An archaic by-law banning Parisian women from wearing trousers has finally been repealed 214 years after it was originally introduced.
The November 1799 decree stipulated that any woman wishing to wear men’s clothing in the French capital had to seek official permission from the city authorities.
It was amended two times a century later, when women were given the freedom to don “pantalons” [trousers] if they were “holding the handlebars of a bicycle or the reins of a horse.”
The decree was passed when the working class fashion of wearing long trousers (as opposed to the aristocratic knee-length “culottes”) became a symbol of the French revolution. The rule therefore symbolically barred women from the revolutionary rank and file, known at the time as the “sans-culottes”.
‘A museum piece’
In 2010, a group of Green Party lawmakers began a campaign to get the absurd by-law, held in the archives of the Paris Prefecture [police headquarters] and technically still in force, struck off permanently.
The group faced surprising resistance from the prefecture, which considered the effort “removing a piece of judicial archaeology” a “waste of time”.
A fresh application for the decree to be officially removed from the prefecture’s official documentation was made in 2012 by a member of parliament for the opposition UMP party.
This time, the request was taken seriously, and the 1799 law was last week officially confirmed null and void.
French Minister for Women’s Rights Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the rule was “incompatible with the principles of equality between men and women that are written into the constitution, as well as in France’s European engagements.”
“Because of this incompatibility, this by-law is implicitly repealed,” she added. “It has absolutely no legal effect. The document is nothing but a museum piece.”
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