In the process of writing 50 Underwear Questions last year (to be published this fall), I learned about a woman named Amelia Bloomer. She lived in the state of New York and, in 1851, shocked pretty much her entire country by wearing pantaloons. Outside. On the street.
It had all started quite innocently, when Amelia began writing letters to her local paper, wondering why women had to wear floor-length dresses while men could wander the world in pants. Why the double standard? Shortly after, cousins Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Elizabeth Smith Miller knocked on Amelia’s door. They had an idea, and they thought Amelia might like it. They’d been designing their idea of the perfect day-wear for modern women. Basing their creations on loose Turkish trousers, they had sewn pairs of cotton pantaloons that flared modestly around the legs, then gathered neatly at the ankles.
And off went Amelia to model them on the street and give the world its first glimpse of “bloomers.”
You can’t help admiring someone who wore Turkish trousers in a sea of full skirts. It would be like deciding to go to school in your nightgown, or showing up for work in your housecoat.
So, in honor of the woman who helped make it possible for me to work in my blue jeans, I bring you this link to the Amelia Bloomer Project, an annual collection of children’s books for the young feminist.
Thank you to Kate Coombs for the link!