In the 1920s a new hair craze started, when women traded in their long locks for a new do called a Bob. Women loved the look, as it was much easier to maintain, felt it represented a new modern era for women, and allowed them more freedom of self expression. Men, at first hated it. Women were fired from department store jobs for wearing their hair this way. Aetna Life Insurance company who employed many women at the time, had an employment manager who was quoted saying, "We want workers in our offices and not circus riders."
During World War 2 women entered the work place more than ever before. Having spent most of the decade in plain and practical clothing red lipstick stood out. Many factories would have it in the women's bathroom for the workers to put on in an effort to boost morale. After the war, because women had played such a vital role in the economy, they felt it was time to manage their own paychecks, have a say in politics and be in charge of their own bodies.
The miniskirt arrived in the 1960s and changed everything. It challenged societal norms in many ways. Women were reclaiming their sexuality, and a new independent, single girl who didn't necessarily need the approval of men was ushered in. A true scandal when it became mainstream, it gave a way for women to push past traditional gender roles as wife and mother and allowed them to have their own sense of identity.
The mid 70s brought on one of the most iconic pieces of women's wear in history. Diane Von Furstenberg's wrap dress was worn by all women, at the office and out for cocktails. When asked about her inspiration for the tie element, she stated: "Well, if you’re trying to slip out without waking a sleeping man, zips are a nightmare." It stressed a new idea of women, one were our gender roles could be the same as men's both behind closed doors as well as in the office.
The 80's ushered in a whole new look with shoulder pads, double breasted boxy suit jackets, and don't forget, big hair. The boxy wide-shouldered suits were both seen as feminist and not. Were women trying to emulate men in them or were we just trying to be seen as equals in the board room? Did they command authority, or were we hiding our femininity so as not to distract from our attempts at climbing the corporate ladder? Thought the look has left its mark in fashion history, it remains unclear what the impact was for women trying to redefine their roles in the business world.
The clothes we have worn throughout time have reflected the aspirations of women to change their role in society and symbolized breaking the societal norms that were imposed on us. With each evolution in women's wear we have redefined gender roles and what femininity means to us. We express who we are through our clothing, hair and makeup, rather than conform to society's expectations. Wearing a mini skirt or cutting your hair short may not seem like a big deal now, but there was a time in history when women had to fight to make these changes mainstream and deal with daily harassment in the process.
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