Fashion and Women's Movements in the Past Century

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Today's American women are following centuries old traditions of rebelling against society's outlook on women around. Earlier in America's history, it was unheard of for a woman to be in both the public and domestic sphere. Women were forced to spend most of their life in the domestic sphere, and wear ridiculous clothes everyday. For a long time, women have been degraded and pushed around, causing women to initial movements to change the way society treats women. In America, "the land of the free", women have to fight for their equal rights. Reformers, such as Fanny Wright, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer and many more have done so through their actions, and speeches. Nevertheless, in recent times fashion has become an available source of expression. It is a powerful tool to be able to be seen and not heard--but still get the message across. Since its humble beginnings, fashion has oftentimes just existed, but in the past century, it has existed as a form of expression, art, and liberation Now, women are still being influenced and challenged by the media and their peer, but slowly, more and more women are standing up for themselves.

Before the early to mid 1800's, women were forced to squeeze into corsets made of whalebone, steel or buckram. It gave them the figure eight profile which resulted on a number of health problems, including their organs and body to become deformed. Over the corsets, women wore heavy layers of petticoats despite the weather. (Small Business Administration 3) Dresses emphasized the bust and hips, attempting to make women look very voluptuous. With the spread of commercialism, hundreds of new beauty products were introduced. These ever-popular restricting fashions were later outdated. This fashion was not comfortable in any sort of the imagination, and a social reformer, Wright started to make a difference. She originated a modified version of dresses in the Victorian Age. This new dress was described as "long-sleeved, high-necked, and loose-fitting tunic over a pair of baggy trousers" (Banner 23). Anthony, Stanton, Bloomer, and along others started to wear this new comfortable fashion. Bloomer promoted this new fashion which become known as "Bloomers" in The Lily; a newspaper for women promoting "women's suffrage, temperance, and higher education" (Small Business Administration 2). After attempting to change the style of clothes in the 1840's, they put this new fashion aside. Not only were they mocked by the public, but women were not following their example.

Lucretia Mott, Stanton and many more reformers started a Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls that dealt with women receiving further rights. Anthony collaborated with Stanton to write From Address to the New York State Legislature, 1860. In this speech, Stanton delivered many of her powerful ethics to the State Legislature. She felt that women should have the right to have a divorce, and generally more rights for women. Through her well-educated, formal speech she gained respect from the State Legislature, but at that time, respect was all she received. Writing for social protest, she wanted women to make their own decisions from what type of dress to wear, to what type of job and/or education they want.

Although women continued to wear some form of the corset until the 1920's (Banner 25), the public's stance on women's clothes started to revolutionize in the 1890's. "Simplicity in dress had come to be associated , not with the poor or with radicals like Stanton of Anthony, but with more exciting and acceptable models: the actress, the working woman, the college woman, the sportswoman" (Banner 24). Young women expressed many taboos through their appearances. They had qualities that were unheard of in previous generations—they were sexually liberated, independent, and gaining rights. The declaration of this self-fulfillment was shown through the unforgettable fashion of the...
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