Fashion and feminism: many would argue that those two words don't belong in the same sentence. And while we would never want to minimize the dedication and ultimate impact the women who shaped the movement for equality had, you have to acknowledge that their power was something to behold, not just through their words and actions, but also their decision to wear, despite what cultural norms dictated, precisely what they wanted. And if you think about it, isn't fashion, when it's at its best, an expression of power and freedom? A brief history of some key female power pieces:
What is it about the knees, and their visibility in womenswear that has stirred up so much trouble over the years? If we're to be historically accurate, miniskirts didn't make their first appearance in the 20th century, as archeologists have found artifacts in Europe and Egypt sporting miniskirts as early as 5400 B.C. (We can't even begin to imagine the backlash those ladies must have felt.)
In the 1920's, however, was when you saw the movement begin to gain awareness, with flapper dancers wearing miniskirts in their performances. But it truly went mainstream in the 1960's when a designer by the name of Ms. Mary Quant, who also happened to be one of the first designers to really embrace street style, saw ladies in London's Chelsea neighborhood wearing them and started creating her own leg-baring designs. (Did you know she named the skirt after her favorite car brand?) And just like that the short skirt became synonymous with female insouciance. Of course there's still plenty of debate about the appropriateness in different professional and religious contexts, but we're happy to report that it's an item that continues to get heavy rotation in many a female wardrobe.
The pant suit has had some extra time in the spotlight over the past few years, as U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made the ensemble her signature look, sporting designs from the likes of Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren. But where did the pant suit originate? Coco Chanel was one of the first designers to push the envelope by taking the idea of a men's two-piece suit and making a similar profile for the ladies, but still with a skirt. Her influence opened the door in the 1930's for the designers Rochas and Schiaperelli to take the trend one step further, by actually pairing the suit jacket with, you guessed it, a pair of pants. And while some envelope-pushing celebrities like Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn gave the trend visibility, it still wasn't considered appropriate for a lady to don pants if she wasn't doing manual labor until the 1960's when a new era of freedom of self-expression took hold and manifested itself in less restrictive dress codes.
Yes, it's the evolution and acceptance of the pant suit that helps us see how (most) things have improved for women. But more importantly, it's really the strength of the women and the tables they've sat at, that show just how far we have come.
Wait, wrap dresses, what does a dress that is easy to throw on and care for have to do with feminism? And that's precisely why we are including this as a key female power piece. The rise of the wrap dress, led in big part by Diane Von Furstenberg, symbolized women coming into their own in the workplace. It perfectly encapsulated the competing demands of family, work, and the general pressures to look the feminine part. It's a rare item of clothing that has permanently entrenched itself in the female wardrobe and makes us believe that fashion does indeed have the ability to mirror where we are as a society.