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 Justin Duffy 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. They were worn by a few women in the 1850s, but were widely ridiculed in the press, and failed to become commonly accepted. 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.
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. Bloomers were usually worn with stockings and after 1910 often with a sailor middy blouse. Bloomers became shorter by the late 1920s and when it started to become respectable for women to wear pants and shorts in a wider range of circumstances in the 1930s, 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 .
Women's baggy underpants fastened to just below or above the knee are also known as bloomers (or as drawers, 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.
Bloomers were typically closed with a drawstring. They would be either "open" or "closed" style and typically had lace and/or frills at the leg end. The shirt would always be tucked inside the bloomers - when the bloomers were opened in the rear or taken down, the buttocks were still covered by the shirt, which had to be raised to bare the bottom.
As all types of underwear, such bloomers are often eroticized.
A matron birching two young ladies. (c. 1900).
- Main article: Buruma
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