Oppressive Women’s Clothing and Fashion down the Ages

Women’s clothing is in a class of its own and women take great care to look their best for any occasion. Remember the famous John Kennedy quip when asked why Jackie took so long to get ready. “She does,” admitted John, “But then she looks so much better than me”.

However, this has not always been true. In their quest for beauty, women have been made to wear clothes that have been oppressive to say the least. Go behind the scenes at a fashion show and you will find young models made to wear dresses that restrict mobility, yet they are required to walk the ramp as naturally as possible.

This is nothing new in the world of woman wear down the ages. A look at how a class of women have traditionally dressed will prove this point.

Throughout history, fashion has been used to express a point about social status and wealth. The wealthy showed off their richly embroidered silk gowns and elaborate suits. However, what they were also required to show was that by dint of their class they were not required to work and hence could have limited mobility. The wicked crinoline was an undergarment in the form of a circular cage that physically limited movement. A woman would stand ensnared in this structure while her maids would add layer upon layer of heavy petticoats on her. While the clothes were beautiful to look at, it also conveyed a message – she was willing to change her body to the standards set by society.

Another example of female oppressive clothing is a scene from “Gone with the Wind” where Scarlett O’Hara is tightly tied up in a corset by “mammy” while she holds on for dear life. In the 18th century, corsets made of whalebone and wire was used to force women into them to structure almost a zero size waistline. In the process, organs were pushed up making breathing and eating very difficult. But then women had to meet society tastes of a slim waistline, never mind if it was physically uncomfortable.

Fast forward to the modern era and things are not much different. The stiletto usually 5in and more distorts a woman’s posture, misaligning the spine and the hips. But then that is the epitome of women’s fashion be it at a disco or executive board meeting.

Finally, a matter of inconvenience – why do women’s dresses not have pockets in spite of widespread usage of smart phones while men have the option of slipping them into one? Definitely food for thought!