23/11/2017
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Women in Trousers - a visual archive, new online project

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A new archive brings together images of bloomers, knickerbockers and culottes to tell the story of trouser-wearing women through an online gallery of digital images spanning more than a century.

The images in Women in Trousers: A Visual Archive offer a visual account of the complex and sometimes contradictory meanings represented by women ‘wearing the trousers’ from the 1850s to the 1960s, and provide an illuminating document of the cultural, historical and political shifts affecting women’s lives during this period.

Female ancestors in trousers

The project is the work of Dr Becky Munford, Reader in English Literature at Cardiff University’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy, who invites members of the public to submit their own photos of ancestors wearing trousers.

Dr Munford said: "From Joan of Arc to Amelia Bloomer, and Mary Edwards Walker to Marlene Dietrich, trouser-wearing women have been associated with periods of social and political upheaval, women’s liberation, radical thought, aesthetic innovation and erotic freedom.

“The response to the request for images for the Who wore the trousers? section of the archive has already been fantastic. With several moving stories emerging from these photographs, this is one of the most exciting and valuable parts of the project. We would love to hear from anyone who has a photo to share or a story to tell."

To submit a photo, e-mail Dr Munford.

Visit Women in Trousers: A Visual Archive.

Images: Cabinet photograph by H Wragg. of Mary Harrison aged 16 taken, late 1800s. Source: Wigan World

Postcard (front) of Dorothy Frances Curtis of Cardiff (1918). Source: Glamorgan Archives Ref. DXFX/19. Note: Photograph of Dorothy Frances Curtis of Cardiff, employed on war work and dressed in protective clothing, including trousers, as a supervisor in a munitions factory where girls packed explosives into shell cases, in Birmingham. The rear of the postcard is signed 'Trousers' as this is likely to have been the first time that Dorothy had worn trousers.

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