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BAGGY CLOTHES; A PERSONAL REFLECTION AND SOME HISTORY

February 13, 2024

Elsa Lagercrantz

Being able to wear whatever one wants is a blessing. Around the world, that choice is not only compromised by dress codes but also through norms and expectations. Recently, I have understood that fashion tells more about societies and attitudes than most people realize. To give some background, occasionally, I wear baggy clothes. I think it looks good while radiating a sense of effortlessness, and truthfully - yes - sometimes it’s because I’m lazy in the morning. However, I noticed that it also brings a sense of freedom. When I’m in a pair of loose-fit jeans and an oversized hoodie, I’m not as concerned with being catcalled while walking up Thayer Street, and personally, it creates a costume to relax in. Despite that, the comfort of an androgynous outfit is a newly discovered concept to me. Baggy clothes were never cherished in my hometown, therefore I never appreciated oversized clothes as a style of fashion. It’s a subtle form of expression that wasn’t present in my previous, arguably, conservative circle. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that neither was a level of sexualization in public places in comparison to here. 

 

Realizing some contributing artifacts to changes in my style made me wonder about the origin and background of baggy clothes. With a rich history, there is much to discuss, and two worthwhile subjects to analyze are sagging and the growth of baggy clothes among women from the 1920s. What effect has sagging had on norms and trends and how has women’s fashion transformed over time in accordance to other societal changes?

 

Sagging

Sagging is a well-known phrase in the U.S. referring to when men wear pants that sag to the extent of showing off the underwear. Whether used due to laziness or purposely showing a carefree attitude, this has long been viewed as a “sloppy” form of dressing. However, few know that it has its origins with American prisoners not being able to wear their pants properly due to belts being prohibited. Later on, the style was popularized in the 90s by hip-hop artists and, as a result, also teenagers. In the 2000s this resulted in major reactions within people opposing the fashion trend. Many, such as airlines, schools, and transit agencies, banned the clothing style, and great concern among the older generation grew rapidly. The trend evoked such strong emotions that even ex-president Barack Obama brought it up in a speech on MTV advocating that “...brothers should pull up their pants.” To little avail, one might argue, since influential rappers, for example, Travis Scott, and designers, like Kanye West, are still sporting the sag. 

 

Women's oversized clothes 

The history of oversized fashion among women has been an ongoing trend since the 1920s. Taking on different shapes and forms, the style has consistently communicated themes of  “masculinity.”  Something one could argue is a result of changes in power and rights. For example, fashion post World War One includes the popularization of a looser-fit among women. This was mainly due to the creations of fashion icon Coco Chanel. A “boyish” figure and flattened chests became idolized simultaneously as flapper dresses flourished with heavily oversized features and accessories, such as bows and tassels. Moving on, fashion in the 60s reflected societal movements of women fighting for equity. The want for civil rights was shown mainly within working-class women who began wearing jeans and pant-suits. Simultaneously, this became evident within evening gowns showing looser fits and forms within high-society women. Moreover, the '90s embeds a decade full of diverse fashion, stretching from neon leggings and tank tops to the hip-hop-inspired baggy clothes mostly popular among Black teens. This urban fashion was greatly influenced by a growing Black Nationalism and famous musical figures such as TLC. The rise of this new urban fashion is also believed to have affected major designers and their preference for models at the time. Exemplifying this phenomenon are Tyra Banks and Naomi Cambell, who were among the first Black supermodels. 

 

To Conclude: 

One must admit that fashion holds great power over norms and functions as a tool to promote societal changes. It is evident that sagging managed to disrupt conservative ideas of fashion on a national level and it is clear that women throughout history have used fashion to display prominent societal changes. Baggy clothes are just one of many examples of the influence of fashion on society and there are many more to discuss. In addition, I want to point out again that being able to choose what to wear truly is a blessing. Yes, my style has changed since moving to America. Nonetheless, I still love dressing up and occasionally wearing more figure-hugging clothes while feeling confident. Yet, recognizing the significance of clothes, their historical context, and what they tell you about the person is worth reflecting on. Finally, as I’m writing this I realize that there is so much more to discuss regarding these topics. I’m intrigued, after only scratching on the surface, to perhaps continue with a series of articles about women’s fashion throughout history. If this sounds appealing feel free to shoot me an email: elsa_lagercrantz@brown.edu

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