For women, the decision to wear comfortable clothing has always been seen as a political choiceby Emma Gleeson / April 28, 2020 / Leave a comment
Billie Eilish has got me thinking about Bloomers. The young popstar’s loose, oversized style of dress has become iconic, melding with her generation-defining music to secure her successful world-domination. She has stated that she loves to dress loudly and to make heads turn, as well as confessing to covering up as a means of protection against body shaming. But recently, Eilish has become increasingly frustrated with how her clothing choices are interpreted. Many have praised her clothes for what they see as a way to desexualise her image, an intention she has never herself expressed. For a star whose music and taste are totally of her own design, this reinterpretation has caused huge frustration.
As someone who has an MA in Fashion History I was stirred by this powerful young woman’s predicament and have cast my mind back to our foremothers who also strove for comfort whilst batting away unwanted scrutiny.
If you think of the history of comfort in women’s clothing, Coco Chanel might spring to mind as the woman who banished corsets and championed men’s tailoring for women. Amelia Bloomer isn’t a name that features in most lists of female sartorial liberators and bloomers, those bifurcated undergarments now favoured mostly by Panto dames, don’t often get a look in on lists of activist clothing. But their origin story is a significant tale of dress-liberation and one which starts in mid-19th century New York.
In July 1848, the world’s first Women’s Rights Convention was called in the town of Seneca Falls, New York. As a result of this successful event the first American women’s newspaper, The Lily, was launched by the Ladies Temperance Society of Seneca Falls, with Amelia Bloomer as its editor.
Bloomer had recently started wearing loose trousers tapered at the ankles under a shorter skirt. She had not originated the style herself, but was pleased by the comfort it brought her. Readers of The Lily went wild for the look and the trousers took on their eponymous moniker. The surge in women wanting to wear trousers caused huge controversy, with some male journalists warning it could lead to the collapse of civilisation and religious leaders defaming the women as “loose.”
Amelia herself was dismayed that her decision…