Vogue Cover 1939: A Case of Slacks

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Fig 7. (1939), Women in Trousers research update: Vogue and ‘The Case for Slacks’, Available at: http://cardiffbookhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/women-in-trousers-1/http://cardiffbookhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/women-in-trousers-1/ [accessed 05 Nov 2014]

Extract from a thesis written by Sofia Arvanius for her final year studying for a BA in Visual Communication titled How has the image of women changed over time in the fashion magazine industry in America, looking specifically at the covers of the US magazine, Vogue, between the years of its first publication in 1892 until the present day?

Becky Munford wrote an article ‘Women in Trousers research update: Vogue and ‘The Case for Slacks’ on her website about the controversy that ensued after the topic of whether women would start wearing pants on a daily bases was brought up in 1933 with several newspapers writing articles giving their opinions. Although women had appeared in magazines in trousers before, in equestrian and skiing issues, and illustrated versions, it wasn’t until 1939 that photographed images of women in trousers were seen in the American and British versions of Vogue such as the magazine cover in fig. 7. In the American copy of Vogue released in April 1939, an article is included advising that trousers were an essential item of clothing for stylish women. Vogue stated that it had become acceptable to wear trousers at any hour. The article recommends that women wear trousers at golfing events, beaches and small boats, but reminds its readers that women in trousers are still restricted to the sports deck on ocean liners.  While women still don’t have complete social freedom, the way a woman is allowed by society to appear physically is changing. (Munford, 2012) Catalano wrote in volume 3 of ‘Shaping the American Woman: Feminism and Advertising in the 1950s’ about how women were expected to keep businesses going during the Second World War. (Catalano, 2002, p45) Most women had no choice but to earn an income as well as keep their households going. The new acceptance of the image of the woman in pants is a reflection of this new lifestyle and new attitude in American society. 

Catalano, Christina (2002) “Shaping the American Woman: Feminism and Advertising in the 1950s,” Constructing the Past: Vol. 3: Iss. 1, Article 6. Available at: http://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/constructing/vol3/iss1/6http://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/constructing/vol3/iss1/6http://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/constructing/vol3/iss1/6

Munford, B. (2012). Women in Trousers research update: Vogue and ‘The Case for Slacks’. Available: http://cardiffbookhistory.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/women-in-trousers-1/. Last accessed 05 Nov 2014.

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