Bloomers: Fancy Pants for Equality

Bloomers: Fancy Pants for Equality

By Ruby Wortis

Bloomers were popularized in the mid-19th century by early suffragette Amelia Bloomer, who protested gender inequality by challenging the restrictive clothing norms of her time.


Women were largely expected to wear corsets and voluminous skirts that severely limited their mobility and comfort, not to mention the cumbersome and time consuming six to eight petticoats that needed to be put on every morning if you were middle or upper class. Historian Annemarie Strassel writes:

“Women complained of overheating and impaired breathing, sweeping along filthy streets and tripping over stairs, crushed organs from whalebone stays and laced corsets, and getting caught in factory machinery.”

Bloomer proposed an alternative: a pair of loose, mid-calf-length pants that were worn under a shorter skirt. This new style of clothing quickly gained popularity among progressive women who saw it as a symbol of female empowerment and liberation. While Amelia herself wasn't the first woman to invent this look, she was the one with the biggest ability to influence. As editor of the first women's newspaper The Lily, she published a depiction of herself wearing the clothes and sand its comfortable praises as well as its social importance.

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