Amelia Bloomer, Dress Reform and Bloomers

A Story about Mrs. Bloomer

A Story about Mrs. Bloomer

I ran across this article about Mrs. Bloomer and immediately remembered this cute book I had read to some students, who just loved the story. One thing led to another, and now I have a whole host of news clips, spanning over 10 years of time, covering various opinions regarding BLOOMERS and the women involved in the Reform Dress movement.
Amelia Bloomer in her Bloomers

Amelia Bloomer in her Bloomers

Short Dresses. –Mrs. Bloomer, editor of the Lily, had adopted the “short dress and trowsers,” and say in her paper of this month, that many of the women in that place, (Seneca Falls,) oppose the change; others laugh; others still are in favor; “and many hade adopted the dress.” She closes the article upon the subject as follows:
“Those who think we look ‘queer,’ would do well to look back a few years, to the time when they wore ten or fifteen pounds of petticoat and bustle around the body, and balloons on their arms, and then imagine which cut the queerest figure, they or we. We care not for the frowns of over fastidious gentlemen; we have those of better taste and less questionable morals to sustain us. If men think they would be comfortable in long, heavy skirts, let them put them on–we have no objection. We are more comfortable without them, and so left them off. We do not say we shall wear this dress and no other, but we  shall wear it for a common dress; and we hope it may become so fashionable that we may wear it at all time, and in all places, without being thought singular. We have already become so attached to it that we dislike changing to a long one.”

The Adams Sentinel (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) 21 Apr 1851

Ladies’ Short Dresses.
The papers are full just now, discussing a new fashion of ladies’ dresses. Some correspondent from over the big water, wrote to the papers of this country that a dress of short skirts, reaching only to the knee, and trousers, large and full along the leg, but gathered close about the ankle, had been adopted by some of the unique fashionables. Mrs. Bloomer, editor of the Lily, thinking this style of dress would be convenient, induced a number of respectable ladies to join her in adopting it. They accordingly got their dresses made, and all came out at once. It created quite a sensation. A good deal was said about it, and a general notoriety given to the circumstance. This induced other ladies to try it. And now some are adopting it in almost every  city and town. The last notice we have says that the ladies of Kenosha are adopting it. The press everywhere speaks of it highly. The beauty, comfort, and economy of the new dress is much talked of. It certainly must be an improvement on the long, street mops now in vogue. There seems to be a general feeling that the present style of ladies’ dresses is any thing but what it should be. And from what we see, we should not be surprised if the new style quickly superceded the other entirely. Success be with the innovation say we.

Oshkosh Democrat (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) 16 May 1851

Mrs. Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Susan B. Anthony Statues

Mrs. Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Susan B. Anthony Statues

The following clips were ALL printed in the same paper on the same day!

ADVANTAGE OF LONG DRESSES. –Mr. Paxton, the designer of the Crystal palace, remarked the other day, at dinner, that he had thought the palace would be a difficult place to keep clean, and that he therefore designed a machine to obviate that inconvenience, of a hundred horse power, and had put the commissioner to some expense in having these machines made; but they had not been called into requisition, for they were not needed, as the building had been kept clean by the rich silk dresses of the ladies! Here is a fact for Mrs. Bloomer.

A BRIDAL BLOOMER. — The Boston Commonwealth states that on Wednesday evening, one of the editorial fraternity of that city, took the hand of a fair lady in marriage, whose costume was an elegant white satin Bloomer. It was neatly made, fitting snug around the waist and close up in the neck, the spencer opening in front like a naval officer’s vest, and interlaced a la Swiss mountaineer, sleeves flowing, white kids, white satin slippers, hair done plain with a wreath of orange flowers over the brow, and a long bridal veil flowing from the crown of the head over the shoulders.

A BLOOMER DRESS appeared on our streets on Saturday afternoon. We had long ago made up our mind to like it, yet had we ever been so much prejudiced against it, the first glance would have completely converted us. We have never seen anything of the dress kind that looked half so neat, or half so sensible. There is not even an approximation towards immodesty about it. The fair lady who had the moral courage to make the first inroad upon the disgusting pave-sweeping fashion, deserves great credit, and to show that our citizens appreciated her, we will state that not the slightest insult was offered to her while she was on the street. In the evening she was serenaded by our excellent brass band. We hail with intense satisfaction the beginning of the most sensible reform which is now before the people, and earnestly hope that our ladies will conquer their prejudices in favor of an unhealthy and disgusting style, and generally adopt the Bloomer costume. —Independent Democrat.

