France has never really claimed leadership on gender equality issues – French women were not given the vote until 1944 – but at least women can now wear trousers in the capital city. On January 31, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the minister for women’s rights, has finally repealed the archaic law that banned women in Paris from wearing trousers, 213 years after it was introduced. The law, little upheld, required “any woman wishing to dress in men’s clothing to obtain authorisation from the préfecture de police”. The restriction focused on Paris because French Revolutionary rebels in the capital said they wore trousers, as opposed to the knee-breeches, or the “culottes,” of the bourgeoisie, in what was coined the “sans-culottes” movement. Women rebels in the movement demanded the right to wear trousers as well, but were forbidden to do so.
In 1892 and 1909 the rule was amended to allow women to wear trousers, “if the woman is holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse.”
The law was kept in place until now, despite repeated attempts to repeal it, in part because officials said the unenforced rule was not a priority, and part of French “legal archaeology.”
In July however, in a public request directed at Ms Vallaud-Belkacem, Alain Houpert, a senator and member of the conservative UMP party, said the “symbolic importance” of the law “could injure our modern sensibilities,” and he asked the minister to repeal it.
(Sources: The Telegraph & The Guardian)