When were French women officially allowed to wear pants?

As an integral part of the modern woman’s dress code, pants were forbidden to women up until quite recently according to legal texts. More than a piece of clothing, it was a real symbol of emancipation and recognition of the rights of the woman and in particular of the feminists.

History of the evolution of the regulatory framework

Established more than two centuries ago, the law of November 7, 1800, prohibiting women from wearing pants was only repealed in 2013. In fact, a prefectural ordinance specified that women could claim to wear pants only after a request was accepted for medical reasons. Incredible as it may seem, from a legal point of view, women who wore pants were all in violation of the law if they did not request permission from the prefecture. Nevertheless, partial prohibitions were lifted respectively in 1892 and 1909 by the authorization of the wearing of pants for the women who hold either the horse’s reins or the handlebars of a bicycle.

The reasons for the refusal

In the spirit of the law stated above, there is no ambiguity about the reasons for the ban. Indeed, the cross-dressing of women is prohibited to avoid confusing them with men and thus prevent them from claiming certain functions or professions. Thus, although widely conveyed, the argument of the aesthetics of the woman only female in clothing corresponding to its gender is not the main reason. It was just a pretext put forward in the past to better pass the texts with the real objective of preserving male superiority. In reality, at that time, women were not considered equal to men and it was necessary to legislate in this sense so that this could continue.

A symbolic abrogation

This text had met with several criticisms over time and the legislative authorities were repeatedly asked to repeal this law. As the text had not been respected for a long time, the elected officials often pretexted the frivolity of the request by mentioning the implicit repeal of the ordinance as being incompatible with the principles of equality stated in the Constitution. To mark its refusal, the Prefecture of Paris even qualified this provision as legal archaeology, yet this does not constitute an administrative act of nullity. More than a question of wardrobe, there is the issue of equality and a liberticidal text that requires differentiating the sexes by specific clothing.

Today, with the final outcome, we will remember the first request initiated in 1887 by Marie-Rose AstiƩ de Valsayre who addressed a letter to the deputies to ask for this repeal.