By Cara Winkley
Imagine walking on campus passing students as they go to their next class, and instead of seeing women in jeans or leggings, they are all wearing long skirts or dresses. Below these skirts and dresses, they sport white bobby socks showing above their black-and-white oxford saddle shoes.
Moving forward in time, imagine the women you see pass by in their preppy best – Sperry top-siders, popped Polo collars, and a Farrah Fawcett hair-do.
Both scenes are a far cry from the hungover, walk of shame styles seen on campus in the 2010s, where women sport baggy men’s t-shirts, or workout clothing. It is very rare to see a woman wearing a dress or skirt on campus these days.
Women in the early 1900s, unlike women today, didn’t know what it is like to be able to wear pants. It was unheard of and went against set gender roles for women to wear them in that time period.
“I always remember my mother wearing skirts, always,” said Michael Murray, a University of Kansas professor from Wales.
Fashions change every season, however the change from women wearing skirts and dresses to wearing pants was one of the most influential. It began with women working during World War II and has greatly impacted not only women’s fashion, but how women are portrayed in society today.
In the late 1930s, women would usually only wear pants for sports or working in the yard. However, pants became more popular in the forties because of more women going into the workforce to replace the men gone to war.
World War II brought about many changes for women in society. This can be seen as the start of the women’s rights movement, but it also can be seen as a start to equality in gender roles because more women entered the workforce.
“I think cultural and societal norms changed and more blurring of gender roles occurred,” said Nancy Krische, Lawrence resident and University of Kansas alum.
After the war, in the 1950s, women reverted back to crisp, colorful, full skirts and dresses. They had had enough of the war-time look, and as the economy continued to thrive, people had more money to spend on clothes.
“In the 1950s there was more money, and women dressed fancier” Murray said.
During the 1960s, women continued to wear skirts and dresses, but they wore updated and shorter versions of the 1950s skirts. This era introduced the mini-skirt and sweater dress to women’s fashion. Still, as in the 50s, it was uncommon for women to wear pants.
The following decade, also known as the disco-era, brought back women’s pants with the well-known high-waisted, flared jeans trend. Bright jumpsuits were also introduced during this time period.
As women began to go into the professional workforce, women’s power suits became more and more popular, bringing women closer to equality with men.
Approaching the 1990s, most women wore pants on a regular basis. The stirrup pants and cropped trousers were some of the more popular trends of this decade.
Today, women’s pants are worn on a daily basis far more often than skirts and dresses.
Caitlin Laird, a freshman studying music, says that she dresses up two or three times a week only because her major requires it.
“I’m a musician, specifically a voice major so I have to dress up a lot,” said Laird.
If women were only allowed to wear skirts and dresses today, Laird wouldn’t mind. Laird likes wearing skirts, while Krische, Lawrence resident, had another opinion.
“I’m not sure that I would be so happy with that,” Krische said.
Fashion through the ages
Cara Winkley – Looking through the past University of Kansas yearbooks, a definite change can be seen in the styles of women’s clothing throughout the years. The Sigma Kappa house mom, Norine Neef, describes what she wore while growing up in the fifties.
Norine Neef – We wore a lot of skirts and blouses, more with a flair. And I can remember my sister was five years older and that was a straight skirt, bobby socks, black and white shoes.
C.W. – Saddle shoes and skirts made their way out of style as the years rolled by and women’s pants became more and more the norm. Lawrence resident, Nancy Krische describes what she wore when she went to KU in the eighties.
Nancy Krische – College, it was preppy. It was the Izods with collars flipped up and the topsider shoes.
C.W. – Fashion has changed tremendously since the sock-hoppin’ 50s, and in some cases it was for the better. This has been Cara Winkley with sunflowerstyle.com. Stay stylin’!