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Pantsuits and Femininity


To Date Female Rebellion, Digital ID 1258760, New York Public LibraryDawdling away at the reference desk the other day, I put the word “pantsuit” into the Library Catalog, wondering what would come up. Well guess what? One item showed up and it was on Hillary Clinton!

Yet over the course of an online perusal of Clinton’s unsuccessful campaign for Democratic Party presidential nominee, I found the word “pantsuit” over and over again, often in a negative context. This brought me back to wondering about the original reception of feminine trousers, especially when made into a formal pant suit or pantsuit.

Even more daunting was the realization that I had actually grown up in the period when women finally won social acceptance for wearing pants. Fashion history surveys and reference books don’t give much space to this topic, except to say that this change occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, with better acceptance in the 1980s when more women than ever entered the workforce.

The blog I mentioned earlier,, is written by Monica Sklar. She’s had a varied career in many aspects of costume, academic and retail, but I particularly salute her, for she’s presently in a Ph.D. program about Apparel and Culture. For those interested in news on costume and fashion history conferences, exhibitions, scholarships, and curatorial and research jobs, including a sprinkling of insights from the field, this is a site to check out.


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