Women’s suits have an interesting history. Wanna hear some? Excellent.
In the 1870s, Paris was in an uproar over the custom-made trouser suits being worn by actress Sarah Bernhardt. She liked to call them her “boy clothes”, which- safe to assume, further pissed off those men and women who already felt she lacked the proper level of shame.
In the 19th century, women were experiencing (at least among the upper classes) a certain increase in freedom for recreational activities like horseback riding. It’s at this time we see men’s styles mirrored in women’s fashion. The look of choice: suit jackets with long skirts.
I’ve paired my slightly oversized, double-breasted blazer with black tights because I like the juxtaposition of proper and professional with edgy. These heels weren’t a part of the original outfit. I was making a video, which you can watch below, and wanted to be taller, as well as move differently, and forgot to change back into my original choice.
The lens was too high to show my feet, so it didn’t matter. But when it came time for the photography portion, I forgot to take them off. I went back and forth for a while debating on whether or not I liked them. I typically have a keen sense of what I like and what looks good to me, so this was a disconcerting feeling.
In the 1940s, Pachucas, female members of a Mexican-American subculture, wear zoot suits to project a rebellious, tough girl image. Feminists begin wearing zoot suits as a rejection of their limited roles as wife and mother. Katherine Hepburn rocks the hell out of slack pants suits and the world can’t stop talking about it.
The 1980s is synonymous with shoulder pads. Throw a Walkman in any direction and it’d likely bounce off some woman’s shoulder pad. Large shoulder pads began as a fashion trend on haute couture runways, but it quickly spread to mainstream culture. When I was growing up, a jacket without shoulder pads was kind of a joke.
The 1980s also saw a decline in the feminist movement, and with a lousy economy, even the President was blaming women in the workplace for higher rates of unemployment. Things were looking bleak for women; and then came shoulder pads. While they were created with purely fashion in mind, the power suit, as it came to be called, would be a perfect symbol of strength and solidarity for women. The message was clear: we are strong, capable, and here to stay. It said, make room at the table boys, my brains and shoulder pads are going to need some space.
If you enjoy a little history mixed in with your fashion, let me know in the comments!
I would have liked to include some full-length shots, but time and circumstances… But honestly, this blazer looks so good in full sun that I’d like to make a second, more comprehensive video with this jacket worn in different ways. Would you like that?
Did you wear shoulder pads back when they were popular? Do you enjoy wearing them now? If so, may I suggest you try your neighborhood thrift store first? Better for the environment. Go forth and conquer.
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