Fashion became political in the 1850s with the introduction of the bloomer, loose-fitting trousers named after women’s rights activist Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894). Promoted as a healthier and more liberated dress alternative to tight corsets and heavy petticoats, the bloomer was quickly adopted by suffragettes such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. While the 1850s fashion trend was short-lived, the bloomer’s popularity returned stronger than ever with the bicycling craze of the 1890s. Read more about it!
The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.
The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.
|August 14, 1851||Women may look more graceful in “old mode” dragging skirts, but they feel more graceful in bloomers.|
|July 30, 1852||Bloomers seen as a fashion and political failure.|
|February 25, 1853||Amelia Bloomer addresses temperance movement in bloomers.|
|August 19, 1887||Lighter, looser, healthier bloomers subject to hooting and jeering crowds..|
|June 29, 1893||Amelia Bloomer criticized for trying to force a change in fashion.|
|August 13, 1893||Dress reform makes slow progress. Men and women regard bloomers as “ugly and unfashionable.”|
|December 30, 1894||Amelia Bloomer, pioneer of dress reform, is dead.|
|1895||Bicycle craze makes bloomers fashionable and popular.|