Breaking StereoTypes Because We Can
Celebrating Women’s History Month Through Fashion
by Elizabeth Brunner
Women we honor and celebrate on International Women’s Day and during Women’s History Month are all incredible females who in their unique ways defied stereotypes. They were able to go against the grain and be authentically themselves, and in doing so, blazed a trail for the women, girls, men, boys, and nonbinary folks here today. In other words, by breaking stereotypes, women in history weren’t just able to make an impact and create opportunities for other women, but we’re also able to create opportunities for everyone to be authentically who they are, no matter the gender.
As we tell stories about groundbreaking and trailblazing women, as we celebrate the women who have come before us and the women who are creating the world we are living in, I think about how those women must have had to break out of their comfort zones and stand courageously in their truth. How were they able to find those parts of themselves, and what did it take for them to express themselves and take a stand for what they believed in?
These ideas led me to go down the Google rabbit hole and learn more about the history of women wearing pants. Seems like such a small thing, wearing pants. And yet so much bravery had to be collected for that simple wardrobe choice just a few centuries ago. In the 18th and 19th century, European women could be arrested simply for wearing pants because they were deemed indecent and inappropriate to be worn under dresses. Eventually many women did adopt wearing pants, and entire uniforms to slip into Army service so making what seems like a simple wardrobe choice changed women’s fashion forever. Just a piece of clothing — was such a huge, bold move.
I reflect on the idea of women wearing pants and how impactful this action once was (and still is!) At a photoshoot recently for new headshots, I slipped on a blazer, a tie and slacks and took some photos that showcased me embodying “blended fashion” as a style, a way to dress beyond my norms. It felt different to put together a more masculine look than my typical t-shirt and jeans, and I was surprised at how powerful and vulnerable I felt in doing so, all at the same time.
When we break stereotypes, we tap into our true authentic nature, who we really are. Being vulnerable to open up and discover is power. Courage is power. Confidence is power. Any moment where we show up as authentically ourselves is power. That empowerment can be found in a blazer or a dress, a sweater or a suit - sometimes all at once! It’s aligning our outsides to match our insides and exist in all of the beauty and complexity as humans. I’m humbled, in awe, and inspired to continue to find ways to break out of my own stereotypes — and encourage my kids to do the same.
Of course, today we live in a world where women wear pants. And now, thanks to more fearless stereotype breaking, we live in a world where boys and men can wear skirts too. Clothes may seem like a minor detail, but they can also change the world - our internal and external world - by allowing ourselves to express authentically and how we want to show up in the world. And as we celebrate Women’s History Month, I’m grateful to the women who came before me, who were able to break through stereotypes, courageously wear a pair of pants, and step into their authenticity.