Lockdown has taught us a lot, but it personally taught me that I really have to re-evaluate my style, and it really has returned to me my empowered mojo. What better time to take the opportunity to get to the roots of the historic relationship of both fashion and feminism.
Paint the Town Red
The suffragettes are infamous for initiating the first significant wave of feminism, but what I found fascinating was how this affected their relationship with fashion. Whilst fighting for the rights of women, they had to utilise the power of their style to whilst not distracting from their mission, whilst making a statement. They did so by taking on traditionally Edwardian, feminine style to maintain the attention to their message, nevertheless, they weren’t afraid of incorporating a bit of colour. They even had three symbolic shades for different occasions; purple for loyalty, green for hope, and white for purity – typically for formal events. It’s also worth mentioning the exception from the Edwardian wardrobe, which was Amelia Bloomer’s creation of the suit, paving the way for women to be able to wear trousers, (even if it was accompanied with a loose tunic). The purpose of their overall expression allowed them to display resistance, whilst still conforming to the acceptable trend standards.
Cuckoo for Coco Chanel
In the awe of womankind everywhere, Coco Chanel hit the scene in the early 20th century, revolutionising womenswear. From the tweed skirt to the business-wear minimalistic chic, to the iconic little black dress. Chanel opened doors for the expanding potential of what womenswear could be.
A highly recognised turning point for expression of style for women was without a doubt, the Roaring Twenties. Who could forget how flappers shunned corsets and introduced the bobbed hairdos, reinventing ideals on exaggerated femininity, whilst rejecting the old ideals.
As disaster struck, and World War II commenced, we women united and picked up the workforce, and carried it through the war. This brought workwear fashion onto the scene, trends including utility boots, hair scarves, and slacks. This also influenced mainstream attraction towards denim jeans for women. Despite this, post-war society resulted in a step backwards for feminism, as husbands returned from fighting in the war, and professional job roles were discouraged, and shopping was instead made appealing.
It was then in the late ‘60s a second wave of feminism lead to further evolvement in womenswear, which rolled out way to the ‘80s. Growing resistance allowed youths to express their distaste towards conservative style, with the want to show more skin increasing. Along came the invention of the infamous mini skirt, which remains to grace us to this day!
From corsets to daisy dukes, we’ve stripped down not only in clothing but prejudices against women and the expression of their style, in relation to their body. This is not to say that dressing conservatively is old school, but it emphasises that women now have the choice to decide for ourselves what we wear and how we express our style.