Friday, June 3, 2011

Bloomers and Women's Fashion

It was suggested to me that I post something about women’s style, specifically with regards to Bloomers, Knickerbockers and Plus Two’s. First off, I am not expert in women or style, but I will do my best.
Second, I am trying to do this without stealing pictures from other Tweed Rides. So I strongly encourage you to look at pictures from these rides on your own and see the many beautiful styles that the ladies have come up with over the years.
We are talking about fashion from the early 20th Century (some say the 1920’s are the ideal) but this still gives us a broad range. The question i will deal with here is ‘are pants on women expectable’?  I will give two historic examples:
Amelia Bloomer 1818 –1894 was an American Victorian Reformer who lent her name to “Bloomers”, now more associated with underwear, but traditionally meaning “woman’s pants”.  Part of her crazy anti-skirt agenda had to do with women and public athletics (including bicycles). The idea was to keep the feminine modesty but improve function.
Amelia Bloomer Water-Cure Journal Oct 1851
Even though Bloomers (later Knickers) may not have taken off right away, they were well established by the turn of the century.
Harpers, 1851
Our second pioneer (also and American) was Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky (1870–1947) who was the first woman to ride around the world on a bicycle. While Annie did make appearances in dresses, riding “women’s bikes” there is a classic picture of her wearing knickers and riding a “men’s bike” from around 1895.

Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky
Other pictures from around that time...
Ellimans Embrocation Ad 1897
Punch, 1895

Now that’s not saying that dresses are inappropriate! As you will see from a lot of vintage photos that are posted here, skirts and dressed seemed to be very common. I am just pointing out that pants are not inappropriate, and may be a good choice for people not used to riding a bike in skirts and dresses.
Here are a few cool ads from the 1920’s showing the pro-skirt movement.

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