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THE BLOOMER COSTUME

PUBLISHED IN THE CALEDONIA CENSOR, FEB. 25, 1851

One of the upstate leaders of the feminist movement of the last century was Mrs. Amelia Bloomer, of Seneca Falls, Seneca County. In 1849 she began the publication of the The Lily, a magazine advocating temperance, women's rights and other reforms. The same year she recommended, and adopted, a new costume, although she was not the originator of the innovation. Consisting of a short skirt, reaching just below the knees,a short jacket, and loose, Turkish style trousers gathered around the ankles, the new mode of dress excited wide attention and elicited considerable ridicule, both in the United States and abroad. In 1855 Mr. and Mrs. Bloomer moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa, and thereafter until her death in 1894, she lectured extensively, visiting many of the principle cities of the country.

Newspaper editors made frequent mention of the Bloomer costume.

“Bloomers.”- Is it said that some members of the fair sex, in our village[Fredonia, Chautauqua County] have cleared their skirts of the imputation of street sweepers, and despite their “short-comings,” have appeared in the streets a la Turk in open day. We were not so fortunate as to witness the new costume, but our informant was so elated that he broke forth in a poetic paraphrase:

We have seen it.- On Thursday last a female dressed in full “Bloomer” costume paraded the entire length of Main St. [Geneseo, Livingston County] and we must say in all candor, that our first impression respecting this costume has not been changed by a slight of one. There are two classes of females that it may answer for stage performers and circus riders, and when others don it they lay aside one of the greatest attractions that should at all times adorn the female- modesty. What is to be gained by this new dress is certainly more than we can imagine, for judging from the one we saw, we think the “trousers” were worse drabbled than any long skirts we have seen. It is with pleasure we notice that our ladies evince their usual good taste and modesty by not appearing in a garb that can but elicit remarks and ridicule....

The following quotation from the good Book is supposed to apply to the present desire on the part of some ladies to change the style of their dress: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment; for all that do so are an abomination unto the Lord they God.”

Livingston Republican July 31, 1851

The ladies of Busti, Chautauque co. have had a meeting and resolved to adopt the Bloomer costume, and release themselves from the “petticoat chain-gang.”

Mrs. Bloomer Answers a Correspondent

Alexander[Genesee county] July 20,1851. Please excuse me for intruding on your precious time; but really I do want to know what we old ladies are to do, in these times of reform. Shall we do as in old times-”stand still and see the salvation of the Lord,” or shall we also , be up and doing? For one, I am willing to do either; but wait your direction. I allude more particularly to the reform movements in the dress department. I must say I have fears that should ladies of fifty or sixty years old adopt the new costume, it might operate as a damper on the good cause which you so ably advocate and so fearlessly adopt; and yet it does seem rather hard, that we, who have so long and so faithfully sweep the streets and sidewalks, must still continue to do so; still I feel perfectly submissive, and shall wait patiently for your advice, which please give through the columns of your beautiful Lily and oblige.

THE OLD LADIES

Do just as your impulses move you to do- What you find a burthen

in belief or apparel cast off. Woman has always sacrificed her comfort to fashion. You old women of sixty have been slaves to the tyrant long enough, and as you have but a few years to live, be as free and as happy as you can what time remains. Fit yourselves for a higher sphere, and cease groveling in the dirt..Let there be no stain of earth upon your soul or apparel..

The Lilly [Seneca Falls] Sept. 1851

Bloomerism says the Buffalo Republic is almost defunct in this section as the Plaindealer says it is in Cleveland. We have not seen a specimen in our streets [Geneseo, Livingston County] during the past fortnight. It is rapidly disappearing elsewhere.

Livingston Republican November 6, 1851.