Amelia Bloomer Set Fashion on Its Behind

linda-sig.jpgIn western romance bloomers often refers to a woman’s undergarment. I’ve been guilty of this and have used bloomers on more than one occasion. While they were originally a type of women’s trousers, bloomers have since become synonymous with under drawers and pantaloons. But in Amelia Bloomer’s day they were baggy pants gathered tightly and buttoned at the ankle. They were worn under a skirt of a shorter length that allowed the lacy bloomers to show.


Bloomers released women from their tightly laced corsets, layers upon layers of petticoats that could weigh over ten pounds, and long dresses that dragged the ground. Bloomers allowed freedom of movement. Women could at last ride bicycles and indulge in sporting activities. And it was all because of free-thinkers like Fanny Wright who first advocated a type of bloomer in the early 1800’s and Amelia Bloomer who made the garment fashionable in the 1850’s.


Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-1894) married an attorney by the name of Dexter Bloomer. He was also a newspaper editor. She began writing a few articles for his paper pertaining to women’s issues. After attending the Women’s Rights Convention in Senaca Falls in 1848 she founded her own bi-weekly newspaper called “The Lily” and became a voice for many women reformers such as Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.


Initially, the newspaper focused on temperance and the women’s suffrage movement. But as the times progressed the articles became more about marriage law reform, higher education for women, the right to vote, and women’s right to employment without having to ask for her husband’s permission. The health and well-being of women were also a primary focus and that’s when Amelia advocated clothing for women’s comfort and the bloomers in particular.

She fashioned them after the Turkish women’s trousers. They were intended to preserve Victorian decency while being less of a hindrance. Here’s Amelia in her outfit.


She said, “The costume of women should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once her health, comfort, and usefulness; and while it should not fail also to conduce to her personal adornment, it should make that end of secondary importance.”

As you can imagine, she was met with overwhelming ridicule. The garment was deemed unfeminine and a moral outrage. Gradually, the bloomers faded away. Amelia herself gave up the fight after eight years and stopped wearing them, citing that it shifted the focus away from more important women’s issues.


I can only imagine that these bloomers were a forerunner of today’s jeans. I love the comfort, freedom, and casual look of jeans. And they’re form-fitting and feminine.

How many of you are a jeans and shorts kind of gal? And do you think you would’ve worn bloomers in public if you lived back in Amelia’s day?

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

27 thoughts on “Amelia Bloomer Set Fashion on Its Behind”

  1. Loved your post! Thanks for clarify what bloomers are. I am a jeans and shorts kind of lady. I don’t think I would of like to wear bloomers under a short skirt like pictured above.

  2. Hi Linda!
    I am a jeans and shorts gal for sure! I am not a huge of dresses at all!

    I dont know if I would have worn the bloomers back in Amelia’s day or not! Society was just so different for women back then and I dont know if I could have put up with the ridicule that would have come with wearing them! Perhaps I would have bought a pair of bloomers and shorter skirt/dress and worn them in private-or even better yet-worn a man’s pants and shirt in private LOL

  3. Hi Linda,
    I’m definitely a shorts gal, but I love my sweats the best. I would have worn bloomers back in the day. They remind me of my sweats. Have a great day.

  4. I like jeans, but I have to say, my mother would not allow me to wear pants to school, unless they were those disgusting stretch things that had stirrups and the crotch hung down around your knees.(is this dating me or what?) Needless to say I wore dresses most of the time. Until High School when she allowed me to wear fancy dress trousers. But the only day I wore jeans to school was a Senior picnic. Even though I wore my brother’s hand-me-down jeans at home all the time.

    Great post!

  5. Hi Becky,

    I’m with you. I don’t think I’d have liked wearing bloomers under a dress. It sure would’ve been bulky. But then I guess if you were used to wearing those long dresses and umpteen petticoats it probably would’ve felt like freedom.

    Thanks for your comment.

  6. Hi Melissa!

    I’m so glad to see you this morning. Thanks for stopping over. I guess you’re all done with the Girl Scout cookies. Hope your daughter sold a bunch.

    I’m definitely a jeans kind of girl. They’re so comfortable. I wonder why it is that men always got to dress more comfortable than women. I think that might’ve been because men dictated what women wore. LOL They had definite ideas about womanhood.

    I might’ve worn bloomers behind closed doors but I don’t think I’d have had the guts to wear them in public. I don’t handle ridicule very well.

  7. Hi Roberta,

    Sweats are really comfortable all right. And they’re warm in winter. We do love our casual clothes. I can’t see the sense in binding ourselves up if we don’t have to.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Hi Paty,

    Hey, I remember those stretch pants with stirrups! LOL Guess we’re about the same age. In the school I attended most of the girls wore dresses or culotts. Rembember those? Also, the big tent dresses were the rage. I didn’t wear jeans until I was out of school. They were an ugly green color but they sure were comfortable.

    Glad you could stop by and leave a comment.

  9. Hi Linda,

    Oh, what would we have done without bloomers! I think I would be a bloomer-wearing woman.

