Bloomers (clothing)

Bloomers (clothing)

Bloomers is a word which has been applied to several types of divided women's garments for the lower body at various times.

Fashion bloomers (skirted)

The original bloomers were an article of women's clothing invented by Elizabeth Smith Miller of Peterboro, NY but popularized by Amelia Bloomer in the early 1850s (hence the name, a shortening of "Bloomer suit"). They were long baggy pants narrowing to a cuff at the ankles (worn below a skirt), intended to preserve Victorian decency while being less of a hindrance to women's activities than the long full skirts of the period (see Victorian dress reform). They were worn by a few women in the 1850s, but were widely ridiculed in the press, and failed to become commonly accepted (see 1850s in fashion). Bloomer was an insult made up by the newspapers of the time. The costume was called the "American Dress" or "Reform Costume" by the women's activists that wore it. Most of the women who wore the costume were deeply involved in dress reform, abolition, temperance and the women's rights movement. Although practical, the "bloomers" were also an attempt to reform fashion since the majority of "bloomers" were also in upper to middle class and also in the public eye.

These early bloomers were partly an attempt to adapt young girls' short skirts and pantalettes to adult women's attire, and were partly influenced by middle-eastern clothing styles (or what was thought to be middle-eastern styles) — hence the name "Syrian costume". []

The word "bloomers" was sometimes used for the wearers of the garments, rather than the garments themselves.

In 1909, fashion designer Paul Poiret attempted to popularize harem pants worn below a long flaring tunic, but this attempted revival of fashion bloomers under another name did not catch on.

Athletic bloomers (unskirted)

During the late 19th century, athletic bloomers (also known as "rationals" or "knickerbockers") were skirtless baggy knee-length trousers, fastened to the leg a little below the knees; at that time, they were worn by women in a few narrow contexts of athletic activity — such as bicycle-riding, gymnastics, and sports other than tennis — only (see 1890s in fashion). Bloomers were usually worn with stockings and after 1910 often with a sailor middy blouse. Bloomers became shorter by the late 1920s. In the 1930s, when it become respectable for women to wear pants and shorts in a wider range of circumstances, styles imitating men's shorts were favored, and bloomers tended to become less common. However, baggy knee-length gym shorts fastened at or above the knees continued to be worn by girls in school physical education classes through to the 1950s in some areas. Some NYC and Sydney, Australia Schools still wore them as part of their uniforms into the 1980s [] .

The Bloomington, Illinois entry in the Three-I League of minor league baseball, despite being an all-male team, was tagged with the nickname "Bloomers" for several decades in the early 1900s.


Women's baggy underpants fastened to just below or above the knee are also known as "bloomers" (or as "knickers" or "directoire knickers"). They were most popular in the 1910s and 1920s but continued to be worn by older women for several decades thereafter. Often the term "bloomers" has been used interchangeably with the pantalettes worn by women and girls in the mid 19th century and the open leg knee length drawers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.The modern Japanese version of bloomers consist of the entire legs exposed and are pronounced burumā (more popularly called as buruma) in Japanese. Many Westerners confuse Japanese bloomers with panties since their designs are almost the same in Japan, but bloomers are worn over panties, are put the hem of the shirt into bloomers, are a bit thicker, and come in bold colors.

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