What is a Shirtwaist?

The word “shirtwaist” has been used in different ways throughout history. The first meaning was a type of tailored women’s blouse which could be worn separately from skirts or pants, but it later came to refer for more revealing dresses that were styled like men’s shirts with an open back and low neckline. 1950s shirtwaist dresses were extremely fashionable, and they are still closely linked to this period in history.

The first meaning came from its use as an alternative to corsets which women were starting to abandon due to health concerns while simultaneously seeking more freedom of movement.It eventually evolved into something much more than just a dress when women started seeing them as symbols for their own suffrage and gender equality struggles.

In this way, the shirtwaist dress represents both liberation from outdated customs and conventions, but also oppression against those who would seek equal rights for themselves in today’s society. In early days, working women wore the shirtwaist dress in place of a suit.

The garment was designed to allow women the same movement they would have when wearing men’s clothing, and therefore became a symbol for the feminist movement. In terms of historical context, this was during the same time when women were trying to gain suffrage in America and it is believed that they chose shirtwaist dresses as their uniform since it gave them a sense of unity and autonomy from men’s outfits.

In addition, many believe that “shirtwaist” came from a combination between the word “shirt” and the French word for waist “la taille.” This makes sense because most shirtwaists were fitted around the waist with an open back which gave women’s bodies more freedom of movement.

The shirtwaist dress also became a very popular style for brides in the early 20th century. In fact, many of them were so popular that most tailors had patterns available for making them because they could be completed fairly quickly at low cost.

In today’s society, this dress has been adapted from its original meaning and is often referred to as a blouse considering that the bodice comes with a button placket instead of laces or hooks and eyes. This garment is still associated with working class women, but these days it seems to have become mostly linked with modern day fashionistas who want something simple yet stylish enough to wear both casually and formally.

Beautees Girls' Big Shirtwaist Dress
Beautees Girls’ Big Shirtwaist Dress (View on Amazon)

This piece of formal wear is actually much more than just another garment because it came to represent the struggles of countless women who refuse to be seen as second-class citizens.

Although many people associate the shirtwaist dress with either class or gender, it can also be seen as a symbol for emancipation and freedom from oppression in whatever form it might take.

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