Variations on a Theme: Bloomers

Sometimes when I go on the hunt for vintage clothing, a theme appears.  Last week the theme was bloomers.  I first spotted this gymsuit with bloomers.  It has a nifty feature.

How about that!  Convenient, but I’m betting the girl who had to wear this suit hated it, and especially hated the drop bottom.

That girl was Margo Kellow.  The gymsuit was made a a company that is new to me, Pennco, or the Pennsylvania Apparel Company.

No sooner had I spotted Margo’s green suit than I saw these big black bloomers flapping in the wind.  I’m pretty sure that the vendor thought they were funny, and she seemed genuinely surprised when I asked the price.  The other shoppers then began to have a few laughs at my expense.

No matter, as I know a great pair of bloomers when I see them.  These are very long, and quite old, probably Edwardian.  Note the use of an overlock stitch.  Yes, the overlock was used this early, having been invented in the 1880s.

It’s very possible that these bloomers once had an attached blouse, as the waist band stitching has been removed.

It was not all gym attire, however.  This is an apron made in the shape of bloomers, which mirror the woman in the print.

Cute, no?

When I returned home, a package was waiting.  In it was yet another pair of bloomers, these a bit later than the top pair.  I got these from my new favorite etsy shop, Poor Little Robin.  Again, we are lucky to have the name of its original owner, Martha Wilson.

All these bloomers got me to thinking about my next research project.  I’m getting a pretty good selection of gymsuits, and so I’m going to be working on a timeline of the changes made in girls’ gym attire over the years.  Hopefully I will have enough information to write a paper for presentation at Costume Society, but if not, I can still post my findings here.

Later on I may be begging for help in the form of your family photos.

11 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Shopping, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

11 responses to “Variations on a Theme: Bloomers

  1. What fun, Lizzie! All this bloomer talk brings up a vague memory of standing in a gymnasium locker room and changing into a gym uniform which I recall thinking at the time was already very much out of fashion (although being me, I kind of liked it). By the time I left High School (’83), the suits were long since gone and we were wearing shorts and t-shirts. Now what do you suppose happened to those gym uniforms? I might just have to call the school and find out!

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  2. Dee

    Your bloomer apron is so cute! What a fun little print. And I love the image of the big Edwardian bloomers “flapping in the wind”! 🙂

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  3. Morning Waters

    I’ll start looking for photos right away as my Grandmother was a gym teacher in the late 1920’s early 1930’s!!!

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  4. It looks like Margo and Martha’s gymsuits are the same “industrial jade green” shade… Do you think they’re from the same general time period?

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    • The longer ones ones are perhaps a bit older, probably 1940s. The short bloomers look 1950s to me, but I need to really study my catalogs and other sources before making a definite statement on either. Some very conservative schools used the long bloomers into the 1960s

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  5. Wore one of these one piece bloomer suits for gym in HS in NJ (1970-73). Royal blue. We were required to hand embroider, in white floss, our first name on the pocket and our last name across the shoulders on the back in 3″ high letters. My mother, being the creative sort, did it in cursive, which the gym teachers found most annoying. (They couldn’t read cursive?)

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  6. Ruth

    I suspect you are righter than you think about the dump, Lizzie! Those suits were horrible. They were being worn when I was in junior and senior high in the 60’s and very early 70’s, though I think the schools stopped using them about then. Somehow I managed to miss wearing them because at the time you didn’t have to take gym if you were in band (Yay!!). I know most of the girls absolutely hated them. They were baggy, ugly, and usually still smelled after being washed because of teenage hormones. On a side note, I think the boys were still swimming naked in gym, but the girls wore suits.

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  7. How interesting that one pair had a 32″ waist–that was the biggest waist measurement offered in some catalogs like Sears. When I was in high school in Southern California in the mid sixties, we had shorts and a top for gym class. I do remember embroidering my name on the shirt, though.

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  8. That apron is FANTASTIC!

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