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Bloomers in LeRoy

by Lynne Belluscio

 While reading through the 1851 LeRoy Gazette a couple of weeks ago, I discovered two very interesting news clippings. “There is no doubt but that the new costume for ladies will soon be universally worn in this country.  It is a change which may be slow to be adopted by those who do not care to appear odd, but it will perhaps be no more so, nor the change greater than from mammoth sleeves to tights; or from immense bustles to none at all.  Who will start the reform in LeRoy?”

 On June 11, another article clarified the first notice: “Short dresses in LeRoy -

Some half a dozen beautiful young ladies came out in the new costume on Saturday. They were residents of Warsaw, however, and probably came down on a pleasure excursion and to “shop” a little at our world-renowned dry-goods stores.  They were all becomingly appareled in the Turkish pettiloons and short dresses, reaching just below the knee. The dress and trowsers were all of the same material and were so shaped as to give the air of comfort to the wearer as well as to present a comely and even beautiful appearance to the enchanted multitude of spectators. The dress was not as short as the fashion but did very well to start with.  All spoke in term of approval of the beautiful Turks, and we shall look for an early adoption of the reform by the lady citizens of LeRoy. “

 I forwarded both articles on to some friends who are interested in historic clothing, because these articles verify the interest in what became known as “Bloomers.” The departure from long skirts and corsets was a radical change in women’s fashion in the 1850s.  At that time there was an effort to create a healthier fashion that didn’t restrict women’s movements by corsets and huge full-length skirts.  In February 1851, Elizabeth Smith Miller, wore the “Turkish dress” to visit Amelia Bloomer, editor of the temperance journal, “The Lily.” Bloomer adopted the short dress and wrote in The Lily:  “I stood amazed at the furor I had unwittingly caused. As soon as it became known that I was wearing the new dress, letters came pouring in upon me by the hundreds from women all over the country making inquiries about the dress and asking for patterns – showing how ready and anxious women were to throw off the burden of long, heavy skirts.”  ....

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