Life According to Cosmo: What Women (Should) Want

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Taking (yet another) cue from Jamie Keiles, whose Seventeen Magazine Project, prompted my little foray into Cosmoland, I wanted to see what types of products are advertised in its pages. This breakdown doesn’t include all of the advertorial items included in the what-to-wear, how-to-be-beautiful sections, but rather the actual ad spots.
As expected, there’s a major emphasis on beauty aids and skincare. That rang true in Seventeen as well, with Keiles’ ad analysis finding 80 percent focused on beauty aids and health/hygiene. By the time girls grow up into Cosmo women, they’re already conditioned to think that they’re face and skin could probably use some touchups. Moreover, what Seventeen readers lose in ads for educational products (8 percent of Seventeen ads), they make up for in booze billboards (8 percent of Cosmo ads).
But there are also a few categories I included that caught my attention. Namely, the amount of razors, depilatory creams and laser hair removal promotions throughout the pages. In fact, there were almost as many hair remover type ads (10 percent) as there were hair care — shampoo, mousse, etc — ads (17 percent). Molly and I frequently get emails from Stuff Mom Never Told You listeners requesting podcast on why women shave their legs and why we’re culturally obsessed with women being as hairless as possible (which we’ve covered, if you’d like to take a listen). This advertising trend speaks directly to that conundrum. Society tells us to have full, lustrous locks up top, but don’t even think about letting a single follicle grow freely below the scalp! And this is the data to prove it.
I was also interested to see the lack apparel advertising. Perhaps clothing and shoe companies save their marketing dollars for more fashion-y titles, but I’d venture that there’s a deeper message at work here as well. When you flip through the magazine and just look at the ads, all you see over and over again are close-ups on women’s faces and shiny, hairless bare skin. Considering that skincare and hair-related ads (47 percent combined) outranked those for cosmetics (11 percent), Cosmopolitan’s advertising emphasis is incredibly body conscious. Don’t have that flawless skin and shapely gams? Too bad. All the makeup and clothing in the world really isn’t going to fix that, now will it? Swirling around that exposed flesh, we have diet friendly food offerings (17 percent), cellulite cures (5 percent) and even eyelash extenders to fix those “trouble spots.”
Big surprise then, that about a third of the way into the July edition, there’s a full-page ad for bipolar disorder. Because taken together, all of these skin-deep beauty messages can set a gal’s head topsy-turvy.
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When did women begin wearing pants?

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Before men started wearing the crotch-covering legging we call trousers, everybody wore skirts in one form or fashion (see also: loincloths, tunics, togas, kilts, etc.). And why not? Skirts are far simpler to construct and facilitate more cooling air flow to the nether regions, which would’ve been a godsend in the pre-air conditioning days. But then, thanks to the rise of horseback infantries, trousers (see also: breeches, codpieces, tights, etc.) became the below-the-belt manly uniform of the masculine masses.
Western women, meanwhile, continued wearing skirts, and not just simple wrap-around numbers. We’re talking multi-layered, heavy, floor-length ensembles often further supported and puffed out with the assistance of cage crinoline, petticoats, bustles, or other clunky foundation garments, depending on the era (see also: corsets).
In the 19th century, recognizing not only the discomfort but also the health and safety hazards of wearing the weighty skirts that swept up street trash, impeded walking (especially down stairs) and posed fire hazards, and fueled by the freer-thinking spirit of the Enlightenment, some liberal folk began calling for more “rational dress.” In 1851, Amelia Bloomer debuted her signature shocking ensemble of loose-fitting ankle-length trousers — essentially bifurcated petticoats — underneath a shorter dress. Later in 1881, the Rational Dress Society was established in London, and it advocated women being required to wear no more than 7 pounds (3 kilograms) of underwear, which at the time would have been a major load off. But even with the popularization of the bicycle and younger women adopting bloomers as riding outfits, it would still be a long while before pants would become an all-season, any-occasion women’s wardrobe staple.
Pants for ladies trickled into high fashion in earnest in 1911, courtesy of French designer Paul Poiret, who had earlier done women a solid by introducing corset-free styles. His harem pant, as seen on Downton Abbey, made the cover of Vogue in 1913. And speaking of Vogue, billowy slacks were becoming more commonplace in its pages by the 1930s, as well as on the pages of celebrity trades that showcased some Hollywood A-listers including Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn wearing them on and off screen. For the average trendy, well-heeled woman, however, pants couldn’t simply be tossed on effortlessly; they came with their own set of rules (and weight requirements!) in 1939:
During World War II, though photographs show American women wearing pants in the workplace

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, dresses and skirts were still the go-to for properly going out in public, and Dior’s post-War “New Look,” swung the pendulum even farther away from the pant for a period. Really, as Worn Through underscores, it wasn’t until the sexual revolution and second-wave feminism in the late 1960s and 1970s that women started wearing trousers en masse and whenever they wished — for the most part. It wasn’t until 1993, for instance, that Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Carol Moseley-Braun (the first African-American woman elected to Senate) became the first woman senators to rock pantsuits on Senate floor, forcing the Senate to lift its ban on lady trousers in the Senate. Hence, while women’s adoption of pants wasn’t directly fueled by militarism as it was with men, the choice to eschew a skirt was no less an epic struggle.
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