Pantsuits: Scrapbook of a Style Revolution: How Women Stood Up and Shocked the World by Daring to Wear Pants
Decades before Hillary Clinton became the modern world’s most famous pantsuit-wearer, women across the United States and around the world were making their own political statements by slipping on the humble pants-and-jacket combo.
Back in 1964, the term “pantsuit” was coined, but the clothing it described was much more than a fashion. In many ways, it heralded the start of a revolution — an uprising that fit in perfectly with the new era of mainstream feminism and attempts to finally pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
For years, women had pulled on trousers at home, although wearing something other than a dress or skirt out in public was simply not done. The half of the population born with ovaries actually made headlines for daring to wear coordinating tops and trousers to teach at a high school or stand in front of Congress.
While so many of the complaints seem ridiculously petty and hopelessly outdated now, they were taken seriously at the time. Bosses, boyfriends, husbands, newspaper columnists and style mavens all offered loud opinions about what ladies should and shouldn’t wear.
Even Oleg Cassini — one of Jackie Kennedy’s favorite designers — went on the record with his own anti-pant rant. In 1966, he wrote, “If you want to sit there and tell me that they are comfortable, I would be the first to believe you. But if you try and tell me that they’re feminine, flattering, alluring or what have you, forget it.”
Inside are stories and sales pitches the way they were initially published, so you can see how the designs and the dramas unfolded year by year. We’ll take you from the pantsuit’s dawn as a fashion fad until its peak popularity, when women were finally allowed to wear those outfits to work, to school… and even to the White House.
For years, pundits said a woman’s choice to wear slacks was improper — but eventually, the clothing was deemed (mostly) acceptable in polite society. In the words of Erma Bombeck: “Pantsuits are no longer a declaration of sex, sympathies or a compromise to femininity.”
Although many fashions have come and gone over the years, one thing is as true today as ever: A pantsuit is more than just a style choice — it is a statement.