Often we don’t realize the depth of difference between our lives and those of our grandmothers and even more of us often don’t realize what situations brought about the changes that we take for granted today. Dress is a prime example.
Dress reform began in earnest in the 1850’s with Amelia Bloomer’s efforts to abandon tight lacing or to abandon corsets altogether, and to encourage women to wear trousers underneath a knee-length version of the ankle-to-floor length dresses common at the time. If you ever heard your grandmother refer to panties as bloomers her choice of wording was linked to Amelia Bloomer’s dress reform movement.
A few forward thinking women eagerly followed her example, and a few farm women realized the practicality of it while doing outdoor chores in nasty weather, but the number of trouser-wearing women remained miniscule for several decades. The following article is insightful in that it credits riding in large part for the public’s acceptance of dress reform.
“It really begins to be debatable whether anything has happened to the human race since the first locomotive drew the first train of cars that will affect it so materially as the bicycle. Consider its effect on women. Within two years it has given to all American womankind the liberty of dress for which the reformers have been sighing for generations. The dress reform movement never seemed to affect any considerable number of women, or to modify women’s clothes to any noticeable degree. The bicycle has not put many women into trousers–nothing will do that in this country–but it has given all women practical liberty to wear trousers if they want to, and indeed, to get themselves into any sort of decent raiment which they find convenient for whatever enterprise they have in hand.” – Source: Brooklyn Eagle. Quoted from Scribner’s. June 17, 1896.
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