Pants Types: Bloomer Knickers


Figure 2.--Here we have two American brothers photographed in the ealy 20th century. The impage is undated, but we believe was taken in the 1910s. They wear identical sailor tunics with bloomer kniocketrs, white long stockings, and double-strap sandals. This was a AZO photo postcard. The stamp box had four triangles pointed up, meaning that it was taken 1904-19. The sandals suggest the photo was probably taken in the late 1910s. Unfortunately there is no information written on the back. Click on the image for a fuller discussion.

Younger boys commonly wore bloomer knickers with a variety of outfits. There was no standard terminology for these pants. We also see them referred to as bloonmers and knickerbockers. They were normally worn above the knee with blouced legs. They were different than the knickers worn by older boys that had straps, buckles to fasten. These bloomer knickers were commonly worn with a variety of younger boy suits, blouces, or tunics. I am not sure if the leg hems had draw strings or elasticized legs. We have noted these pants during the mid-19th century. They were especially common in at the turn of the 20th century with tunics suits, which became a main stay for younger children. There were several different styles for these suits. TYhe sailor style was especially popular. Many American boys wore Buster Brown suits. The bloomer knickers did not vary. We are not entirely sure how they were suspended. We thought that there may be suspenders or perhaps buttoned on to waist suit. A McCall's pattern in the early 1900s suggests they had bodices. I am not sure all did, but suspect that this was a common feature. I am not sure about country trends. They were very common in America. A French reader tells us that they were not very common in France, but we see quite a number of images of French boys wearing them. We also note them in Germany and other European countries. American boys wore them with both long stockings and three-quater socks. The three-quarter socks were more common in France, although long stockings wee also worn.

Terminology

There was no standard terminology for these pants. We also see them referred to as bloonmers and knickerbockers.

Construction

We do not fully understand how these garments were constructed, in part because the tunics commonly worn with them often cover most of the bloomer knickers. We know that some bloomer knickers had bodices, but we are not sure how common that was. We do know that they were normally worn above the knee with blouced legs and elasticized . They were different than the knickers worn by older boys that had straps, buckles to fasten. It is not easy to tell in many photographs, but we think that almost all bloomer knickers use this elasticized approach. A reader writes, "I just noticed that Figure 2 (boy with bloomer knicker pants that fasten fairly high on the leg) illustrates very nicely why a buckle and strap closure would be impractical if the bloomers are worn above the knee." We know that some boys wore their knickers buckled above the knee, but these bllomer knickers with their elastic closures do seem more flexible as to just how they were worn. And as far as we know bloomer kicjkers were not made with bucjkle and button knee hem closures.

Chronology

We begin to see these bloomer knickers about the 1850s. They may have appeared earlier, but most of the images of tunics in the early 19th century show boys wearing straight-leg pants. The bloomer knickers at mid-century were worn with a variety oif fancy suits. We see them again at the turn of the 20th century. At the time they were mistly wirn with tunic suits. This outfit remained popular until the early 20th century.

Age Trends

Younger boys commonly wore bloomer knickers with a variety of outfits. They were most commonly worn with the tunic suits that were so popular in the early 20th cebntury. We note some tunic suits made with straigh-leg knee pants, but bloomer knickers seem much more common. We note tunic suits commonly done for boys about 2 1/2 - 6 years of age and those with sailor styling to about age 8. We see them or oklder boys, but much less commonly. Thus this gives us the basic parameters for bloomer knickers as well.

Accompanying Garments

These bloomer knickers were commonly worn with a variety of younger boy suits, blouces, or tunics. I am not sure if the leg hems had draw strings or elasticized legs. We have noted these pants during the mid-19th century. They were especially common in at the turn of the 20th century with tunics suits, which became a main stay for younger children. There were several different styles for these suits. The sailor style was especially popular. Many American boys wore Buster Brown suits. The bloomer knickers did not vary.

Suspension

We are not entirely sure how tunic suits were suspended. Old photographs show the boys wearing their tunic tops which cover up the waislines. Thus the phorographs do not provide insights We thought that there may be suspenders or perhaps buttoned on to waist suit. A McCall's pattern in the early 1900s suggests they had bodices. Of course with bodices neither suspenders or belts woukld be needed nor were button-on styling needed. What we do not know id how common this approach was. I am not sure all tunic suits were constructed this way, but suspect that this was a fairly common feature. We do not yet have conformation id the blooner knickers we see in Europe were similarly structured.

Country Trends

We have some limited information on country trends. They were very common in America. We also see them beung widely worn in Europe. Here the pattern varied chronolgically. American trens in the mid-19th century seem nasically a relection of European trends, By the late-19th century we see destinctive Anerican trends. We note many American boys wearing bloomer knickers with tunic suits at the turn of the 20th century. Tunic suits with bloomer knickers were one of the most popular styles for younger boys. Almost always American boys wore their tunic suits with bloomer knickers. They were not much worn otherwise. Ameican boys other tham these tunic suits were more likely to wear knee pants. We do see bloomer knickers being widely witn in Europe and not just with tunic suits. A French reader tells us that they were not very common in France, but we see quite a number of images of French boys wearing them. We also note them in Germany and other European countries. We see some British boys wearing them, but they seen more popular in France.

Hosiery

American boys wore bloomer knickers as part of tunic suits with both long stockings and during the summer three-quater socks. Many boys also went barefoot during the summer. The three-quarter socks were more common in France and other European countries. We seem numerous image of French boys wearing them. They seem really common in commercial post cards. We also see actual noys wearing them, although our French aerchive is limited. We see German boys wearing them, usually with long stockings during the winter. We rarely see them being worn with kneesocks, in part because bloome knickers were declining in popularitty when kneesocks began yo become popular.

Material

Bloomer knickers like tunics were done in many different mterials. This included both light-weight materials for summer wear and heavy suit material for winter wear. An example of heavy suit material is the tunic sit with bloomer knickers made for Harold Howes, an American boy, in 1905.






HBC






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Created: 11:14 PM 2/9/2006
Last edited: 4:55 AM 9/8/2007