The late Victorian, early 20th century conversion of middle class women into the consumer class was a big thing. I remember an 1860s magazine advising middle class women to limit their sewing to inessentials, like samplers, to leave work for less fortunate women who had no choice but to sew for a living. What kind of woman would sew her own dress and let a poorer woman’s children starve? Did Jesus Christ die on the cross for nothing? I got the impression it was a much more Christian society back then, at least when they weren’t shooting at striking workers.
There’s also the fact that it is much harder to buy women’s stuff. Men’s pants are standardized. If you know your waist and inseam, odds are you can just buy the damned pants and they’ll fit. If you are a woman, there must be a dozen parameters for a decent fit. You need at least waist, hip and inseam measurements, but also waist to crotch and a host of others specifications. Maybe this is societal, and women shouldn’t be so nice regarding how their clothes fit, but women are stuck.
Men’s clothing tends to be dictated by its use. Want clients to think you are seriously white collar. Buy a suit. That adds chest size and sleeve length. Of course, an expensive suit might fit better than a cheap one off the rack, but a woman doing a similar snow job would have to decide if she wants a pants suit, a proper dress suitable for the courtroom, a shirtwaist, something with a little flair, perhaps something butch and so on. There’s a joint at the edge of town that just sells scrubs, and I imagine some women falling on their knees in grateful prayer before going and getting a set of green scrubs, women’s, size M, overjoyed at not having to endure the searching and fitting that another profession would require.
I’m a man, but I’ve gone shopping with enough women in my life to know what a challenge it can be. Just shopping with my kid sister for shoes was an ordeal. She was a kid. She just wanted shoes for school. I remember when my girlfriend moved into management and needed to upmarket her wardrobe. We went to store after store. She went for a pants suit from a fancy designer. The price was scary, but the ROI was impressive. $1K for the suit got her a $20K raise. A male friend of mine swore by his $500 an hour consultant suit, so maybe there is something to this.
On the other hand, I’ve known male shopaholics. I had one visit me. I’m not in a big shopping town. We have the basics, but for anything beyond that, you want to go to the big city or at least a nearby suburb. Despite this, he shopped up a storm. I’m sure the local merchants would love it if I ever invited him back, though I gather he has kicked the habit.