French woman in trousersI was surprised to see the news that Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the minister for women’s rights, has managed to change the law banning women from wearing trousers in Paris! I didn’t know this law existed. Apparently this law was passed some 200-odd years ago and stated that women wanting to ‘dress like a man’ (!) had to get official permission from the authorities.

Sans Culottes

Eiffel TowerThe law was originally passed when women wearing trousers, instead of the legal aristocratic knee-length culottes, became a symbol of the French Revolution. The revolutionaries were radical, left-wing and lower class, mainly urban labourers, who became known as the ‘sans-culottes’ (without culottes), who traditionally wore Pantaloons (trousers). The rebel women wanted the right to stand alongside their male rebel counterparts by wearing trousers. The French leaders of the time thought that by banning women from wearing trousers, it would deter them from being a part of the revolution…and of course, keep the pesky women in their place!

Despite several attempts over the years to get the law revoked, until 31 January 2013, officials said that revoking the law wasn’t a priority and it was part of French ‘legal archaeology’. Woman's ringed hand in smart grey trouser pocket

However, thanks to Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, when we ladies visit Paris, we can no longer be arrested for wearing trousers! Well… that’s a relief!

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