5 Fashion Breakthroughs To Thank Feminists For

Who knew it took so much struggle to be able to wear the mini skirt?


We know, fashion and feminism don’t always go hand-in-hand — or see eye-to-eye for that matter.

But the truth is, fashion has always played a big role in feminism and the expression of feminist ideals, while feminism has paved paths in fashion for women in many ways. 

So here’s a look back at the most surprising pieces in your wardrobe we can all wear today, that we have to thank feminists for.

1. Mini skirt

Jason Wu Spring/Summer 2016

Love them or hate them, miniskirts have played a longstanding role in changing the perception of how women should dress. 

Since the dawn of time, women were seen as the weaker and more vulnerable sex, and thus were made to wear restrictive clothing like corsets and long, long skirts (that often dragged on the ground). 

Hemlines started to rise post-WWI during the flapper era in the 1920s, then even more in the 1960s as more and more women entered the workforce and universities. 

The miniskirt was a symbol of rebellion against patriarchal norms and restrictions, and the idea of propriety. It also served as a practical design for modern women who needed greater mobility to get around. 

2. Pants

Gucci Spring/Summer 2016

The first versions of pants worn by women were bloomers, and were created in 1851 by Amelia Bloomer, after calls for more practical attire, instead of the traditional corset and weighty skirts. 

The loose ankle-length trousers were worn under a shorter dress, but were still deemed controversial at the time. It wasn’t until the 1930s that women were allowed to wear pants without a layer of skirts on top, but even those were restricted to beaches and golf courses. 

Then, during the sexual-revolution by second-wave feminists in the 1960s and 1970s, women started to wear pants whenever and wherever they wanted.

3. Jeans

Marques Almeida Spring/Summer 2016

Can you imagine not having a pair of jeans or two in your wardrobe? We can’t either, and that’s why we have to thank second-wave feminists for it.

First created for working-class men, denim jeans, along with t-shirts, were adopted by middle-class teens to challenge gender, race and class divides in the 1960s (as you can tell, the ’60s were a big decade). 

Similarly, women embraced jeans to defy gender roles and outdated views on femininity. This blurred gender roles, and were also a statement against narrow ideals of beauty.

4. Anything punk or rock

Saint Laurent Spring/Summer 2016

As much as punk and rock were (and are) all about rebellion and subverting mainstream conventions, gender bias was still very much present in the sub-culture.

Female punk-rockers were often judged based on their sex appeal and gender rather than their music, and weren’t taken seriously. So bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile banded together to create a movement which came to be known as Riot Grrrl, and which sparked the third wave of feminism between the ’80s and ’90s. 

Together, they fought for the right to express themselves in the same way as their male peers and addressed issues like rape, domestic violence and female empowerment in their songs. Fashion was also a big tool used to express these issues.

Female punk-rockers defiantly rocked combat boots, funky hair colours, miniskirts and bras as tops — anything that went against what a girl is traditionally expected to look, dress and act like.

5. The Little Black Dress

Believe it or not, it wasn’t very long ago that it was frowned upon to wear black. The colour on women was reserved for mourning and was considered to be indecent when worn outside of the circumstances. 

It wasn’t until Coco Chanel created the little black dress, and a range of simple, pared-down pieces in the 1920s that this all changed. 

Her creations were vastly different from other articles of clothing created during that post-war period, as couturiers were moving back to more colourful, fanciful and elaborate designs. According to Chanel, this was so the character of the wearer could shine through their clothing without gaudy embellishments in the way.

Since then, black — and the little black dress — has become mainstream for women, no matter the occasion or day.

Photos: Imaxtree

For more on fashion, head here. Or check out Celebs Just Can't Stop Rocking This Style On The Red Carpet or 15 Fancy Ways To Throw Shade.

sign up for our newsletter

Sign up to receive a weekly round-up of the latest fashion, beauty and lifestyle news!

By signing up, I consent to ELLE’s Terms & Conditions.


you will love this

we also recommend

you’ll love this