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Wigan pit brow girl.

In the Western world, women have historically worn dresses and skirt-like garments while men have worn trousers. During the late 1800s, women started to wear trousers for industrial work. During World War II, women wore their husband's trousers while they took on jobs, and in the 1970s, trousers became especially fashionable for women. In the United States, this may be due to the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which made public education treat males and females equally and in turn dresses could not be required of female students and dress codes changed in public schools across the United States. Today, trousers are worn far more often than skirts by women, and many women wear trousers almost all the time.

Although trousers for women in western countries did not become fashion items until the later 20th century, women began wearing men's trousers (suitably altered) for outdoor work a hundred years earlier.

The Wigan pit brow girls scandalized Victorian society by wearing trousers for their dangerous work in the coal mines. They wore skirts over their trousers and rolled them up to their waist to keep them out of the way.

Women working the ranches of the 19th century American West also wore trousers for riding, and in the early 20th century aviatrices and other working women often wore trousers. Actresses Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn were often photographed in trousers from the 1930s and helped make trousers acceptable for women. During World War II, women working in factories and doing other forms of "men's work" on war service wore trousers when the work demanded it, and in the post-war era trousers became acceptable casual wear for gardening, the beach, and other leisure pursuits.

In Britain during the Second World War, because of the rationing of clothing, many women took to wearing their husbands' civilian clothes, including their trousers, to work while their husbands were away in the armed forces. This was partly because they were seen as practical garments of workwear, and partly to allow women to keep their clothing allowance for other uses. As this practice of wearing trousers became more widespread and as the men's clothes wore out, replacements were needed, so that by the summer of 1944 it was reported that sales of women's trousers were five times more than in the previous year.[1]

In the 1960s, André Courrèges introduced long trousers for women as a fashion item, leading to the era of the pantsuit and designer jeans and the gradual eroding of the prohibitions against girls and women wearing trousers in schools, the workplace, and fine restaurants.



The majority of women in the West today wear pants as opposed to skirts/dresses most of the time. However, there are times when women may prefer to wear a skirt as opposed to a pair of pants, and some women may wear skirts/dresses 100% of the time out of the modern tradition. Some of these reasons include:

Professional appearance

In most professions, it has been accepted for women to wear slacks. With the popularity of the pant suit and other slacks giving the appearance of business attire, in most professions, it is possible for women to wear pants at all times. Many occupations today also allow casual attire or have uniforms that consist of pants. However, there are women who feel that wearing a skirt ensures one is "dressed up" and therefore gives a better impression.

Most women who wear business attire to work will wear pants on some days and skirts on others, with style variance in mind. The activities of the day at work and the outdoor temperature may have an impact on their choice for any particular day.

Formal occasions

Most formal attire for women consist of a dress. Though one-piece dresses have historically been the choice, many two-piece dresses, often modeled like suits, are produced now. In recent years, some formal outfits consisting of slacks have been developed, using the suit design for their basis.

While it is still the norm for wedding gowns to be dresses, clothes worn by other women to weddings and other formal occasions sometimes include pants.


During warmer weather, many women consider skirts more comfortable than pants, particularly when travelling and in situations where they are required to remain seated for sustained periods. Though shorts are an option for many casual occasions, many women do not feel their needs can be met with a pair of shorts. Shorts may also be inappropriate for some occasions, and a skirt or dress, such as a sundress, may be the best choice. Additionally, some women who feel they look unattractive in shorts may choose a skirt or dress for warmer weather.


Some women with a disability may find it easier to don or remove a skirt or dress. Since a skirt can be pulled over the head, bending or pulling up is not required. Additionally, those with broken legs do not need to worry about fitting thin pants over a cast, and those of extreme weights may find skirts easier.


Though maternity pants exist and are very popular, some pregnant women prefer to wear dresses throughout pregnancy that have no waistline.


In an age where the majority of women at any given time are wearing trousers, there are a number of religions that prohibit women from wearing trousers and some may require all women and often young girls to wear only skirts or dresses. The reasons behind such beliefs, which vary within each religion and culture, are generally due to modesty laws, which vary in each culture. Religion is the most common reason for a woman never to wear a pair of pants.

  • Orthodox Jews: Most Orthodox Jewish women are required by religious laws to wear skirts and not trousers. There are two main precepts in Judaism that are the basis for this. One is modesty. In Jewish belief, the space between a woman's legs is considered to be a private area, and therefore, must be covered by a garment. Additionally, there is the Biblical commandment that women must not wear men's clothing and visa versa (Deut. 22:5). Since trousers were originally created as a man's garment, women are therefore forbidden to wear them according to most rabbinical authorities. Though the common requirement is for skirts to be at least knee-length, many Orthodox Jews as a precaution extend the length, wearing only skirts that reach as far down as the ankle. Other Modern Orthodox women will permit even shorter skirts or altogether disregard this practice.
  • Traditionalist Catholics : On 13 November 866, Pope Nicholas I wrote to King Boris I of Bulgaria: 'Whether you or your women wear or do not wear trousers neither impedes your salvation nor leads to any increase of your virtue' ('sive vos, sive feminae vestrae, sive deponatis, sive induatis femoralia, nec saluti officit, nec ad virtutum vestrarum proficit incrementum' - Patrologia Latina, CXIX, 1002; see here for an English translation of the Pope's reply to the King's enquiry whether, on becoming Christians, Bulgarian women should wear a dress instead of their traditional trousers). Some members of the Society of Saint Pius X have spoken of the preference of women's wearing skirts rather than trousers. [2]
  • Oneness Pentecostals: Pentecostal women choose to wear skirts because of the Biblical commandment that women must not wear men's clothing, however it is not a mandatory thing that must be done. [3].
  • Mennonites: The basis for skirts in Mennonites is modesty. For this reason, long skirts or dresses covering most of the legs are required[4]They also wear dresses and skirts because they believe men and women should be distinguished from one another.

Scottish highland dancing


In Sudan, Article 152 of the Memorandum to the 1991 Penal Code prohibits the wearing of "obscene outfits" in public. This law has been used to arrest and prosecute women wearing pants. Thirteen women including journalist Lubna al-Hussein were arrested Khartoum in July 2009 for wearing pants; ten of the women pled guilty and were flogged with ten lashes and fined 250 Sudanese pounds apiece. Lubna al-Hussein chose to go to trial to challenge the law. Amidst international protests by human-rights activists, she was convicted and fined 500 Sudanese pounds. She considers herself a good Muslim and asserts "Islam does not say whether a woman can wear trousers or not... It is not about religion, it is about men treating women badly." She wants to change the law on behalf of all the women of Sudan.[5]

See also


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