Dress Reform from 1850 to 1930 in the United States: The Impact on Health

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Dress Reform from 1850 to 1930 in the United States: The Impact on Health Dress reform has played an integral part of the women’s movement, health reform and political agendas. This paper will explore the time period of 1850 to 1930 in the United States of America concerning dress reform for women. It is important to explore this topic because the eighty year span marks a time of rapid change for women concerning health, leisure, independence, political and gender constraints and liberties. A description of the social forces must be discussed in order to have a distinct grasp of the reform movement. Next, the problems caused by fashion will reveal why there was a strong reform movement for dress and clothing. Examining the feminist and health movements of the time period will demonstrate what created the change in the movement, and the benefits and tribulations associated with the reform. Wellness was not fashionable in the 1850’s. Women associated being ill and weak with class superiority. It was almost as if illness replaced a sense of wealthy leisure because these women did not have to worry that their illness was impeding their ability to have a job or care for a household. This sickness afforded the women the opportunity to use “new” medical treatments and cures. Affording such medical attention was one way of noting the wealth behind the sickly woman . Sickness not only distinguished people within classes, but it highlighted gender distinctions. Illness was a form of true femininity. The sick, delicate and frail woman was at the pinnacle of femininity because she embraced the weaknesses of the sex . But this sense of illness was not a psychological phenomenon. Given the time period, there was a great amount of disease present. However, through historical analysis, it is obvious that far women complained far more of illness than did men. In a time when a lot of female illness were linked to the uterus, one can begin to understand that the more sick you were, the more womanly it made you as your body was thought to have been constructed around the uterus . Beyond the class superiority and femininity linked to illness, there lies a concrete explanation for why many women suffered from physical discomfort. The dress that was co... ... middle of paper ... ...n athletic and physical activity . Inventors made special brassieres for swimming, acrobatics and other physical activity. It became acceptable for women to wear undergarments against the skin, and to shed their corsets. Brassieres began to be mass-produced in 1893, which begins the time of a noted difference in women’s health problems related to clothing design. The 1850’ to 1930’s was a period of remarkable transition in the style of women’s clothing. The fashion evolution marked better health and an increase in leisure activities for women. Change in perception concerning the fashionableness of sickness and the femininity of restrictive clothing was coupled with extended legal rights for women and an increase in their occupational options. Appreciation for the modification goes to feminists, health reformers, dress reformers, advocates for leisure and to some extend the eugenicists. It is noted that dress reform did not offer a pure solution to the plights of women. Rather, the change of clothing illustrates the changing social and political climates of the time period. References:

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