Bloomers on the Trail

An illustration of a women in period dress, wearing historic bloomers.

Photo/Currier and Ives/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Amelia Jenks Bloomer, a suffragist and women's magazine editor from New York, kicked off a dress-reform movement in 1851 by appearing in public wearing puffy pantaloons under a short skirt. Although she was ridiculed for her attire, some young women happily adopted the practical and comfortable "bloomers" outfit for their trip west across the overland trails. The short skirt was preferable because ankle-length skirts dragged on the ground, snagged on sagebrush and cactus, soaked up water from dew and puddles, and was liable to catch fire as a woman tried to cook over open flames. More conservative travelers mocked the bloomer girls for their "immodesty," however, and most women stuck with their long skirts.

California National Historic Trail, Oregon National Historic Trail

Last updated: January 26, 2021