THE FOURTH OF JULY IN LOWELL. — The whole town seems to have participated in the festival, with an evident determination to make it as vivacious as it is ordinarily noisy and dull. Besides the military and civic displays, there was a parade of a company, the “Antique and Horrible Artillery,” whose fun consisted in wearing all the quaint and old-fashioned garments that could be raked and scraped together in the country. Hats of enormous size and dickeys of enormous height and stiffness, alternated with knee breeches and hooped peticoats. The captain wore a coat which, on the 17th of June, 1775, covered Bancroft, of Pepperell, a Bunker Hill soldier. One of the soldiers wore a richly embroidered vest, which was once the property of General Sullivan. Ancient vehicles were put in use, as well as ancient costumes, and dilapidated chaises and carryalls were filled with the most venerable couples.

But in contrast with the older dresses came some five hundred young ladies from the factories, dressed in the new style which has taken the name of its projector, Mrs. Bloomer. Their appearance was generally admired, and in the course of the day they presented a beautiful banner to one of the fire companies.

Tioga Eagle (Wellsboro, Pennsylvania) 17 Jul 1851

Bloomer Society

Bloomer Society

The New Costume.
MR. DENSMORE: — In looking over “Arthur’s Home Gazette” of a recent date, I noticed a few remarks devoted to the New Costume, which I though worthy of notice.

The article commences, “Notwithstanding the noise that has been made about the new costume, it does not seem to take, to any extent, amoung respectable women.” and adds — “In our larger cities the majority of those wearing it have been women of bad repute.”

Without discussing the merits of the Dress Reform, I wish to correct the wrong impressions made by his untruthful statements.

That the dress reform does not “take” (using his own elegant expression,) with respectable women, is not so. It is with the respectable women in general that it does find favor, not only respectable, but the intelligent, and I may say with all intelligent women. Strange that the many able and talented articles that have appeared from the women of our larger cities, should have escaped his notice, as also the statements of some of our most highly respected women not only of their wearing the style, but of its being worn by other of the same class. But we need not wonder when we read another clause in his article, “That for our own part we
have yet to meet the woman who approves the short skirts and pants, or who does not speak of them and their wearers, in a manner that strongly savors of disgust.” Passing over his evident desire to make it manifest that he meets with only “respectable women” or more fashionably  “LADIES,” I would say that none can read his flat and insipid paper, or his stereotyped stories., and doubt that he associates only with “ladies” who look with disgust on any new or important reform. It may easily be seen how he happens to labor under the wrong impression that it does not “take” with respectable women. He probably was engaged twaddling with one of those “ladies” who would be shocked, and her modesty outraged, and who would look with “disgust” upon any one who should hint to her that her body was made of different material or was differently constituted from her milliner’s showblock, and while she was lisping her horror and “disgust” at the dress reform, she probably startles him with the new and original idea that it must be women of bad repute only that would wear the new costume, whereupon he tries to palm off such twaddling as facts upon his readers. That it will be read, we know, and fear by some believed, as it is a lamentable fact that such a milk and water paper as the Home Gazette finds a large circulation, for there are many who like to read his stories, as the world is filled with such sick sentimentalists as one I once heard say she “liked to read T.S. Arthur’s stories because the heroines always got married, or died of a broken heart, which was just as good.” The evil that is done by the circulation of his weak stories, which chiefly consist in going into raptures over the fortitude and noble conduct of some imaginative child of fortune in bearing its reverses, and applauding the moral heroism that caused them to refrain from cutting their own throats, in their despair, or in a sickly attempt to excite our sympathy for the suffering child of poverty which he always pictures in so beautiful and interesting situation, that the reader can hardly refrain from envying. But enough of such trash. The evil influence exerted by that sheet[?] is enough without his making false statements, to oppose that which is beyond his caliber to approve.

We find in the larger number of our city papers favorable accounty of the progress of the dress reform, and through them we learn that our most able and intelligent men and women are in favor of it. But when I speak of the “women of our land” I do not mean T.S. Arthur “ladies.” They belong to another species altogether.

Besides Mrs. Bloomer, editor of the “Lilly,” who first started this reform, we find Mrs. E.O. Stanton, wife of Senator Stanton of N.Y., Mrs. M.S. Gove Nichols, the celebrated Water Cure Obstetrician of New York, and Mrs. Gage, a popular and familiar writer, among the many known to fame, who have publicly spoken in favor of, and worn the new style. Peterson’s Magazine, a deservedly popular one, appears with November fashion plates of the Bloomer style, which it certainly would not do was it merely to delineate fashions for “women of bad repute!”

