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The Line Style in Context

The Line is a modern and personal approach to retail. We bring together carefully chosen fashion, home, and beauty items and place them in context through inspiring editorial features and intimate offline shopping experiences. The thematic, seasonal, and handpicked assortments we call Selections offer another way to explore our evolving edit of things you’ll wear, use, and treasure for years to come.

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She Wears the Trousers:
Power Pants, Then and Now

Cover

by Alexa Hotz

It’s not uncommon for women to wear pants. In 1938 it was. When Los Angeles school teacher Helen Hulick wore them to court to testify as witness to a burglary, the judge ordered her to return in a dress. “I’ll come back in slacks and if he puts me in jail I hope it will help to free women forever of anti-slackism,” she told the Los Angeles Times. She came back wearing pants and was sentenced to five days in jail. Hulick had many women before her—nineteenth and early twentieth century women in the US and abroad—who were stringent trouser-wearers, against all odds. Profiling these pant pioneers is She Wears the Trousers, a research project from Ruby Woodhouse and contributor Harriet Vogeler, two pant purists (“I wear a skirt maybe five days out of the year,” says Ruby). Today, the trouser is the great multi-tasker worn in the office, the studio, on set, and outdoors; worn for sport, power, and panache. Here, Ruby leads us through archival images and the women who wear the trousers—both literal and proverbial. “Put on a pair of trousers and you’re sorted,” she advises.

India
Sushila Rao, a vintage photo submitted to The Sartorialist.

A found family photo with a story to share: “This is a photo of my very elegant grandmother, Sushila Rao, posing with her new camera in India, where she was born and raised,” says the owner of the vintage photograph. “It was probably taken sometime in the 1940s. She’s wearing a tailored, white linen suit and flat, brown leather sandals, which make her look so strong despite the fact that she’s very petite. it was very daring of her to be out and about in menswear back then, rather than a traditional sari!”

Green
Photograph by Bert Hardy featured in a 1941 article titled ‘Should Women Wear Trousers?

By 1941, American women began wearing trousers outside of socially acceptable scenarios like factory work and athletic activity. For a walk through the park in early November, as illustrated here by two friends, trousers are the more sensible option (particularly in pinstripe and lofty tweed).

‘Lee Miller Wearing Yraide Sailcloth Overalls’ by George Hoyningen-Huene courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum archives.

Photographer Lee Miller was always in charge of her image, whether director or subject. Here, she’s photographed in 1930 by George Hoyningen-Huene wearing a pair of sailcloth overalls—a piece of clothing intended for men, and deftly adapted by the androgynous Miller.

[These women wearing trousers] all seem to be bucking the trends, and even the law in some situations, to feel strong and powerful in themselves.Ruby Woodhouse
Painters Wife
‘Frau eines Malers [Painter’s Wife] (Helene Abelen)’ by August Sander in 1926 courtesy of National Galleries Scotland.

German photographer August Sander took this image of Helene Abelen looking directly into the camera. “I later discovered that her husband [architect Peter Abelen] dressed her for the photo,” says Ruby about the image. “Although his intent to dress her in masculine clothing was in favor of women’s rights at the time, it wasn’t, in fact, what she felt most comfortable wearing. An interesting photo, and still a strong image—subtext or no.”

4
Photograph by Sonja Georgi in 1937 for Berlin fashion magazine Die Dame.

Yachting fashion was a gateway to the everyday trouser for twentieth-century women. The change started with utility in mind: in 1881, the Rational Dress Society was formed in London to advocate for a weight limit to women’s underskirt layers (no more than 7 pounds) and industrial work into the twentieth century led to allowances for pant-appropriate activities such as factory work, boating, tennis, and cycling. Here, a plucky pair of proportion-playing pants are worn for both fashion and function.

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»Shop all Fashion

»Explore another chapter in The Stories:
Open Season: Updates on Holiday Dressing

She Wears the Trousers: Power Pants, Then and Now

She Wears the Trousers:
Power Pants, Then and Now

Cover

by Alexa Hotz

It’s not uncommon for women to wear pants. In 1938 it was. When Los Angeles school teacher Helen Hulick wore them to court to testify as witness to a burglary, the judge ordered her to return in a dress. “I’ll come back in slacks and if he puts me in jail I hope it will help to free women forever of anti-slackism,” she told the Los Angeles Times. She came back wearing pants and was sentenced to five days in jail. Hulick had many women before her—nineteenth and early twentieth century women in the US and abroad—who were stringent trouser-wearers, against all odds. Profiling these pant pioneers is She Wears the Trousers, a research project from Ruby Woodhouse and contributor Harriet Vogeler, two pant purists (“I wear a skirt maybe five days out of the year,” says Ruby). Today, the trouser is the great multi-tasker worn in the office, the studio, on set, and outdoors; worn for sport, power, and panache. Here, Ruby leads us through archival images and the women who wear the trousers—both literal and proverbial. “Put on a pair of trousers and you’re sorted,” she advises.

India
Sushila Rao, a vintage photo submitted to The Sartorialist.

A found family photo with a story to share: “This is a photo of my very elegant grandmother, Sushila Rao, posing with her new camera in India, where she was born and raised,” says the owner of the vintage photograph. “It was probably taken sometime in the 1940s. She’s wearing a tailored, white linen suit and flat, brown leather sandals, which make her look so strong despite the fact that she’s very petite. it was very daring of her to be out and about in menswear back then, rather than a traditional sari!”

Green
Photograph by Bert Hardy featured in a 1941 article titled ‘Should Women Wear Trousers?

By 1941, American women began wearing trousers outside of socially acceptable scenarios like factory work and athletic activity. For a walk through the park in early November, as illustrated here by two friends, trousers are the more sensible option (particularly in pinstripe and lofty tweed).

‘Lee Miller Wearing Yraide Sailcloth Overalls’ by George Hoyningen-Huene courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum archives.

Photographer Lee Miller was always in charge of her image, whether director or subject. Here, she’s photographed in 1930 by George Hoyningen-Huene wearing a pair of sailcloth overalls—a piece of clothing intended for men, and deftly adapted by the androgynous Miller.

[These women wearing trousers] all seem to be bucking the trends, and even the law in some situations, to feel strong and powerful in themselves.Ruby Woodhouse
Painters Wife
‘Frau eines Malers [Painter’s Wife] (Helene Abelen)’ by August Sander in 1926 courtesy of National Galleries Scotland.

German photographer August Sander took this image of Helene Abelen looking directly into the camera. “I later discovered that her husband [architect Peter Abelen] dressed her for the photo,” says Ruby about the image. “Although his intent to dress her in masculine clothing was in favor of women’s rights at the time, it wasn’t, in fact, what she felt most comfortable wearing. An interesting photo, and still a strong image—subtext or no.”

4
Photograph by Sonja Georgi in 1937 for Berlin fashion magazine Die Dame.

Yachting fashion was a gateway to the everyday trouser for twentieth-century women. The change started with utility in mind: in 1881, the Rational Dress Society was formed in London to advocate for a weight limit to women’s underskirt layers (no more than 7 pounds) and industrial work into the twentieth century led to allowances for pant-appropriate activities such as factory work, boating, tennis, and cycling. Here, a plucky pair of proportion-playing pants are worn for both fashion and function.

Powered by Assembled Brands

»Shop all Fashion

»Explore another chapter in The Stories:
Open Season: Updates on Holiday Dressing