Pants in the Seventies, Part Two

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.

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2 Responses to Pants in the Seventies, Part Two

  1. Robert Moeller says:

    These 2 women seem almost to be in uniform. Any explanation of the wheel chair in the background? They almost look like adult candy stripers. And speaking of “psychological comfort,” I’d love to know what they had on their feet.

  2. Lizzie says:

    That’s really interesting. Both my grandmother and my MIL refused to ever wear pants. For my grandmother, born in 1909, and my mother-in-law, born in 1921, I think it really was a psychological thing. I can understand my grandmother who led a very home-based life, but my MIL worked for the military in WWII and was a more “modern” woman. But looking back at photos of her throughout her life, she did not even wear pants as a child and teen in the 1930s.

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