Notable Quotations from Female Dress Reformers

Notable Quotations from Female Dress Reformers

(Courtesy of Bloomers 4 U)

  • "Is being born a woman so criminal an offense that we must be doomed to everlasting bondage?" (Elizabeth Cady Stanton)

  • "We did not suppose, until recently, that such a little insignificant woman as ourself, could frighten men so easily." (Amelia Bloomer, Lily, March 1851, Vol. 3, No. 3, pg. 21)

  • "Let men be compelled to wear our dress for a while, and we should soon hear them advocating a change, as loudly as they now condemn it." (Amelia Bloomer, Lily, March 1851, Vol. 3, No. 3, pg. 21)

  • "To breathe, or not to breathe; that's the question
    Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fashion,
    Or to bear the scoffs and ridicule of those
    Who despise the Bloomer dresses.
    In agony,
    No more? -- and, by a dress to say we end
    The side-ache, and the thousand self-made aches,
    Which those are heir to, who, for mere fashion,
    Will dress so waspish."
    (Water Cure Journal, June 1853)

  • "Her miserable style of dress is a consequence of her present vassalage not its cause. Woman must become ennobled, in the quality of her being. When she is so, . . . she will be able, unquestioned, to dictate the style of her dress." (Lucy Stone, Sibyl, July 1857, Vol. 2, No. 1, pg. 198)

  • The 'Bloomer' dress's the dress for me--
    I own I love it dearly;
    And every season, light and free,
    I'll wear it all so cheerily.
    'Tis good for work, 'tis good for play,
    'Tis good to walk the street, sir,
    It gives us comfort, grace, and speed,
    For it fetters not our feet, sir,
    Oh, what a harassed life they lead
    Who follow after fashions;
    She is a vain and fickle thing,
    And gives no satisfaction."
    (Sibyl, 1 June 1858)

  • "We had enough of Bloomers here of late. They serve at the bars of public houses, dressed in pants, straw hats, and ostrich feathers; also in the cigar and coffee shops -- the sign-board being, 'A genuine Bloomer serves constantly here.'" (Letter to the editor of Godey's, from a correspondent in London, 1850s)

  • A few reasons why dress reformers advocated a change in women's conventional dress:

  • "Everything [woman] wears has some object external to herself. The comfort and convenience of the woman is never considered; from the bonnet-string to the papershoe, she is the hopeless martyr to the inventions of some Parisian imp of fashion. Her tight waist and long trailing skirts deprive her of all freedom of breath and motion. No wonder man prescribes her sphere. She needs his help at every turn." (Elizabeth Cady Stanton)

  • "Heavy skirts, bustles, long waists . . . oppressed and displaced important organs . . . [corsets] attacked the very citadel of life. Both of them are semi-suicidal in their tendency." (Rachel Gleason of Forest City Water Cure, New York, Lily, March 1851, Vol. 3, No. 3, pg. 17)

  • These two images depict examples of some "external objects" worn by women of the mid-nineteenth century, which dress reformers sought to eliminate as social norms. The first is a sketch of a corset style, c. 1851. The second is a cartoon mocking the size of cage crinolines worn by women.
    (Courtesy of Faber & Faber and Cupid and Crinolines, 1858, respectively)

  • "Every other disability under which women suffered, were but off-shoots growing out of her dependent condition, and this must necessarily exist until she could by her own efforts prove her to be self-reliant and self-supporting, which she could never do with her present style of dress." (L.H., Sibyl, June 1857, Vol. 1, No. 24, pg. 187)

  • The two photographs above illustrate the typical style of dress worn by women in the mid and late 1850s, the decade in which the "Bloomer Costume" was first publicized.
    (Courtesy of Who wore what?, by Juanita Leisch and the Webmaster's collection, respectively)

    Back to

    Copyright 2002 by Britta Arendt