Lecture on Bloomerism (1851)

Lecture on Bloomerism

On Monday evening Miss Kelly’s theatre, Dean Street Soho, was crowded by an eager  auditory, assembled in consequence of an announcement, emanating from “The London Bloomer  Committee,” that a lecture on the new costume would be delivered by a lady appropriately attired. A crowd was assembled in the street long before the doors were open and when admission was obtained the theatre was immediately filled so rapidly, indeed, that a gentleman from the stage announced that the lecture would not be delayed until the time named in the bills, as the edifices could contain no more. In a few minutes after this notification, about 20 ladies, attired in the Bloomer costume, appeared upon the stage and took their seat in the semicircle. Every variety of the new attire was not to be seen, from the strictly legitimate Bloomer skirt, “two inches below the knee” to the less daring and less attractive drapery which came down almost to the ankles. Nor were varieties of colour wanting. Young ladies attired in white with pink sashes contrasted strangely with elderly ladies clad in brown and black, some preferring the hair unadorned, others wearing a few ornaments and two wearing a huge broad-brimmed black cap. The audience –  the great majority of which was composed of gentlemen –  received the Bloomer cortege with cheers and laughter, the latter demonstrated so far predominating as to cause some of the ladies to waver in their approach and one or two retired behind the slips to regain their presence of mind, somewhat shaken By their first reception. Order having been restored, a lady attired in a dark brown costume came forward and addressed the audience. The lecturer’s name was not announced, it being merely stated that she was a citizen of the United States. She stated that in consequence of the great interest with which the Bloomer question was received by the public, a certain number of ladies had been formed into a committee, in order to give it the necessary attention and publicity and invite the mothers and daughters of England to give their attention to the new costume as constructed with the present injurious form of attire. The introductory part of the lecture adverted (amidst the laughter of the audience) to the first institution of clothing by our primeval parents. The lecturer, however, forbore to inquire whether the leaves formed a tunic or a simple petticoat.  She then proceeded to trace the customs of nations from time immemorial of marking the different grades of human rank by varying apparel and urged that the present inconvenient dress of ladies was not only unfit for their situation as the helpmates of man, but opposed to the laws of nature as regarded their physical conformation. This subject led to a consideration of the moral and social conduct of American ladies and thence by some strange transition to the slave trade and the claims of the “citizenesses” of the United States to a representation in the legislature. This discursive matter having been concluded, the lecturer took into consideration the injurious effect of the present style of dress and the obstructions caused by it to the highest functions of the human frame. She demonstrated scriatim the effects of impeded action of the heart and lungs and traced to this cause a long train of diseases. The filth collected by the long trains of ladies sweeping the dirt did not escape notice and the lecture concluded by an exposition of the advantages of the Bloomer costume and a compliment paid to Mrs. Bloomer, quoted from one of the American papers. It was also stated as a piece of supplementary information that the real originatress of the Bloomer costume was a daughter of Mr. Garrett Smith, of the United States. During the course of this lecture several outbreaks of laughter and discordant noises took place and the admissions of the lady were rather more freely and audibly interpreted than was intended. Her evident sincerity, however, made some impression and upon the whole the address was favourably received. The lady, however, did not seem to think that sufficient courtesy had been extended to her, after she had claimed “the courtesy due to a stranger” and after her lecture mentioned her misgivings in plain terms, attributing the outbreaks partly to the disappointment of many present at a recent Bloomer manifestation. The Bloomer ladies joined in the National Anthem at the close of the proceedings and the lecture was announced for repetition.

The Times, Wednesday, Oct 08, 1851; pg. 7

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