Pants for Women in Montgomery Ward Catalogs, 1907-1924

Montgomery Ward catalog 76, 1907

When did Montgomery Ward begin offering pants designed for women?  The first mention I found (and I could have easily missed some) had to do with horseback riding.  In 1907, you could buy a custom made divided skirt “for cross saddle horseback riding.”  Technically this was not yet a pair of pants, but the bifurcated skirt allowed women more flexibility in riding. As a custom made item, it could come in any size.

Montgomery Ward catalog 79, 1910

Three years later, the company had a half page ad featuring custom made riding outfits, including a pair of riding breeches “to be worn with a divided skirt.”

Montgomery Ward catalog 84, 1916. Click to enlarge

By 1916, there were drawings of women wearing these riding breeches without the skirt over them, a big step forward in the depiction of women in pants. And as you can see in the ad, the idea of “riding” had been expanded to bicycle riding. These outfits were no longer custom made, and on this page were primarily offered in smaller sizes.  The breeches, for example, only went up to a size 30 inch waist.

But these were leisure time activities.  What about work clothes for women?

Montgomery Ward catalog 90, 1918. Click to enlarge

Ads for overalls began in 1918, after the United States had entered the First World War.  These ready to wear outfits were listed on pages of “practical work clothes for women.” They came in both misses and women’s sizes.  In the image above, there is direct reference to the war.  The work suit was designed “for all who do war work as well as for those women who are taking men’s places on the farm and elsewhere,” a reference to the “farmerettes.”

Montgomery Ward catalog 102, 1924. Click to enlarge

Overalls continued to pop up on work clothes pages throughout the 1920s.  But in 1924, I discovered them also listed as sportswear! Now called overalls, not work suits, the catalog gave detailed description of their construction as well as suggestions for possible venues to wear them. “Durable khaki overalls for the woman who works outside or drives a car. They are strong and well made, but roomy enough to give you unusual freedom. Made with drop seat, deep patch pockets, and elastic at the ankle… Also for camping and touring.”

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1 Response to Pants for Women in Montgomery Ward Catalogs, 1907-1924

  1. Those 1910 riding breeches are very interesting. The Met has a matching pair of divided skirt and very similar breeches in their collection which they date to around 1895.

    1907 seems a bit late in the game for the first bifurcated garment for women to be offered. My research shows women wearing knickers and bloomers, etc, in the late 19th century, but it is likely they were wearing men’s or boys’ garments.

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