Girls until recently always wore dresses. Little boys might wear dresses, but girls almost never wore trousers. It was not considered proper. Actually pants for women appeared in the mid-19th century, championed by Amelia bloomer and the dress reform movement. It was not very successful, only a handful of strong-minded women wore them and as far as we can tell, even fewer girls. We see a few images, however, of what look like girls wearing pants in the 19th century. As most of these photographs are of unidentified children, we can not yet be sure. One example is an unidentified Austrian child. We note American girls after the turn of the 20th cetury wearing bloomers for highschool gym classes. I'm not sure if this was the case in Europe. After World war I we see rural girls wearing overalls and fashionable women wearing pants in the 1930s. We also notice girls at summer camps wearing bloomer rompers or short pants. After World War we begin to see girls wearing a variety of pants: short pants, capri pants, and jeans. These were considered casual clothes. Girls still wore dresses to school and when deressing up. It was not common to seeing girls commonly wearing pants to school in America until the 1960s. Most other countries still required girls wear dresses to school until the 1970s.
The first pants-type garment worn by girls were pantalettes. This was a grment once worn by both girls and boys. There were both palin and fancy pabtalettes. The plain ones were more common for boys, but some boys also wore fancy pantalettes as well. Pantalettes or pantalets/pantaloons are esentially long drawers worn to modesestly cover the legs. They were made in both plain and fancy styles with a lace frill, ruffles, or other finish at the bottom of each leg. They were widely worn by women and children (boys and girls) during the first half of the 19th century. The pantaletts extended below the hem of the dresses worn by boys and girls and the ankle and calf-length trousers worn by boys. In the mid-19th century it was not considered proper for even small children to have bare legs. In fact the word leg was not used in polite company, rather the acceptable term was limbs. The lacey pantaletts covered the legs to the ankles.
I am not sure if Amelia Bloomer ever explained what inspired her creation of bloomers. Some believe it may have been billowing pantaloon pants Turish women wore. They became known as Turkish trousers. The Napoleonic wars had brought Europe into contact with ancient Egypt as a result of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. This also enspired an interest in the Middle East. Racy books about Turkish harems and European girls captured and forced into Middle-Eastern slavery became very popular. Actually this was not entirely fictious. Pirates aperating from North Africa did infact capture substantial numbers of Europeans. Some were taken aboard ships. Others were taken on raids of coastal villages. Illustrations appeared in early 19th century magazines. The baggy pants worn by men also influences men's fashions. The best known example are the Zouaves which inspired a military fashion.
Actually pants for women appeared in the mid-19th century, championed by Amelia bloomer and the dress reform movement. Bloomers were a type of pants, especially mid-19th century bloomers which were made very long. Bloomers did not, however, prove to be very popular. The style was not very successful, only a handful of strong-minded women wore them and as far as we can tell, even fewer girls. No discussion of girls' clothing ould be complete without considering Amelia Bloomer and her infamous bloomers in the mid-19th cenury. American reformer Amelia Bloomer (1818-94) was born in Homer, New York. She lectured and wrote to support the temperance movement and women's sufferage, two inter-linked issues. She is best knowm for energetic promotion beginning in 1848 of the "bloomer" costume. Bloomer in fact did not device bloomers, but merely endorse them as a practical alternative for the restrictive women's fashions of the era. Bloomers were in fact originally devised by Elizabeth Smith Miller. Although ultimately unsuccessful, they were an important step in the development of modern practical clothing.
Dress reform was a significant focus of concern among early women's rights activists, and was strongly advocated in the Smith household. Rebellion against the fashion of the day, requiring women to dress in voluminous and constraining fashion, was both a practical necessity and a focal point of social reform. The "Bloomer" costume was worn for some time by most of the leaders in the women's rights movement. It was primarily designed to emancipate women from the cumbersome and restrictive fashions of the day. The costume was also promoted as a comfortable and healthy choice over wool skirts.
Amelia Jenks Bloomer edited The Lily.
Dr. Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck edited The Sibyl: A Review of the Tastes, Errors and Fashions of Society which was the official newsletter of the National Dress Reform Association (NDRA)
America women served as military nurses for the first time in the Civil War (1861-65)/ Some wore trousers under their dresses.
Some religious communities and utopian societies adopted a "simple" style of dress" for female members. In some communities this envolved wearing trousers under simole frocks. The key element promoted by dress reform advocates were health and freedom.
The popular press gave great attention to the bloomer garment and it was widely criticized. It was ultimately abandoned because of the amount of the derision it brought. Most feminists concluded that the ridicule bloomers encountered undermined attempts to convince people of the need for social reform. Bloomer herself, however, continued to wear these clothes until the late 1850s. Bloomers never proved popular with women and the derision they inspired discouraged many women from wearing them. While bloomers were not adopted as a popular style, they were an important step toward develop more sensible clothing, especially in sports where bloomers were worn.
As a result of Amelia Bloomer and the Dress Reform movement we do note a very small number of portraits showing women wearing trousers. Most wore them under voluminous skirts. We note both bloomers and trousers. The bloomers tended to be very long-leg with the elsticized hems coming to the ankles. While we see a very small number of women, we see even fewer girls. We wonder if the women who wore bloomers also had their girls wear them. Here we just do not know. Almost surely they would not have been allowed in schools. Girls throughout the 19th century wore dresses. Little boys might wear dresses, but girls almost never wore trousers. It was not considered proper. We see a few images, however, of what look like girls wearing pants in the 19th century. As most of these photographs are of unidentified children, we can not yet be sure. One example is an Austrian child. At first we were not sure about the gender, but we have since confirmed that the child is a girl. Images like this of a girl wearing pants are very rare.
We note American girls after the turn-of-the 20th cetury wearing bloomers for highschool gym classes. They were commonly worn with middy blouses. The style may have even appeared before the turn-of-the-century. We do not yet have a comolete chronology. I'm not sure if girls in Europe also worn gym bloomers. this was the case in Europe. After World War I gym bloomers wre very common in the 1920s. we notice girls wearing a kind of one-piece romper gym uniform. We're not yet sure when this style appeared.
After World war I we see rural girls wearing overalls and fashionable women wearing pants in the 1930s. We also notice girls at summer camps wearing bloomer rompers or short pants. After World War we begin to see girls wearing a variety of pants: short pants, capri pants, and jeans. These were considered casual clothes. Girls still wore dresses to school and when deressing up.
It was not common to seeing girls commonly wearing pants to school in America until the 1960s. Most other countries still required girls wear dresses to school until the 1970s. Some countries such as England still do not commonly allow girls to wear pants to school.
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