adopted by all levels of society, and appeared on beaches and boardwalks from Auckland to the Cote d'Azur. In ink blue jersey by Chanel or white wool by Hermes, they were worn on city streets by boyish garconnés. Made in glamourous silks they could even be worn for evening dances. By 1930 the world economy has crashed and the life of leisure that pyjama pants represented was out. The ‘charming sport of doing nothing’ was replaced by actual sports, pyjama pants by pleated shorts for tennis and walking, johdpurs for riding, knickerbockers for golf, trousers for skiing. Shorts made the transition to everyday wear, and in 1934 fashion magazines reassured readers that “irreproachable mothers walk their children and do their shopping in stores wearing shorts”. Shorts for everyday wear, however, were the provenance of the slim and leggy, and while Hollywood actresses like Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn flaunted trousers, the look was still too risqué for the average woman. Only another war could bring divided legs to the masses, and World War II required masses of women to lend a hand. During WWI women were called to war duty only as a last resort. Officially, their role was still to be pretty, feminine reminders of what the men were fighting for. During World War II women's work in munitions factories and on farms, and the practical outfits they wore to carry out these jobs, were celebrated. Even women not engaged in jobs that required them to wear pants soon found themselves in divided bottoms. In London women bought warm one-piece 'shelter suits' which quickly zipped over pyjamas during an air raid. Overalls facilitated work in 'Victory Gardens'. With petrol rationed, bicycles replaced cars, and the practicality of trousers for bike riding outweighed old-fashioned ideas of propriety. Not everyone, however, was entirely convinced of the propriety of trousers. As a young woman in
Dunedin in the late 1940s, Gran was allowed to wear shorts for bicycling and sports, but her father forbade her to wear trousers, particularly for her work at a library. Wearing trousers when you could wear a skirt was a step too far. Whatever his generation thought, Gran's generation had grown up bifurcated, and they weren't about to give up that freedom at their parents, or Dior's, command. After her marriage Gran wore the previously taboo trousers. When the full-skirted, feminine New Look prevailed, 50’s trousers and shorts kept with the aesthetic through a slimmer fit that emphasised full hips and a narrow waist. Later in the decade Audrey Hepburn epitomised the gamine look in her capris. By the late 1960s pants could be worn for work or weddings. Along with bifurcation, our turn-of-the-century poet predicted we would not “bother with fashion or clothes”. There he lacked prescience!
Bifurcate your vintage look with these tips: 1920s – try draping pants in stripes, geometrics, or florals paired with knit singlets or backless halters. 1930s – pleated shorts and one-piece playsuits in neutrals and nautical colours are perfect for sports, and shopping. 1940s – channel Dietrich in loose, high-waisted pants with pleats and cuffs, or give a nod to Land Girls in wide jeans (dungarees) and belted overalls. 1950s – keep your shorts, pants and capris highwaisted, very fitted, and with minimal pockets. Pair them with a snug tucked-in sweater top, flat shoes, and a ponytail and scarf.