Thursday, November 10, 2005

Amedlia Bloomer: Feminist of the Day?

Amelia Jenks Bloomer
Activist for change in women's clothing
"It will not do to say that it is out of woman's sphere to assist in making laws, for if that were so, then it should be also out of her sphere to submit to them."

We have another Quaker and another 19th Century American Feminist. This one is most famous for having an item of clothing named after her, which is pretty cool even if it was a particularly ugly one. She continued to wear the alternative even thoughother feminists had given it up, because it got them laughed at too much.

Dress reform was obviously a very worthwhile cause - particularly if you like breathing and therefore prefer not to wear corsets. I sit here in jeans, a t-shirt and a cardigan and it's fantastic. The amount of clothing I'm wearing cannot be measured in pounds and my body is not bound in place by any of my clothes (well possibly my bra - but it doesn't restrict my ability to move in any way - in fact the opposite). But I also wonder about working class women's clothing - I know they wouldn't have worn corsets (because they required you to be dressed by someone else), but those clothes were heavy. How did women sew, work on farms, and care for children under that much fabric?

It's a combination of economic, technological, and social changes that mean we don't wear those clothes now. The T-shirt I'm wearing has some post-war stretchy stuff in it (which is why it is probably tight enough to send AJ Chesswass into a frenzy - but I think the slogan on it would upset in more, as it asserts women's independance) and it was made in China. But the social changes came about partly because women (and men) chose to fight the restrictions on women's clothing.

Conclusion: If she's just 1000th of the reason that I can now wear jeans then she has my eternal gratitude.

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