Womenswear Trends 2019: The stylish and powerful pantsuits were once not allowed in public

Pantsuits have had a long journey from not allowed to be worn in public to defying gender norms and shaping female voice at workplace.
Pantsuits are more than just style statement.(Sonam Kapoor’s Instagram)
Pantsuits are more than just style statement.(Sonam Kapoor’s Instagram)
Updated on Jul 16, 2019 04:37 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Delhi | ByShreya Kumar

Power, a strong female voice and style statement are all synonymous when it comes to pantsuits. Pantsuits have existed in popular culture from a very long time now. Whether it is Rachel Green strutting in her pantsuits for work and making formals look good or the fashionista Carrie Bradshaw who wore white pants and waistcoat with a daring pink coloured shirt and a black tie. These iconic looks on air have been creating a frenzy among people to wear pantsuits till now. Apart from being a fashion trend, pantsuits have a lot to say but only if you have time to hear them.

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From being banned to becoming an attainable fashion statement, this style trend has come a long way. Although wearing pantsuits now is all about experimenting with the style to make it a fashion statement; like the slouchy silver suit worn by model Kia Gerber and the plunging neckline white blazer accessorised with statement jewellery worn by Sonam Kapoor for Cannes 2019. The evolution of pantsuits from women charged for wearing it in public to becoming a power symbol, pantsuits have had their, fair share of struggles. Hilary Clinton didn’t swear by pantsuits for no apparent reason, the pantsuits signify a number of things like power, feminism, androgyny and equality at workplace. 

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But this liberty to freely wear pantsuits wasn’t present earlier. Once there was a time when women weren’t allowed to wear pantsuits. This sounds bizarre right now but in the 19th century and early 20th century, wearing pantsuits was condemned as it was considered a masculine style by the society. During World War II women filled the workforce due to demand. And while working in factories they wore pants, as the corset gowns and dresses weren’t practical. Sadly, after the Second World War, all was forgotten, women were no longer needed to fill positions in the work front and domestic clothing didn’t call for such atrocious fashion. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that women started wearing pants not just because it was practical but because it became a symbol of rebellion in the work front. 

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Women like Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn both famous Hollywood stars were the only women who could dare to wear pantsuits to in public for film primers and could get away with it. The entailed masculinity of the pantsuits made it illegal for women to wear it in some parts of the world up until the early 2000s, as it was a punishable offence by law. Although the rebellious generation of 1960s might have started wearing pants in more numbers, it was still not allowed in the U.S Senate. In 1993 a few female senators wore pantsuits to protest its barring from the Senate. Later that year this rule was abolished signifying a huge success for the women of that time.

Coco Chanel was the first designer brand to pay heed to women’s work-wear, it designed its famous collarless, wool button-down jacket with a knee-length skirt underneath which paved the way for future work-wear like pantsuits. The 60s proved to be very beneficial as it brought with it the civil rights moment in the West; moreover, the Le Smoking pantsuit by the infamous Yves Saint Laurent completely transformed the fashion industry. Since then other famous fashion houses have made pantsuits and experimented with different styles. 

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The significance of pantsuits in feminism and civil rights make them more than just a fashion statement. Pantsuits are both political and personal in context and history. Now pantsuits are nothing unusual, but we know what journey they have gone through and why they deserve to be celebrated.

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