusp of the women’s movement. So near, but yet so far. In a span of just a few years, the rules came tumbling down. We weren’t happy with the status quo, but hadn’t yet understood how wrong and damaging the double standards of the day were.
By the time the movement really kicked in, I and most of my contemporaries were married and having children, as we’d been encouraged to do. It had never occurred to most of us to do otherwise. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, hit me like a bolt of lightning. Suddenly, everything I’d been taught was suspect. I understood it was too late for some things, but not too late for others. I immediately knew that my daughters would be brought up in a changed and less repressive environment. Of course, wearing pants was just the tip of the iceberg.
The pill was released in 1960, but I wasn’t aware of its existence for several years after that. My mother’s stern message to me, repeated frequently in case I hadn’t paid attention, was “Nice girls DON”T!” Female sexual liberation was on the horizon, but not close enough to grasp. If I’d been born five years later, my choices would have been dramatically expanded. I’ve never been sure whether that was a good or bad thing!!
But just to share how far we’ve come in a lifetime, here’s advice to women from a 1939 Vogue magazine:
‘SLACKS: Whatever else you have, you’ll want—if you weigh under a hundred and fifty—a pair or two of slacks. They’ve come a long way from their early duck-pants beginnings, they’re an accepted part of nearly every wardrobe to-day…Eminently wearable at any hour—and in deluxe versions—on the American Riviera, slacks should be ‘more conservative’ for English country weekends; similarly, while ‘smart women wear them on Palm Beach golf courses’, those belonging to more formal clubs ‘might think twice before playing in them’; and, welcome attire on beaches and small boats, slacks are ‘usually restricted to the sports deck on ocean liners.’