Sunday, 2 March 2014

Dress Code

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Chicago’s Dress Code

Evelyn Bross (L) and Catherine Barscz (R) at the
Racine Avenue Police Station, Chicago, 5 June 1943
In 1943 Evelyn “Jackie” Bross was arrested on her way home from work. Bross, 19 at the time and a machinist at a WWII defence plant, wore men’s clothes and a man’s hair cut.

As early as 1851 Chicago had an ordinance outlawing cross-dressing in a public place; it was considered a type of indecent exposure.

In court, Bross informed the judge that she chose to wear men’s clothing because it was "more comfortable than women’s clothes and handy for work". She openly declared, "I wish I was a boy. I never did anything wrong. I just like to wear men’s clothes… [but] everyone knows I’m a woman." In the end, Bross was ordered to see a court psychiatrist for six months and Chicago’s cross-dressing code was revised.

As of 1943, the code allowed for individuals to wear clothing of the opposite sex, provided it was not worn "with the intent to conceal his or her sex." Arrests continued in spite of the alteration and the Chicago code regarding cross-dressing would not be eliminated until 1978.


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