Tag Archives: bloomers

Peerless Patterns Pajamas, 1919

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One of the questions I’ve been trying to answer is when did women start sleeping in pajamas. This is important to me because it was pajamas-wearing that led to women wearing pants as a beach cover-up, which led to women wearing pants other than bathing suits, knickers or breeches in public.

It’s not like women were not already wearing “pants” of some sort before the twentieth century. Drawers and pantaloons as underwear had been around for a long time.  And while bloomers did not really catch on when Ms. Amelia advocated for them in the 1850s, nor when the practicality of them for riding bicycles came up in the 1890s, thousands of schoolgirls were wearing bloomers in gym class from the 1860s onward. Women who loved hiking had taken to wearing knickers and divided skirts.

It seems a bit surprising to me that in all my resources, I can’t find an example of women in pajamas before the year 1912. I feel pretty sure that this is not the beginning of the practice, but I’ll be the first to admit that my resource library is a bit thin in the pre-1920s years.

According to the 1912 Spring and Summer catalog from the Greenhut-Siegel Cooper Company, “Pajamas [are] the latest idea in underwear.  Pajamas are growing more popular with women every year…For traveling, pajamas are convenient…”  Even so, it appears that the nightgown continued to be the sleeping garment of choice for most women. It wasn’t until 1918 that I’ve found pajamas offered in a variety of styles in mass market and sewing pattern catalogs.

Starting in 1917 or so, pajamas became more prevalent in the catalogs I looked at, and a new, similar garment appeared – the work overall. During World War I the necessity of women taking on jobs that were traditionally thought to be for men led to women adapting a male garment, the overall work pants. I can’t help but think that the increased popularity of pajamas for sleeping is related to the adoption of overalls for working.

I do have a few things to say about this odd garment. It would keep a camper warm on chilly nights, but bless her heart if she had to answer the call of nature while wearing this suit. I keep fantasizing that the odd way the back seam zig-zags means that it is open below that horizontal seam. That would be most helpful.

Lastly, the text describes the pants above as “bloomers” but they are actually an odd combination of bloomers and knickers. Bloomers usually have an elastic waist, very full legs, and elastic at the bottoms of the legs. Knickers usually button at the waist, have less full legs, and have a band that buttons at the bottoms of the legs. Blickers?

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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.

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

Plaid Skirt with a Surprise

I have a feeling that this is going to be one of those cases where someone is going to immediately be able to tell me the story behind the garment.  At least, I hope that is the case.

I bought this little plaid pleated skirt because I was puzzled by it, and here is why:

Built into it are a pair of bright red bloomers.  The skirt is rather short, about knee length, and is made of what is probably a rayon fiber.  The bloomers are cotton.  The zipper is metal.  It looks like something a girl would wear as part of a school uniform, but in this case it would have to be a larger girl because the waistband measures 30″.

So, am I warm?  Do parochial school uniforms have built-in panties?  Having attended only public schools that had a dress code but no uniforms, I’m clueless.

My other guess is that it is a vintage field hockey skirt.  What do you think?

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Camp Attire, 1910s

I ran across these vintage photos in a stack I bought a while back.  I broke a few rules when I bought them, as I had vowed to buy only those with the place and people identified, and to buy only those of North Carolina localities.  But these were just too good to pass on.

It’s hard to say with any real certainty, but these appear to be from the late 1910s.  The women all have long hair, and those not in bloomers have on long dresses.  I know nothing about cars, but the ones in the background look to be from the teens as well.

What I love about the top photo is the woman in the long bloomers.  The short bloomers that the other two are wearing are really pretty common in the vintage clothing market, but I’ve never seen a pair of the long ones.  I knew they were made, as I’ve seen them in old catalogs.  The next illustration is from a 1919 Butterick sewing pattern catalog.  The outfit was referred to as a “bloomer dress” and could be made either long or short.  Note the broom in her hand.  This was NOT an outfit to be seen in!

This last one does not seen to be the same camping party, but it is still interesting to compare this photo to the postcards in my previous post.  No fancy garden party dresses here!

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Filed under Camping and Hiking, Proper Clothing, Vintage Photographs

Gym Class ~ Mars Hill College ~ Early 1920s

And to think that I thought my 1960s gym suit was tacky!

This photo was taken at Mars Hill College, which is just north of Asheville, NC, around 1922. The bloomers don’t do much for these young ladies, but I think the middy tops are quite cute! Notice that some of them are wearing stockings and I love the shoes.

I can imagine that they hated this outfit. Maybe some of them saw the bloomers as easy to wear and comfortable, but there’s just something about the idea of a gymsuit that doesn’t quite sit well with the forced-to-wear-it wearer.

When I started junior high in the late 1960s, our gymsuits were white and one piece. Looking back, I can see that they were really quite flattering, or would have been if they had been a nice color. But they were the bane of our existance, and a subject of constant concern. Probably the biggest complaint was that the boys were not required to wear a uniform, and so we were always playing the fairness card. But the truth of the matter was that we thought they were ugly and that they made us look ugly. The teacher always pointed out that PE classes were separate from the boys anyway so what did it matter?

By the time I was a senior in high school in 1973, our dress code had faced a court challenge and had been abolished, but the gymsuits were still required for girls. I can remember how we all just decided to stop wearing them. I guess the school system decided it was not a battle worth fighting, because nothing was ever said. That left us shaking our heads and kicking ourselves, wishing we had tried this earlier!

During this period of gymsuitedness, I complained to my mother who replied with something to the effect that I should have seen the gymsuit SHE was forced to wear in the 1940s. Now that was ugly! So I was surprised to see pictures of her 1949 class in their cute little green gym dresses with bloomer panties beneath. Now THAT was a gymsuit I could wear!

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Filed under North Carolina, Sportswear, Vintage Photographs