Oshkosh Democrat (Oshkosh, Wisconsin) 14 Nov  1851

Amelia Bloomer

Amelia Bloomer

MRS. BLOOMER RECANTING — Mrs. Bloomer, the author of the new style of dress, has an article in the last number of her paper, “The Lily,” in which she says that, could she have foreseen the notoriety and ridicule which she has incurred, she would never have commenced the movement.

Tioga Eagle (Wellsboro, Pennsylvania) 18 Dec 1851

Children Playing

Children Playing

Mrs. Bloomer imagines that the reason women differ from men, is because they are schooled and educated differently. Nothing, however, could be more unfounded. Girls differ from boys, not incidently, but radically. The first thing a boy does after he is weaned, is to straddle the banister and ride down stairs. The first thing  a girl sets her heart on is a doll and a set of half fledged cups and saucers. Girls are given to neatness and hate soiled garments of all kinds; boys, on the contrary, set a high value on dirt, and are never so happy as when sailing a shingle ship, with a brown paper sail, in a mud puddle. Mrs. Bloomer may reason as she may, but she will find in the end that Nature is stronger than either philosophy or suspenders.

Daily Commercial Register (Sandusky, Ohio) 19 Mar 1853

Bloomers

Bloomers

Mrs. Bloomer has gone to Council Bluffs to reside; she permitted her husband to accompany her.

Wisconsin Free Democrat (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) 18 Apr 1855

Mrs. Bloomer is Mayor (or Mayoress) of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

New York Herald (New York, New York) 03 May 1869

Socializing in Bloomers

Socializing in Bloomers

LETTER FROM SAN FRANCISCO.
San Francisco, June 2d, 1869. PUBLIC OPINION
“I don’t care what the world thinks or says,” is sometimes the bravado of a desperate knave — sometimes the weak boast of a fool. No one can, with impunity, set at naught the usages of society, much less its laws. The experiment has been frequently tried in this city, and has always resulted in the humiliation of the experimenters. Within the last ten years we have been preached and printed at by many social philosophers of both sexes, who desire to establish a new order of things, inconsistent with our preconceived ideas of religion, decency and propriety. They ????? against public opinion, and were unhorsed and brought to grief. They didn’t care for the world’s censure, not they; on the contrary, they pitied the ignorance and stupidity that failed to discern the superiority of their doctrines to those of the de??logue and the gospel, and determined to convince society against its will. But society is of “the same opinion still,” and its scorn has put the would-be innovators down. They have discovered that they have no levers long enough and strong enough to upset Christianized civilization; that they cannot change either its customs, its fashions, or its standards of equity. We hear but little now of the misguided ladies who aspired to be Amazons. Many of the spinsters among them have gone into the state of double blessedness, and (probably) changed their views. The followers of the eccentric Mrs. Bloomer, have, as a general thing, retired from the gaze of the critical public, and betaken themselves to crinoline; and the right of woman to do man’s work and wear his ungraceful apparel, seems to have been abandoned by our strong-minded sisters. And so time passes on, and bubbles which at first seem bright and pleasant, soar into the air of public opinion, are condemned by society, and gradually they disappear from the social horrizon and are lost forever with the things that were.

Mountain Democrat, The (Placerville, California) 05 Jun 1869

DEAD FRUIT. — Mrs. Bloomer has abandoned her semi-masculine style of wardrobe. The bloom is off that rye, the blossom has ripened and the fruit found to be bitter and unwholesome.

New York Herald (New York, New York) 05 Jul 1869

Amelia Bloomer

Newspaper picture: Amelia Bloomer

Read more about Amelia Bloomer here.

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3 Responses to “Amelia Bloomer, Dress Reform and Bloomers”

  1. DOMINO Says:

    That was absolutely fascinating. But, oh, the smug sanctimony of that San Francisco letter to the editor made me want to leap off a bridge!

  2. No Fillings for the Whangdoodle in Bloomers « YesterYear Once More Says:

    […] Read about Amelia Bloomer and the Bloomer sensation in my previous post, “Amelia Bloomer, Dress Reform and Bloomers.” […]

  3. Bicycles and Bloomers « YesterYear Once More Says:

    […] Amelia Bloomer, Dress Reform and Bloomers […]

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