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Pants ban dropped: Paris women allowed to wear trousers after two centuries

Published time: February 03, 2013 20:20
Edited time: February 04, 2013 19:36
(Reuters / Pascal Rossignol)

(Reuters / Pascal Rossignol)

The 214-year-old law, which formally prohibited women from wearing trousers in Paris, has been revoked. The archaic ban, though not executed, has been a pain for French women's rights activists.

"This ordinance is incompatible with the principles of equality between women and men, which are listed in the Constitution, and in France's European commitments. From that incompatibility follows the implicit abrogation of the ordinance," French Minister for Women’s Rights Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said in a statement quoted by the Huffington Post.

The archaic law, which dates back to November 1799, demanded women ask police for special permission to “dress as men” in Paris. The other option was to risk being arrested.

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,  Le Parisien daily explained.

The law picked up an amendment back in 1892 and 1909, which allowed women to wear trousers "if the woman is holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse."

There have been previous talks to repeal the law over the years, even if it was not enforced. The most recent attempt was in July 2012, when a public request was directed to minister for women’s rights and a member of the conservative UMP party Alain Houpert, which said the "symbolic importance" of the law "could injure our modern sensibilities."

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