As women sought to enter the architectural profession at the
turn of the twentieth century, the body became a central site
where the gendered construction of the architect was played out.
As suggested by the 'Illustrierte Frauenzeitung's commentary,
1910, the 'problem' of the woman architect's female body was
nowhere as visible as in the dilemma posed by women's clothing
on the building site. Respectable public attire for a 'lady' in this
period included a hat, long gloves, a skirt to the ankles and
a corset — an outfit hardly conducive to climbing ladders.
Women architects responded to the challenge of their supposedly
frail bodies and dangerous clothing by promoting the reform
of women's clothing. In the 1912 photograph of Fia Wille — who,
together with her husband Rudolf, owned one of Berlin's most
successful design firms — is shown working on architectural
drawings. She wears a dress of her own design that exemplifies
reform clothing, which rejected the corset in favour of loose
garments that minimised surface ornament, followed the natural
contours of the female body and promoted freedom of movement.
Despina Stratigakos: The good architect and the bad parent:
on the formation and disruption of a canonical image',
The Journal of Architecture, 13:3, 283 - 296