I've been studying and researching women's dress for a while now. I guess it really started about 2 or 3 years ago, but lately I've really been interested in how we got where we are today.
When I first began reading blogs, the argument of "dresses only" was brought to my attention. I had never heard of such a thing except in thinking of our Pentecostal friends growing up. I was completely unaware that there were many Christian women who considered pants to be sinful. This really was news to me! I studied the scriptures and looked at the arguments they presented. I couldn't come to the same conclusion. Oh, I agree that many, many pants are immodest and some skirts are too. I know for some it is an issue of (believed) Biblical mandate, and for others, modesty is the cited reason for their wardrobe choices. I laid the issue to rest, satisfied that I had studied scriptures about it.
But I haven't been able to completely shake it from my mind.
And it's not because I gained some new insight into scripture and guess what? it really does say we are supposed to wear only dresses! because...I don't believe that.
Still, there was something about it all. What was it?
The first time I heard that pants were sinful I was really thrown for a loop. WHAT? Women have worn pants for as long as I can remember. I was photographed with Santa when I was nearly 2 wearing blue corduroy overalls. (And yes, Santa did think I was a boy.) What exactly is the issue? Women have "women pants" and men have "men pants", right?
Then I heard about distinction and things started making a bit more sense. God created Adam and Even differently. I'm thinking since they were originally wearing no clothes, that distinction was glaringly obvious to them! There was no shame in their nakedness until sin entered the picture. So imagine, if you will, Adam in his birthday suit. He's been working in the Garden for a while now, he's named all the animals and no suitable helper was found for him. He was incomplete. God caused Adam to fall asleep and took one of his ribs and formed the woman. Now when Adam wakes up, there is beautiful, soft, curvy Eve, also in her original birthday suit. How beautiful she must have looked to Adam! God created her to be attractive to him, no doubt. He also made her to be a suitable helper for him--a purpose completely different than Adam's.
Can you agree with me that God made the two sexes distinctly different from each other? Not only were Adam and Eve looking at physical differences between the two of them, but they were created for entirely different purposes! When they were punished and sent out of the Garden, they were given entirely different curses. These two people...representative of all men and women to come...were very, very different from one another. God recognized this, and surely so did Adam and Eve.
Now let's flash forward to today--to 2009. The women's liberation movement has left it's big 'ol footprint on our society in so many ways that honestly, we don't even recognize it sometimes. For women my age and younger, well, we grew up with feminism. "Anything boys can do girls can do better!" is what we sang on the playground. When I was teaching they sang, "Girls rule, boys drool." Heaven knows what they are saying now! Feminism has affected our families, jobs, marriages, country, churches, government, children, the statistics of our population, and yes...our fashion. It's not even possible to discuss women's clothing and not include a study on the history of feminism.
But today I only want to make one point: God created men and women differently. Originally, there was a distinction. Guess what? There still is no matter how badly some would like to erase that fact. No matter what we say goes in marriage and family--only females can have babies--and you still need a male to participate in the making of that baby in some capacity. Physically, we are still different although we try to hide that fact with our clothing.
Do you suppose if women could totally mask the differences seen with the naked eye, then they would be treated as equal? Of course not! Women who join the military must have some things different. No matter how much they would prefer to be treated "just like any other soldier", women have their per*ods while they are in combat. I cannot even imagine that! Women who are soldiers get pregnant. Women who are soldiers are NOT able to do the same physical tasks that men can do.
You can dress like a man, talk like a man, walk like a man, hold a job like a man....but you are still a woman. We have smudged it, but it cannot be erased.
That's my point today. BUT, the crazy, mind-blowing part of all this is....
...people saw this coming!
I borrowed a book called Women Are Wonderful! A History in Cartoons of a Hundred Years With America's Most Controversial Figure. I'm giving full credit for this book, which was published in 1956 and edited by Cole and Robinson. I would like to share a few cartoons from this book with you.
The caption on this first one says, "In some cases it's hard to tell whether they're boys or girls--except by the earrings."
That cartoon above is from the late 1920's and was making fun of "the short skirts and boyish figures" popular during that time. Of course women weren't actually walking around looking that much like men, but the cartoonist saw the road ahead. Perhaps they thought they were only joking!
The woman in this next cartoon, from 1945 says: "I bet you're glad to see an American girl after those horrible savages in the Pacific." And of course, the young man is stricken. I have to say, this cartoon was just a bit convicting. I understand completely how this young sailor would have loved to come home to a lovely feminine girl and just look what he got! How is that different from my husband coming home at the end of the day? Gulp!
Amelia Bloomer popularized the baggy pantaloons worn under skirts that were intended to allow women to participate in more activities. They didn't catch on quite so well at first and were quite shocking to many.
Interesting to me that this cartoonist from the late 1800's saw much further down the road. I would have really thought that women were just fighting for dress reform. But if a cartoonist could see the end result of these changes, did the women (and their husbands) involved in the reform efforts also see the end result? It is entitled "The Bloomer Girl's Wedding."
And the book says, "A picture to put the fear of God into any man in 1896." But really, are you that shocked by it today?
Some think of it as purely a fashion thing. But I think it speaks of so much more.
What do you say about distinction between the sexes?