|Come on! You're kidding right? No? What's wrong with you?|
Noun. Mid-19th century.
[Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-94) of New York, who advocated such dress.]
1 In full bloomer costume, bloomer dress = sense 4 below. M19
2 bloomer trousers = sense 5 below. M19
3 A woman who wears a bloomer costume. M19
4 Historical. A woman's costume with loose trousers gathered at the ankle or knee. M19
5 Historical. Knee-length trousers or knickerbockers,
especially as worn by women for active pursuits as cycling etc. L19
6 A woman's or girl's loose knee-length knickers; colloquial knickers of any style. E20
Also: bloomered adjective wearing bloomers L19. bloomerism noun (Hist.) the principles of A. J. Bloomer as to female dress. M19.
There is still interest in bloomers, however; I'm not alone. They're common fare in lingerie and period dress shops, and there are also videos on YouTube showing how you can make your own set of bloomers. Personally, rather than the tawdry, no-imagination-required styles of modern underwear and lingerie, I think there are few things more alluring than a subtle, silky set of flattering bloomers. And considering the historical and sociological discussions that a set of vintage bloomers is bound to prompt, there can be few things more stimulating that one could wear in the bedroom.
I find bloomers to be rather lovely. I know they're anathema to many today, probably most, men and women alike, and they represent the very antithesis of sexiness, associated more as they are with stuffy grandmothers and matronly aunts than anything you'd actually like to cuddle up next to at night. But if you would just put aside, for a moment, those old prejudices and associations, look at bloomers with fresh eyes, ones that haven't been sullied by years of negative reinforcement and familial associations, I think you will come to agree with me that bloomers are in fact very, very sexy indeed.
Even if you're determined to disagree, the history of bloomers and bloomer costume is jolly interesting and has always been steeped in controversy. If you're a woman from the Western world and you're sitting reading this in a pair of trousers or jeans, then you actually have good reason to be thankful to bloomer dress, as it was this style in the 1850s that helped usher in the concept of women wearing trousers. And, yes, it was a concept, and one that was met with near hysterical opposition from the conservative classes. Prevailing fashion of the time dictated that women wear whale-bone corsets to achieve the desired feminine shape, and these were so tight that they would actually displace the internal organs. Therefore, various journals and writers started urging women to adopt styles that were more conducive to good health.
Although she did not invent the style, American Amelia Bloomer wrote an article in 1851 saying that she had adopted the Turkish style of dress, that of wearing baggy pantaloons underneath a skirt, and she printed instructions on how to make it. Newspapers quickly dubbed this the "Bloomer Dress", and very soon there was a "Bloomer Craze" across the nation. Bloomer banquets, picnics and balls were held, and bloomer dress quickly became associated not only with women's independence from "the despotism of Parisian fashion", but also the wider debate of women's rights and suffrage. Conservative opposition quickly descended on bloomerism, with suggestions that the style would quickly lead to the usurpation of male authority. Hysterical cartoons appeared in newspapers showing women smoking and sitting with their legs crossed, or working while the husbands looked after the children.
|Tut tut tut. Women smoking, drinking, lounging and reading - that's what men do!|
During the 1890s, bloomers were specifically recommended as a comfortable and practical style for riding bicycles, and skirtless bloomers were adopted for other athletic pursuits. During the 1920s and 1930s, it became more respectable for women to wear trousers in a variety of situations, and bloomers first got shorter and then ultimately became less common. The baggy undergarments (knickers) that fall to just below knee-length were popular throughout the 1910s - 1930s, after which they too declined and became more associated with the older generation. It's these undergarments that are most commonly thought of when one mentions bloomers, and I for one feel they are grossly undervalued and maligned.
|The athletic bloomers.|
What do you think of bloomers?
Do you think they're bloomin' lovely or bloomin' awful?
Have they in fact led to a rise of women smoking, reading newspapers and having their own opinions?
Do please leave your pantalooniest comments below.