In chapter 3 of Betty Luther Hillman’s book Dressing for the Culture Wars: Style and the Politics of Self-Representation in the 1960s and 1970s, Hillman details the various ways that women resisted gender norms through their style and appearance. She describes how women countered societal expectations via their personal expression. Women would cut their hair, eschew makeup, and dress in pants or jeans instead skirts and dresses.
For a lot of the women that Hillman spotlights in chapter 3, clothing was a symbol of their oppressed cultural position. To bridge the gap between men and women and to create a sense of equity, some women, explains Hillman, adopted a masculine or androgynous style. Hillman quotes a feminist named Coletta Reid, who posed the question,
If men and women dressed and acted alike ...how would men know who to treat as inferior, who to hire as secretaries, who to rape?
While many women, such as Reid, believed that clothes and appearance could result in parity between genders, other women thought the emphasis on self-presentation was undue. Hillman quotes a woman who labels fashion a “diversionary issue.” What feminists and women should focus on is not personal expression but legislation that can directly help all women.
Meanwhile, Hillman explains how other women felt oppressed by the masculine presentation of certain women and feminists. These women did not feel marginalized by long hair, dresses, makeup, and so on; rather, they felt empowered. Hillman explains how some women were of the opinion that taking up masculine styles perpetuated the notion that one has to appear manly to be treated fairly.
The debates about how an empowered woman should dress and look continue today. For Hillman, the ongoing conversation on self-presentation can be seen in current discussions around female politicians, popular TV shows, female athletes, and so on. Indeed, in Hillman's estimation, fashion continues to be political.