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What Are Two Ways Women’s Fashions Changed

Women’s fashions have undergone dramatic changes over the past century. From the Gibson Girl look of the early 1900s to the mod styles of the 1960s to athleisure wear today, women’s clothing reflects the social and cultural shifts happening in society. Two major ways women’s fashions have evolved are in regard to functionality and gender norms.

What Are Two Ways Women's Fashions Changed


In the early 20th century, upper and middle-class women wore restrictive, multi-layered outfits that limited mobility. Corsets, petticoats, and floor-length skirts made even simple tasks like sitting down or walking up stairs challenging. However, as more women entered the workforce during World Wars I and II, fashion adapted to accommodate women’s changing roles and needs for functionality.

Rise of Pants and Shorter Skirts

The popularity of pants for women took off in the 1930s and 40s as they took on jobs previously filled by men. Slacks and overalls gave women the freedom to move, bend, and work comfortably. Hemlines also rose to the knee or mid-calf, allowing for easier walking and movement. This shift toward functionality gave women more options to dress for their active lifestyles.

Athleisure Fashions

Today, athleisure wear has become mainstream. Yoga pants, leggings, sweatshirts, and sneakers allow women to seamlessly transition from the gym to running errands. The rise of casual sportswear reflects women’s varied roles and the need for comfort and flexibility. Although some designers like Coco Chanel pioneered this relaxed look early on, it took almost a century for the functionality and liberation of women’s wear to become fully integrated into everyday fashion.

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Changing Gender Norms

Another major way women’s fashions have evolved is in response to changing gender norms. As women gained more legal rights, financial independence, and social freedoms, fashion adapted to their evolving status and identity.

Blurring Gender Lines

In the late 1800s into the early 1900s, fashion was highly gendered. Women wore skirts, blouses, and dresses while men wore trousers, suits, ties. However, as more women entered World War I era workforce, they adopted functional menswear like overalls and boiler suits. Then in the 1920s and 30s, young women called “flappers” wore shorter hair and skirts and more androgynous styles. This blending of masculine and feminine fashion continued with the rise of pants and tuxedos for women in the 30s and 40s.

Power Dressing

As more women established careers in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, “power dressing” emerged, with women donning menswear-inspired suits with padded shoulders and structured fabrics to command respect in the workplace. The 1990s saw a relaxation of power dressing, with professional women wearing more feminine suits and separating their work and personal styles. However, the legacy of women wearing menswear to portray authority continues today.

From power suits to pants, fashion continues to adapt to women’s fight for gender equality. As gender norms and women’s roles continue to evolve, fashion will likely continue to blur the lines between masculinity and femininity.

Looking Ahead

It’s incredible to look back and see how women’s changing social roles directly impacted what they wore. Today, women have more freedom than ever before to dress for themselves and their own needs and preferences. While bygone eras had strict rules about what was acceptable, modern women feel empowered to wear anything from power suits to yoga pants to combat boots.

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It will be fascinating to see what the next generation of women will wear as gender equality, women in STEM fields, women in government leadership roles, and other realms continue to transform. One thing is certain – as women’s place in society changes, fashion will change along with it, reflecting both the struggles and victories of women through history.

What Are Two Ways Women's Fashions Changed

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