14 Jun

Women in Trousers

It is only in the last 100 years or so that women have been allowed to wear trousers, either due to social custom or by law. Photos, articles, and early documentation of women wearing trousers have been collated into an archive at Cardiff University, entitled Women in Trousers, and is open to students to visit.

Women in Trousers: A Visual Archive is a collection of digital images that together tell a story about women in trousers as a history of social, cultural and political change. It offers a visual account of the complex and sometimes contradictory meanings assigned to and by trouser-wearing women in public space. Images have been drawn from a range of sources, including newspapers, periodicals, photographs, illustrations and drawings. While trousers and other bifurcated garments provide its primary focus, the archive is also home to images that illuminate more generally the history of women and dress reform in Britain, Europe and America.

- Women in Trousers archive

A small number of our students were honoured to be the first school group invited to find out more about the collection. We were met by Dr Becky Munford, Director of the archive and Reader in English Literature in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy, and her assistant, Amber Jenkins, a PhD student.  

Dr Munford began the session with an overview of the social, political and cultural history of women wearing trousers and an explanation as to how the online archive was laid out. The students were then given question sheets to help structure their further research on the subject. They were then free to browse the archive, both physically and online, and to ask questions of Dr Munford and Ms Jenkins.

The session was fascinating and a number of the students inquired about returning to the library for further reading of their own. We would like to thank Dr Munford and Ms Jenkins for having us and for giving us such an interesting afternoon.

 

‘Landladies’. Peggy Whistler (Margiad Evans) and Nancy Whistler (Sian Evans) at their Guest House near Ross on Wye, June 1938. From Nancy Nightingale’s collection, courtesy of Jim Pratt.

 

‘Bloomerism. – New Costume for Ladies’, in Illustrated London News(27  September 1851), p. 396. Source: Special Collections and Archives, Cardiff University.