The Power of Pants in the Jazz Age!

If you’re familiar with Ginger Gold Mysteries you know that Ginger Gold is a fashionista. The series explores different fads throughout the Jazz Age. My latest spinoff series Higgins & Hawke Mysteries features the more practical Haley Higgins. Ginger and Haley are polar opposites in terms of personality and wardrobe choices, yet in their own way, each woman uses her sense of fashion to assert her independence.

Image courtesy of glamourdaze.com

Flappers from the 1920s pushed boundaries of proprietary for women's attire. In the 20s many flappers wore pajama pants during visits to the beach or for bicycle outings although it was not yet acceptable to wear trousers outside of these activities. In the early 1930s, it was still a brazen act for women to wear pants publicly.

Kate Hepburn shocked the world by wearing trousers between her sets on Hollywood. Marlene Dietrich also made headlines when she made an appearance at the 1932 premiere of The Sign of the Cross in a black tuxedo and fedora. In 1933, even First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wore riding pants to the 1933 Easter Egg Roll.

Celebrity statements such as these began to normalize the new pant-wearing trend for all women.

By the mid-1930s a growing number of women were sporting trousers regularly. Even so, this new trend did not come without any hitches. There were still laws in existence that banned women from dressing in a way that some considered to be misleading regarding their gender.

Image courtesy of latimes.com

In 1938, kindergarten teacher Helen Hulick (pictured above) was briefly jailed for wearing slacks to court while she was testifying against two burglary suspects in a downtown L.A. courtroom. Her attire was deemed offensive and distracting by the judge who ordered her to come back to court dressed more appropriately. Helen refused to give in to the court's pressure and stood her ground even in the face of legal action. You can read more about her case here.

Did you learn something new? Write me a note to let me know.

Ps. You may also be interested in Beachwear in the roaring 20s!

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  1. i grew up in 50 and then we were not allow to wear pant and then we allso went through the desperation when i was a kid had to go to the track pick up 50 lb pot and rice and food for the family of 7 with my grand parents and aunts our town went bankrupt 2 and then when my dad was making a load on dock the lake caught fire

  2. I’ve always liked the fashion of the Jazz Age. The “flapper” style looks so much freer when compared with the heavy, corseted clothes that came before.

  3. This is so fascinating! Especially the part about it being illegal to wear pants, basically. Love the fashions of this period!

  4. Wow! I am in awe of the jazz age. It’s amazing how far we have come regarding the rules about women wearing trousers. I know that if I had lived back then, I would have worn them for comfort and because I’m a free spirit who would have had fun bucking the rules. BUT, I love the flapper look. So for me, daring trouser wearing gal by day, and party flapper girl by night.
    I have never read any of your books yet so I am VERY happy to have found you through a Facebook contest. FINALLY, a series of books written in one of my fave periods of time. I really look forward to getting to know you through your books.

  5. OMG!!! I am so excited to have found you! Where have you been all these years?! The jazz era is one of my favorite periods of time to read about and to watch. Women were still so genteel yet they were beginning to break free from the constraints of convention and live live without fear of men and what the repercussions would be if they broke the rules. I can hardly wait to start reading one of your novels. So far, I have just read an entry in Ginger’s Journal. I’m following you on Amazon and I signed up for your newsletter. Welcome to my little corner of the world!

    1. Hi Karma, Thanks so much for taking the time to write me a note! I hope you enjoy reading about Ginger Gold & gang as much as I have enjoyed writing about them. I’m also working on a brand new 1950s Cozy Mystery series. If you love early rock & roll, poodle skirts, clever who-dun-its, a charming cat and an even more charming detective, you’re going to love this new series! Stay tuned. 🙂


  6. I love the clothes and the women were amazing. I didn’t know about the pajama pants wearing in public. I remember wearing jeans for gym in school in the 60s and we snuck in the little hall by the gym and thought we were doing something exciting.

  7. I enjoyed your article. I wish my grandmother was here to ask her if she wore trousers in the 1930’s. I know she did by 1940 as I have pictures. It seems to ridiculous now, yet we still have issues about this!

  8. I loved looking at pictures of my grandmother during the 30s and 40s wearing pants. She one of the few who actually still look feminine no matter what she wore!

  9. Wow, I did not know about the pajama pants as beach and cycling attire. I so enjoy your books Lee❤️

  10. I remember seeing photos of my mom wearing those daring pants in the 30s and 40s. Yet when I went to school in the fifties, we were required to wear dresses or skirts…no pants for fifties school girls…all the way until 7th grade which I started in Los Angeles County! Started off with dresses, skirts, saddleshoes and Bobby socks…then my dad took a promotion and was working in Palm Springs area. I was such an outcast…everyone were pants, Jean’s, whatever. I still have the two dearest friends who welcomed this outsider into their midst. Besides the pants, I’d never had to reach out to make friends before. I’d grown up with all the kids on my street. It was a lonely year before I truly learned to make a friend you had to be a friend. I’m just glad I had never been raised to see skin color… because my school mates were almost all Mexican, Native Americans, or black. As the lone new white kid wearing “city clothes” was bad enough! By year two, i had many friends or all nationalities…but i still tried to fit in with the “right” clothes! lol! But that is a teenager for you!

  11. “In 1938, kindergarten teacher Helen Hulick (pictured above) was briefly jailed for wearing slacks to court while she was testifying against two burglary suspects in a downtown L.A. courtroom. Her attire was deemed offensive and distracting by the judge who ordered her to come back to court dressed more appropriately. ”

    This makes me so mad that laws were and STILL ARE so ludicrous. When there are real problems in the world that are just swept under the rug.

  12. I couldn’t imagine not being able to wear pants whenever I wanted to, so thanks to those ladies!

  13. I love the fashion of the 1920s. A lot of the dresses I wear are modern versions of flapper dresses.

  14. So glad for the trailblazers of the 20s & 30s! I LOVE to wear pants. I didn’t realize there were laws against women wearing pants in those days that could lead to jail time. Those ladies-in-pants haters would have heart attacks over all the women who wear pants today…

  15. My first year of high school I couldn’t wear pants to school. The next year and a new principal it was accepted.

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