    I can’t imagine going around all day with 10 lbs of petticoats…especially in the south. No wonder women had swooning beds.

    Bloomer is such a great word. Sort of whimsical. Like Disney, can you imagine a Smithland or even a Sandsland. Bloomer just fits!

  10. A really fun elderly lady who goes to my church was going on vacation to Miami with her husband and I asked her if she was going to go to the beach and go swimming.
    She said, “I won’t go swimming. I have no desire to go shopping for a new swimming suit and my old one has a hole in the knee.”

  11. I am a jeans and shorts sort of gal and also sweat pants, when I am home its the only way to go. Yes I would have worn the bloomers, because I think it gave the ladies more freedom.

  12. I don’t wear jeans or pants too much. Especially in public. I wear sweats in morning and evening around the house but that is the extent of my pant wearing.

  13. I find jeans kinda uncomfy so I’m more a capri gal. I do remember the stirrup pants of the 80’s…and leggings LOL. I do see myself wearing bloomers if I’d lived then, and it is an adorable term. “Smith or Blogdovich” wouldn’t have worked as well. “Let me put on my Blogdoviches” doesn’t work 🙂

    We were not allowed to wear pants to elementary school, so I remember just loving my tights on cold days. And I also wore a little undergarment called pantelettes all through high school. It was kind of panties and a slip all in one. Loved it. Would love it now with a skirt, which I also enjoy wearing.

    Wonderful post, Linda. I loved the pix and the mention of Seneca Falls.


  14. Hi Charlene,

    Yeah, I’d have hated to wear ten pounds of petticoats. No wonder most of those women were skinny back then. That would be quite a workout! Ha! Exercise without trying. 🙂

    And it’s strange how bloomers got to be connected with drawers or pantaloons, since they were mostly pants.

  15. Hi Mary!

    How funny. You always know what to say to make me laugh. Yeah, those “indecent” bloomers were quite the talk. Ha, wonder what those men would say about thong underwear today and the bikinis that show everything! They’d faint dead away…after they got their fill of looking. LOL

  16. Hi Quilt Lady,

    Comfort is the thing today. Sweat pants and jeans are the norm. Women finally got some fashion they can be comfortable in. I’d like for Amelia Bloomer be able to see how far we’ve come from all those restrictions.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  17. Hi Abi,

    I have to say that you’re the exception to most women these days. I’m sure you look exceptional when you go out in public. Feminine and pretty. I remember my mother-in-law wouldn’t come out of her bedroom in the mornings without first putting on makeup. She didn’t want anyone to see her looking less than perfect. That’s all well and good if you have time and the energy. I think it’s great in fact.

  18. Hi Tanya,

    Glad you enjoyed my post.

    Capris are so cute but I think I look kinda stupid in them. You have to have the right shoes, some kind of strappy sandals or something. Since my legs retain water real bad I’ve given up most sandals and usually just throw on my Keds.

    I vaguely remember pantelettes. I didn’t wear them a lot but I sure did tights on cold days. My at the memories this blog is bringing back. LOL

  19. Hi Linda, Amelia Bloomer is my kind of woman! I’d live in jeans if I could, preferably well broken-in Levis. It’s fun to get dressed up now and then, but for everyday stuff, I’m in Levis, comfy shirts and running shoes. Comfort trumps style any day of the week!

  20. Hi Linda! I never knew the history behind bloomers. Very interesting. I’m in jeans most of the time–couldn’t be bothered with dresses like they had. Thank goodness for women like Amelia. I never realized bloomers were meant to be partially visible. Not very pretty, eh? LOL

  21. I am a jeans kind of person. don’t think I would have worn the bloomers with such a short skirt.

  22. Jeans for me. I don’t do shorts. I’m old enough to remember when the public schools first allowed girls to wear pants. Before that, I’d wear shorts under my dresses. 🙂

    To this day, I hate wearing dresses. I only own two–one I wore to my son’s wedding and the other I got to wear on Easter.

    I probably would have worn bloomers if given the chance back then.

  23. Enjoyable post. Amelia was quite a woman. Would I have worn them – yes. Never worried too much about what people thought. Can remember making an ankle length dress in the 60’s when I was in college. That style hadn’t made it to our small college town yet. Got a lot of cat calls and comments, but it was comfortable so who cares. I do wear jeans, but it is hard to find comfortable ones for my “mature, rounded figure”. Shorts are ok, but usually around the house. I believe in Keep America Beautiful and my thighs do nothing for that.

  24. A “pettislip” was kind of a coulotte/slip that was worn as a half slip. I had a couple back in the early 60’s that felt kind of nice when waiting for a bus on a cold winter day. No pants to work back in “the old days”. Sure glad pants are ok for most work places. I love jeans and think any body looks good in a well-fitted pair of jeans. Times have changed. Even see ladies wearing jeans to church.

  25. Hi Linda! Those bloomers look so comfy! I would wear them! I wished I had some now, LOL. Really comfort is important to me! I hate wearing jeans! I like the slip on pants and longer t-shirts!! I do like dresses to pull on in the summer. I’m all about comfort!

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