Throughout history women’s clothing has been considered too tight, too revealing, too casual, too short, too loose, too transparent and above all too scandalous! There was a time when women’s pants, bathing suits, skirt lengths, and dress transparency shocked and appalled critics. Even the flapper trend which is none of those things, was labeled disgraceful as it did not accentuate a woman’s curvy silhouette which at the time had been grossly exaggerated by the corset.
The implicit evils of wearing the flapper dress were thought to encourage women to drink, dance, and smoke unapologetically just like men. The term Flapper further intended to insult women who chose to wear such a shameful article of clothing as it was slang for “young prostitute”.
Examples of fashion trends that garnered salacious reactions can be found throughout history. In the early 1800s during the First French Empire aristocratic women wore lightweight transparent muslin dresses in white that exposed arms, legs, and a little too much bosom—scandalous!
In the mid-nineteenth century bloomers which were essentially full cut pants gathered and then fitted around the ankle. Bloomers were popular as they allowed women to move about more freely. Named after a woman rights activist, Amelia Bloomer, these sporty bottoms shocked and appalled the community as critics felt women were trying to look and act like men.
In the 50s there was the shameful bikini which showed far too much skin. And in the 60s it was the notorious mini skirt which had honorable women clutching their pearls and respectable men demanding women “Put on some clothes!”
Women’s clothing has always come under scrutiny and even been blamed for verbal and physical assaults. It’s not uncommon for a woman who has been assaulted to be asked by her community, “What were you wearing?”
And just when you think society has let go of all those antiquated notions of how a woman should dress—this happens.
A mother of four sons wrote a letter published in the Observer, a publication for the University of Notre Dame’s and St. Mary’s College titled, The Leggings Problem. The author pleads with the young women of the university to stop wearing these skintight bottoms because it looks as though “the leggings had been painted on” their “blackly naked rear ends.” She further laments that she is embarrassed for these young women as, “the men around them could see their behinds”. Gasp!
She suggests that these women should stop wearing leggings as it invites the attention of “unsavory men” and good decent men like her sons should not be compelled to look away from their “nakedness”.
What is it about leggings or any other fashion trend that stirs such hateful and sexist opinions? Leggings, bikinis, miniskirts and transparent clothing all have something in common. They provoke but not because of their radical approach to dressing. They provoke because we are still uncomfortable with the color, characteristics, and nakedness of the female body.
Eat well, laugh a lot, and be chic!