The Rise of Fashion: A Reader

By Daniel Leonhard Purdy | Go to book overview
Save to active project

FEMINIST DRESS REFORM

“The New Costume for the Ladies”
and “The New Dress” from The Lily (1851)

Six months after the first women's rights convention (1848) was held in Seneca Falls, New York, Amelia Bloomer began to published the feminist journal The Lily. Drawing on the literary talents of other, soon-to-be prominent feminists such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the journal combined a call for women's rights with a demand for temperance from alcohol and for the abolition of slavery. The Lily created a fashion scandal when in 1851 it began to run articles advocating that women wear shorter dresses and fulllength “Turkish” pantaloons. The popular press quickly adopted the name “Bloomers” for these new garments, and a wide-ranging public discussion ensued, reaching into European high society.

Bloomer and Stanton argued in favor of dress reform first by criticizing corsets and crinolines as cumbersome and unhealthy. They then presented examples of how the new garments enhanced the physical comfort and mobility of women, thereby allowing them to engage in activities from which they had been previously excluded simply on the basis of their awkward dress. For the editors of The Lily, women's emancipation was very much connected with the physical liberation of the female body from constraints. Binding clothes were both a metaphor for the constricted position of women in society as well as a prime instrument in the control of women's lives. The journal's articles maintained a practical focus on how such clothes, and other domestic arrangements, hampered women's potential.

The controversy surrounding “Bloomers” was in many ways a replay of the arguments that eighteenth-century critics had made against corsets and the wide dresses of the French court. Like the Seneca Falls feminists, doctors in the previous century had provided extensive anatomical evidence of how women's internal organs were rearranged and in some cases punctured by tight lacing. Rousseau had similarly argued against the manner in which baroque dress distorted the male body. What distinguished nineteenth-century feminists

-109-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Rise of Fashion: A Reader
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 357

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?