Women have been ‘power-dressing’ for years, many current trends have come from women in history who have taken styles which were specific to men and adapted them. Women did that as a form of demanding power from society.
Harem pants, once referred to as ‘salvars’, which directly translates to ‘pants’ in Persian, allegedly originated from Persia approximately 2,000 years ago. In Persia, during the early 16th century, the pants were worn by both women and men for the means of comfort and embodied humility and unpretentiousness, as well as serving as religiously appropriate clothing. Throughout the 1800’s women began rebelling against their set diminutive gender roles and strived towards gaining their civil rights. Fashion trends often mirror the ongoing social and political movements. Thus, the fight for women empowerment at the time, was depicted through western women wearing Harem Pants. As the pants rebelled against society’s expectations of women and held a masculine connotation, they could almost be considered a uniform for the women fighting for their rights. They served as a weapon for women’s empowerment as well as emancipation and liberation from the strict and traditional gender roles.
Elsa Schiaparelli an Italian fashion designer who pioneered padded shoulders in her collection in 1931 created a worldwide fashion trend that was referred to as ‘power shoulders’. Influenced by the start of World War Two around 1939, women’s fashion became more masculine and copiously militarized. In the 1980’s women’s roles in society changed immensely. As many women had lost their husbands in the war they started to work in order to provide for themselves and their families. Consequently, women were seen more around the work place. Women also began demanding gender equality and fighting for their equal rights. As a result of the women empowerment movements in the 1980’s, shoulder pads made a reoccurrence in women’s fashion, and became the defining fashion trend of the era. Shoulder pads were symbolic of women’s empowerment in the 1980’s as it was referred to as power dressing. A woman wearing shoulder pads immediately bequeathed the illusion of prestige. Shoulder pads permeated throughout the worldwide fashion industry and almost every garment entailed shoulder pads. The shoulder pads in the 1980’s followed the mantra ‘the bigger, the better’.