Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bloomers! They're so Spring...

Or, How to research a weird vintage garment.

So, a few months ago I found these:


All I could think of to call it was....gym clothes...bloomers...
I've lately been on a bloomers kick because this find started it last December when I was in the midst of whine-fest about how much I hate Winter (because I do)...


these are in my etsy shop, but I might reclaim them since they are So Cute!

So, I asked for help on the ebay Vintage Clothing board, and got tons of help, and the Thought of Gym Suit....stirred up a lot of painful, agonizing memories of Gym Class, and the Awful Gymsuit we were forced to wear in junior and high school. I suspect, that just at the moment when we are facing the horrifying changes our bodies go through in that time of our young lives, we are forced to wear the most universally unflattering garment ever devised.....save for tampons (not really a garment) or The Burka...maybe wood clogs are worse....
Let me introduce Amelia Bloomer....

this pic is from virgina.edu

Research revealed that the spunky Amelia Bloomer encouraged the wearing of long baggy pants with ankle cuffs that were just dandy for enraging the menfolk and the uptight women who aligned with them, and for actually Enjoying Life unrestricted by 42 petticoats and 4 layers of wool skirts...and that's just from the waist down...horrors on the rib cage squashing corsets...(another post just for that!)

Though the puffy pants and shorts are now known as Bloomers, Mrs. Bloomer was influenced by 1850's era Women's Libber....Libby Miller and her cousin Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Exercise and sports were becoming quite popular about this time with the invention of the bicycle and baseball towards the end of the 19th century, and new clothing styles were invented, since catching ones petticoat in the spokes could lead to catastrophe.(google Isadora Duncan for a sickening lesson on Fashion as Unintentional Suicide)



Middies , Middy shirts and Bloomers
took over casual wear like wildfire because of comfort and cuteness. These 2 piece outfits for sports evolved to one piece for gymnasium wear and exercise. As things do, the middy lost its collar, tie and sleeves by the 30s, but kept the elastic bloomer leg. Buttons on the shoulder were the way in and out.
In the book linked above, School Sewing Based On Home Problems, published in 1916, we see a Middy gym suit, and a swimsuit with buttoned shoulders similar to mine.







By the 40s, shirt styles with front buttons and collars with short sleeves were back in style.
These were paired with shorts, mostly without bloomers, but the bloomers were under the skirts or under the shorts.
A wonderful trip thru gymsuit land is here at Taffy's....

Take a look here at the Levittown High School reunion page for some gym suits, and lots of other fun 60s photos.

Based on the label, the styling and the color, the history of bloomers and middies and the history of exercise and women's lib, I feel confident these are late 20s thru the 30s. This post is an abbreviated version that's on my own blog, funkoma vintage.

2 comments:

Hoardmeister said...

Wonderful entry, dahling! I recently came into possession of a bathing suit that I'm guessing is circa 1910, and from the "pouter pigeon" cut, it looks like some poor woman wore her CORSET under it!

propriatress said...

oh, dear, can a girl find no relief from the heartbreak of Vicious Underwear Syndrome???