RVA50 Object 45 “Pantsuit, c. 1971”

Pantsuit, c. 1971
Worn by Elizabeth B. Bauder
Kimberly (manufacturer); Thalhimers (retailer)

Richmond native Elizabeth Bunnell Bauder (1929-2012) spent 40 years of her working life with Thalhimers department stores and retired as the top-ranking female executive in 1990.  Among her many firsts, she “broke the glass ceiling” by becoming a vice president in 1971.  At that time, she also challenged the male-dominated executive mindset of the traditional southern business by wearing this trouser suit or pantsuit to the office, striking a blow for equal rights in the work place.

The history of the pantsuit can be traced back in American fashion history to the feminist uniform of the mid 19th century developed and sported by Amelia Bloomer.  During the 1920’s, fashion designers began to embrace trouser suits for women, but they were not viewed as appropriate for the average American women until the social revolutions of the late 1960’s.

Gift of Elizabeth Bauder, 1998