The Paris police chief issued a regulation in 1799 stating that any lady intending to wear pants must first obtain special permission from the police. A woman had to acquire permission to dress like a man, and that permission frequently required a medical certification for approval. But what was the reason behind this seemingly arbitrary ruling?
For 213 years, from 1800 to 2013, women were forbidden from wearing pants in Paris. This restriction was placed in place to stop them from performing specific jobs.
How Did Women in France Get Permission to Wear Pants?
Women were not allowed to wear pants in France until 2013, when legislation dating back to November 17, 1800, was still in effect. It was titled Decree Concerning Female Cross-dressing and said that.
Any woman who wishes to dress like a man must seek permission from the Police. This was revised in 1892 and 1909 to enable women to wear trousers if the woman was holding bicycle handlebars or horse reins. (Source: Connexion France)
The Non-Conformists Of The Nineteenth Century
Any lady who ventured to wear trousers in the nineteenth century was considered a rebel. Rosa Bonheur was a nonconformist artist, but in 1852 she requested permission to wear trousers to the cattle and sheep fairs because she specialized in animal paintings.
The novelist George Sand preferred to dress as a man in public, despite not having a permit. She learned that wearing pants was more comfortable, and she could gain more access to places where ladies were not permitted.
Marie-Rose Astié de Valsayre was a singer and nurse who advocated for women’s rights. In addition to creating the Women’s League in 1889 and pushing for equal pay, she petitioned MPs in 1887 for the right for women to wear trousers, which was denied. In 1895, she lobbied against a proposal to prevent female bikers from wearing trousers except when riding their bicycles.
Women wearing trousers was still considered scandalous in the early nineteenth century. Madeleine Pelletier was France’s first female psychiatrist and an early feminist who fought for women’s independence. She cut her hair short and was known for “cross-dressing,” or dressing like a guy to remove herself from femininity. (Source: Connexion France)
How Did the War Affect This Ruling?
During the World Wars, when women began to take up the responsibilities of men fighting at the front, they also began to wear more practical clothing. In high society, however, women such as Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, and Katharine Hepburn were still considered outlandish when wearing trousers.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that women’s trousers became acceptable, and fashion designers like Yves Saint Laurent started wearing them on the runway. However, as recently as 1978, MP Chantal Leblanc was refused access to the Assemblée Nationale building because she wore corduroy trousers. She was eventually permitted in, but she was one of the few elected officials who wore trousers. (Source: Connexion France)
When Did the French Government Ammend This Ruling?
In July 2012, Senator Alain Houpert of the Côte-d’Or petitioned to repeal the 1800 statute, which had been neglected for years. His request was promptly carried out on January 31, 2013, because the decree is irreconcilable with the principles of equality between men and women.
Parisian women have finally caught up with the twenty-first century and the end of the twentieth: they can now wear pants. The 213-year-old restriction was formally abolished on January 31, 2013. (Source: Connexion France)