The Library of Virginia >> Exhibitions >> Working Out Her Destiny
Shirt Waist. Linen. ca. 1905. V.89.128.1. Lent by the Valentine Richmond History Center
Skirt. Wool. ca. 1902. Gift of Miss Edna Moffatt. 54.101.1b. Lent by the Valentine Richmond History Center

Work - Women in Business

As Colleen Callahan, former curator of costumes and textiles at the Valentine Richmond History Center, wrote in her text for the exhibition, Dressed for Work: Women in the Work Force, 1900–1989, “The most pervasive factor affecting the female work force is the division of jobs into ‘women’s work’ and ‘men’s work.’ ” Changes in women’s clothing reflected how women joined the work force in ever increasing numbers and how they entered previously “male” occupations.

Photographs taken at the turn of the twentieth century show that many office and sales women wore white blouses and dark skirts so frequently that the combination was almost a uniform. By the 1980s, skirt suits remained the favored executive clothing style, but business attire incorporated unmatched separates, bright colors, and, even, maternity outfits.

Image of shirt waist


Maternity Business Outfit. 1988. Wool plaid jumper, red wool jacket, white silk blouse. Courtesy of the Valentine Richmond History Center.

image of maternity business outfit