Suffrage Era Dresses

How suffrage shaped women's fashion

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Drastic shifts occurred in women’s fashion from the bustle of the late 1880s to the flapper of the 1920s. The overall trend was away from bulky layers and fussy details and towards practical, streamlined outfits for active modern women.

The A-line skirt of the first dress shown above replaced the cumbersome bustle skirt of previous decades. Even still, anti-suffragists mocked that women’s devotion to fashion hindered their ability to vote, as seen in a cartoon published in Puck in 1894.

By the early 1900s, tailored suits were a required item in every woman’s wardrobe, worn for almost any daytime event. With its slender skirt and long jacket, the tan striped suit shown in the image gallery was exactly what the modern suffragist needed when attending rallies and handing out literature. 

At the same time, many suffragists preferred a softer look to rebuff the idea that it was not womanly to advocate for equal rights. Feminine dresses like those seen above remained popular with suffragists to show that their new, active roles were still in keeping with their traditional duties as wives and mothers.

As women embraced the public sphere in the 1920s, fashion designers responded with shorter, lightweight, free-flowing dresses that literally and figuratively gave them greater movement in society.

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Suffrage Era Dresses Artifact from Denton
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