Some of us may call a big pair of lady’s pants ‘bloomers’. Today, they may be met with some sniggering at the back. They have always been the subject of some amusement but at one point they were considered very fashionable.
Bloomers were invented by Elizabeth Smith Miller in the mid-nineteenth century in New York. They were designed to preserve the modesty of women while they engaged in activities such as horse riding and cycling. They did take a while to catch on and were ridiculed by the press of day.
It was women’s rights campaigner Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-94) who started wearing them in the 1850s hence why they became known as bloomers.
‘Bloomers’ also apply to comedy gaffes. For example, a collection of outtakes may be called ‘auntie’s bloomers’ (Terry Wogan’s famous show); the name probably derives from the comic aspect and giggling the underwear would have created, deemed unflattering and unfashionable by some and not to be seen.
Interestingly, a synonym for bloomers is ‘pantaloon’ which can also be a word for men’s close-fitting breeches. ‘Pantaloon’ is used by the comic fool Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It in which he talks about the seven stages of man (life) in his famous dramatic monologue.