Print Friendly, PDF & Email
French women wearing pants (Paris, 1922)

French women wearing pants (Paris, 1922)

Even though European men had started wearing pants in the early 1800s, women in Europe didn’t really start to wear pants until about 100 years later, in the early 1900s. Slowly more and more women started to wear pants, just as men had. But although by the 1900s pretty much all European men were wearing pants, women in Europe today can still choose between dresses and pants.

During World War I and World War II in the first part of the 1900s AD, it was hard to get enough cotton. People began to wear clothes made by transforming oil into thread – polyester and acrylic, often mixed with cotton. Also, people began to wear less cloth. Women started to wear short skirts instead of long skirts. Men wore tighter pants and jackets.

Women wearing Islamic veils and abayahs

Women wearing Islamic veils and abayas

When the World Wars were over, gradually more and more people in Europe began to have central heat in their houses and where they worked. Fewer and fewer people worked outside. So people stopped wearing so much wool, because it was too hot and too expensive. They started to wear mostly cheaper cotton clothing like jeans and t-shirts and cotton dresses. Today, nearly all of the clothing most people wear is made of cotton.

At the same time, many people came to Europe from the old European colonies in Africa, India, and Pakistan. These people wore cotton too, but in their own styles: saris from India and abayas from West Asia. Some people covered their heads, and other people covered their faces.

Today, most people in Europe can afford to change their clothes every day, and washing machines make it possible to keep up with all that laundry. Most people feel free to wear the clothes they like – pants, skirts, saris, or abayas. Men can wear dresses if they want to, and women can wear pants or veils. But recent laws in Europe have been trying to force people to show their faces on the street, even if they would rather not.

Medieval European clothing
More about European History

Bibliography and further reading about European clothing:


Medieval Clothing
Modern Europe home