The history of the pantsuit, or ‘trouser suit’ as it was once known as in the 1930s, is a long and extensive one with many considering it to be too masculine for a feminine body and that it degrades the natural femininity that comes with certain articles of clothing, so much so that until 1993 women on the US Senate Floor were strictly forbidden from wearing pantsuits or any manner of pants in general.
This continuous trend among female politicians like Theresa May and Angela Merkel was mainly sparked by Hillary Clinton’s nature for wearing the outfits, even though after women were permitted to wear clothes like the pantsuit there was still rampant sexism and misogyny against women that chose to wear such items of clothing. Like when Hillary Clinton was criticized by the press for having ‘cleavage on display’ while addressing the Senate in a black top and blazer or when Moseley Braun was being ‘distracting’ when wearing a red ensemble throughout her campaign.
So why do these women choose to wear these outfits if they know they will be faced with a flood of sexist remarks regarding their attire? The reason is because they have no other option.
If a woman in the political climate chooses to negate the option wearing these apparently ‘intimidating’ outfits and decides to wear normal clothes like you and I would wear, there arises the same problem. A woman is then judged on everything, the pattern of her skirt, the beading on her top, the sleeve length of her blouse and they can’t escape the ever present misogynistic media. She will be portrayed as less capable, less qualified, less committed, all because of her clothes. Michelle Obama being called ‘an ape in heels‘ is a clear example of this degradation and women of color or of other ethnicities that are not white are far more likely to receive this kind of discrimination, yet this is shoved under the rug as people like to pretend we are in a time of progressing towards something better.
Regardless of the nature of the event or whether or not the woman decides to wear pantsuits or not, their clothing choices will always be discussed, for whatever message she is trying to send with the different pieces or what her thoughts are on that particular day/issue. It is an endless cycle of sexist rhetoric, that coverage on a woman’s campaign is filled with questions about her appearance and her ability to lead the country whereas a man who is just as equally qualified if not less is usually seen as the favorable candidate and is asked questions relevant to the troubles occurring worldwide.
The term ‘pantsuit’ in itself is used against women, as a way to mock and degrade the term to a lower level as if it is ridiculous that women are replicating a traditionally masculine design and that they could never come close to the standard men set in today’s society. It is almost like it is patronizing those that wear them because it could never compare to the real thing. When a woman wears a suit it is given another name because it is something to be shunned upon, that women are breaking out of the traditionally masculine beauty ideals and wearing something usually associated with men but when a man wears a suit, it is perfectly normal attire.
The bottom line is, women in politics are slut-shamed daily for the height of their heels, the length of their skirts and the height of their neckline regardless of how they choose to dress and that is an issue that has yet to be discussed in mainstream press today.
In 2017, women in power and who have influence should be able to freely wear whatever they choose to without being badgered and criticized by the press and media over something so trivial and this dangerous mentality of prohibiting women expressing themselves filters down into everyone, especially teenage girls who are already having to cope with the ever-changing beauty standards that are put upon them from a young age.