Just why did many older American women turn to pants in the 1970s? Certainly fashion changes had a lot to do with it. In the sixties, pantsuits became a stylish, although still bold, choice for fashion forward women. By the seventies, they had gone mainstream. In addition, the seemingly arbitrary movement of skirt lengths from mini to midi to maxi, turned some women away from skirts.
But these shifts just created an opportunity—why did older women take it? Luckily, Charlotte Weaver Cross, the researcher in a study of older women in Corvallis, Oregon, asked them. (See the previous post.) The main reason—comfort. Seventy percent of the women from the youngest group, ages 65-74, gave this answer. Well over a third of the two older groups (75-84 and 85 and above) picked this choice as well. The second reason, which might be a subset of the first, was warmth. Fashion was the third most popular explanation among the two younger groups. Ease of dressing came third among the oldest women. Only one woman in the oldest group admitted that she wore pants because her children wanted her to.
And what did the women who didn’t wear pants have to say? Here, too, comfort was the main reason. Nine said they were not physically comfortable in pants; five said that they were not “psychologically comfortable,” a term which wasn’t defined. But only one person in the study, from the oldest age group, felt that pants were not appropriate for women.
Of course this is just a small study of a small town in the western United States, where dress styles are usually a little more relaxed. I’d love to find out more.