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Bloomers is a word which has been applied to several types of divided women's garments for the lower body at various times.
Fashion bloomers (skirted) 
The original bloomers were an article of women's clothing invented by Elizabeth Smith Miller of Peterboro, New York an early pioneer of the vulcanized rubber girdle, but popularized by Amelia Bloomer in the early 1850s (hence the name, a shortening of "Bloomer suit"). They were long baggy pants narrowing to a cuff at the ankles (worn below a skirt), intended to preserve Victorian decency while being less of a hindrance to women's activities than the long full skirts of the period (see Victorian dress reform). They were worn by a few women in the 1850s, but were widely ridiculed in the press, and failed to become commonly accepted (see 1850s in fashion). Bloomer was an insult made up by the newspapers of the time. British explorer Richard Francis Burton, travelling across the United States in 1860 noted that he saw only one woman (whom he called a "hermaphrodite") wearing bloomers. The costume was called the "American Dress" or "Reform Costume" by the women's activists that wore it. Most of the women who wore the costume were deeply involved in dress reform, abolition, temperance and the women's rights movement. Although practical, the "bloomers" were also an attempt to reform fashion since the majority of "bloomers" were also in upper to middle class and also in the public eye.
These early bloomers were partly an attempt to adapt young girls' short skirts and pantalettes to adult women's attire, and were partly influenced by middle-eastern clothing styles (or what was thought to be middle-eastern styles)—hence the name "Syrian costume".
The word "bloomers" was sometimes used for the wearers of the garments, rather than the garments themselves.
Athletic bloomers (unskirted) 
In the 19th and 20th centuries 
During the late 19th century, athletic bloomers (also known as "rationals" or "knickerbockers") were skirtless baggy knee-length trousers, fastened to the leg a little below the knees; at that time, they were worn by women only in a few narrow contexts of athletic activity, such as bicycle-riding, gymnastics, and sports other than tennis (see 1890s in fashion). Bloomers were usually worn with stockings and after 1910 often with a sailor middy blouse.
Bloomers became shorter by the late 1920s. In the 1930s, when it become respectable for women to wear pants and shorts in a wider range of circumstances, styles imitating men's shorts were favored, and bloomers tended to become less common. However, baggy knee-length gym shorts fastened at or above the knees continued to be worn by girls in school physical education classes through to the 1950s in some areas. Some schools in New York City and Sydney still wore them as part of their uniforms into the 1980s. In Japan their use persisted into the early 2000s.
Bloomers in Japan 
Known as buruma (ブルマ), also burumā (ブルマー), bloomers were introduced in Japan as women's clothing for physical education in 1903. After the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, a newer style of bloomers which fit the body closer, similar to volleyball uniforms, became commonplace. Around the mid-1990s, however, schools and individuals began to choose sports shorts instead, citing modesty concerns. Some people are interested in bloomers in clothing fetish context.
Gallery of athletic bloomers 
An example of late 19th-century athletic bloomers: the Smith College class of 1902 basketball team
Women's baggy underpants fastened to just below or above the knee are also known as "bloomers" (or as "knickers" or "directoire knickers"). They were most popular from the 1910s to the 1930s but continued to be worn by older women for several decades thereafter. Often the term "bloomers" has been used interchangeably with the pantalettes worn by women and girls in the mid 19th century and the open leg knee length drawers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
- Richard Burton, (1862) The Look of the West 1860, Lincoln: Univ. Nebraska Press, reprint, n.d., p.114.
- Allen Guttmann and Lee Thompson, Japanese sports: a history, University of Hawaii Press, 2001, pp. 93ff. ISBN 0-8248-2414-8.
- Ichiro Takahashi, et al., Social History of Bloomers: a Vision to Physical Education for Women, Seikyūsha, 2005, chap. 4. ISBN 4-7872-3242-8. (in Japanese)
- Gordenker, Alice, "So, what the heck is that? Buruma", Japan Times, 17 February 2011, p. 14.