A social activist, fashion advocate and pioneer for women’s rights in the United States of America. Presenting the fashion influencer of the 19th century.
Amelia Bloomer. 1818 – 1894
A name that first conjures an image of poorly fitting ruched underwear, for infants and adults a like. But Amelia Bloomer was so much more than her short (ish) skirt and pants, that undoubtedly was the reason for her fame, the bloomer.
An attendee of the infamous Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention in 1848, her fervor for social reform prompted her to create a bi-weekly newspaper made by women, for women: the Lilly. Arguably the most influential women’s rights publications of the early 19th century, of which she was the editor for fifteen years, the Lilly was ‘devoted to the rights of women’ and fueled the fire for the first wave of feminism. Women started to realize that something was inherently wrong with their inequality, and wanted to act on changing their position in custom, society and law.
Amelia Bloomer understood that corsets, petticoats, trails and dresses, that were fashionable at the time, needed to be gone. They kept women from exploring the alternatives. Women needed non-restrictive garments for getting the jobs they petitioned so hard for.
Much like a modern day influencer, Amelia Bloomer used her prowess in the newspaper and a unique form of dress to portray a message to the women of north America. The short dress over bloomer pants, a look that Bloomer put into the Lilly one issue, ignited an unprecedented motion that swept the nation. It later became known as the “freedom suit”, and defined dress reform in the colonial era.
An out roar of emotion ensued. Ridicule was met with interest, and the Lilly’s subscription exponentially increased from 300 in 1849 to 4000 in 1853. Women wanted to know more, and get patterns to learn to make the new, more pragmatic form of dress. Amelia Bloomer then wore the style for the next 6-8 years.
We have always used dress as a way of expressing ourselves. To reflect the person we want to be. What we put on in the morning, the way we combine our garments together, the slogan we decide to wear on our t-shirt. It all sends a message, whether we’re aware of it or not. Women in western society are only now beginning to find equality with their male counterparts. In the early 19th century, women were beginning to explore what it actually means to be a women, and began to dress for the life they had always envisioned.
Amelia Bloomer was not afraid to take that risk. Through her chosen style of dress, she ignited a revolution. Over the centuries, many other influential women implemented dress reform to evoke change. Women are taking to social media every day to further influence dress change and what it means to be a women. But Amelia Bloomer, was before her time.
An influencer, before its very invention.
Norwood, Arlisha. 2017. Amelia Bloomer. National Women’s History Museum. viewed 11/04/2019. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/amelia-bloomer
n.d. Amelia Bloomer – Publisher and advocate for women’s rights. Virginia Commenwealth University Library. Viewed 11/04/2019. https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/woman-suffrage/bloomer-amelia/