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The history of gendered clothing

Did you know that men and women button their shirts from different sides? Here are three clothing items you wouldn't guess are gendered.

Three sexist details on clothes

Pockets, buttons, heels: most of the gender differentiations in fashion have a very precise historical origin

Buttons

The buttons are placed on the left side of women's shirts and on the right side of men's shirts. For some, this is due to the fact that men's clothing was used to hide weapons. Most men indeed hold swords with their right hand, which makes unbuttoning coats, vests and shirts easier with the left hand. Hence the famous pose of the hand in the waistcoat of the 19th century, a subtle symbol of leadership. Fashion was often dictated by the wealthy at the time. One theory asserts that wealthy women were often dressed by right-handed servants, for whom it was easier to button on the right.

The high heels

Originally, high-heeled shoes were made exclusively for men. Used as military riding shoes in the 15th century in Persia, they were finally imported into Europe, where male aristocrats wore them to appear taller and to brag about their status. If you look at what is happening in Persia when the heel is adopted by men in Europe, there was this very important leader, Abbas I the Great. What he could bring to his European counterparts was the largest cavalry in the world. They were all wearing heels, says Elizabeth Semmelhack, creative director at the Bata Shoe Museum. Wearing heels is very fashionable first for men. King Louis XIV put on heeled shoes with red soles and forced aristocrats to do the same at Versailles. French luxury shoe designer Christian Louboutin will copy this style in the 1990s. During the 17th century, the shape and manufacture of heels began to change. They're made with layers of leather, like on cowboy boots, and we're starting to associate them with masculinity and outdoor activities. Finally, the idea that men should distance themselves from all that is irrational, and fashion makes men of the 18th century completely abandon very high heels.

Pockets

On women's clothing, often, either the pockets are fake, or they are there to decorate, either very small or nonexistent. And for good reason: they have a sexist past. I have had the same experience as many women: you buy pants, or a skirt and you see that there is a pocket. Then you slip your hand into it and you realize it's either a fake pocket or a very small pocket, says Eva Everett, co-founder of the clothing brand Svaha. The pockets are created to carry tools and instruments. In the 18th century, women had large pockets in which they put food, office supplies, diaries or sewing materials. Unlike the men's pockets, which hide inside the garment, the women's pockets are separated and tied with a string. After the French Revolution, women began to wear reticles, tiny pouches worn around the arm that could barely contain coins. It was only in the middle of the 19th century that they had sewn pockets, but they remained smaller than those of men. It was during the suffragette movement. Women's clothes, like bloomers, had pockets on the inside, and it was very controversial, says Eva Everett. Then women's fashion evolves, and the pockets are replaced by handbags. On the men's side, the pockets are increasing.

Brut.

01/16/2020 12:57 PMupdated: 01/20/2020 6:33 PM
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15 comments

  • Kiel I.
    01/26/2020 17:22

    Aying

  • Hayley C.
    01/26/2020 05:39

    Why does it even matter. I mean it's cool, quick information, but why does it matter?

  • Irene L.
    01/26/2020 01:51

    Because in olden times women had maids dressing them.

  • Susan N.
    01/24/2020 03:35

    Same rationale for why we do everything on the left side of the horse... try getting with a sword strapped on your right hip.

  • Brenda G.
    01/23/2020 18:42

    Women of social status, the ones who wore expensive dresses with buttons, had maids to help dress them. The buttons were on the ladies left side so they were on the right side of the dresser. The buttons were placed so for the servants benefit. Peasants didn’t have many if any buttons on their clothing. They laced or pinned their clothing.

  • Siham F.
    01/21/2020 23:03

    Rema dumbi

  • Josefina C.
    01/21/2020 22:36

    Si lo sabia ,cuando se empieza temprano en el arte de la costura con muy buenos sastres

  • Barbara J.
    01/21/2020 20:11

    Yes I did know all this. Costume history, costume design classes and a bunch of other history classes.

  • Maryann B.
    01/20/2020 19:44

    Very interesting

  • Gina J.
    01/20/2020 19:02

    Wow! Interesting! 👍

  • Christine W.
    01/20/2020 13:29

    I always thought it was because someone else dressed noble women, the only ones who could afford the expensive new thing ‘buttons’ and men dressed themselves!

  • Gina J.
    01/20/2020 07:07

    Wow! Interesting! 👍

  • Hương G.
    01/19/2020 19:16

    Men sure controlled the history.

  • Mary A.
    01/16/2020 21:48

    I like pockets if they are done right. No big lumps.

  • Candace B.
    01/16/2020 18:59

    If I had had a wedding dress it would have had pckets.