Although trousers, in some form or another, go back centuries, they did not catch on in the west until surprisingly late in history. Even when breeches finally gave way to trousers in the modern age, long trousers were very much the preserve of men. It was only in the 1840s that some women began to wear trouser-like garments to cover their legs, rather than dresses or skirts. Probably the most famous woman of this era was Amelia Bloomer, who publicly called for all women's right to wear trousers. As a result, by the end of the nineteenth century womens long trousers were becoming more commonplace, despite the opposition in some quarters to these 'unfeminine' garments. Womens long trousers took the form of pantaloons, bloomers and trouser-skirts by the middle of the 1880s, largely as a result of the popularity of cycling at that time – an activity that was utterly impractical in a dress. By the early part of the following century, women's long trousers were acceptable attire in most places for a variety of leisure activities, but they remained something of a no-go as formal wear.
Womens long trousers still had the ability to be shocking to many people in the first half of the twentieth century. However as movie stars, such as Marlene Dietrich, began to wear them, so their use became more normalised in the public's eyes. By the time of the late 1960s and early 1970s, womens long trousers had become an essential part of any wardrobe, probably down to the fact that a pair of jeans had become almost ubiquitous across all sections of society by that time. Women's long trousers have not changed that much in design over the years since then and, in many ways, have mirrored men's fashion, for example whether they are flared at the bottom of the trouser leg or not. Nevertheless, womens long trousers come in many different forms and can be worn in just about any social setting today, from relaxing at home to conducting a formal business meeting or even attending a wedding.
Like their male counterparts, womens long trousers are drawn together at the waist, usually with belt loops but sometimes with an elasticated section. They extend at equal lengths down either leg and are finished, at the ankle, with a hem. The two legs of the trousers are sewn together at the gusset and most women's long trousers sport a fly zip at the front which makes them easy to pull on and take off. Unlike men's trousers, womens long trousers sometimes have their zip, or buttoned access point, at the side - or even the back - depending on the design.
Unlike men's trousers which are sold by waist band size and inside leg measurement, versions designed for women tend to be sold in women's sizes only. However, they also have a handy 'cut size' measurement in many cases, so it is easy for women to tell whether they will accommodate a boot underneath or have a tighter fitting over the calf. Women's long trousers can be flowing and loose-fitting, something that men's versions seldom are. In many cases, they are made from sheer and soft materials which, again, is unlikely to be found with men's garments. From jeans made from dyed denim to ultra-smart pin striped business trousers, womens long trousers come in many different forms from a wide range of designers.
Types of Trousers Worn by Women
As mentioned, women's long trousers are highly individual, but there are some accepted styles which can be identified. Formal wear requires trousers to be smart. This often means that they are pleated at the hip, to afford a feminine look, but have creases down the front and the back, too. In addition, leggings are an increasingly popular form of trousers. Sometimes worn under skirts, they cover the legs entirely and sit close the the skin with a stretchy material.
Along with jeans, which are usually dyed blue, but are available in any colour choice, another item of casual wear preferred by women are cargo pants. Usually made from cotton or polyester, these womens long trousers are loose-fitting and comfortable, yet strong enough to be practical in a wide range of activities. They also tend to have plenty of handy pockets. Finally, womens over-trousers are used by outdoor pursuits enthusiasts. Made from a waterproof material, they cover the trousers or leggings beneath, providing a weather resistant layer from the waist down to the boot.