Flashback Friday: 19th century waitresses in bloomers (courtesy of Jan Whitaker’s blog)


Here at Flashback Friday, we love the chance to talk about edgy stuff!  I love this piece by Jan Whitaker, a 19th century historian who specializes in restaurants and department stores of that era.  She has graciously allowed me to re-post this excerpt from her blog “Restaurant-ing Throughout History.”

I first met Jan through my novel research, when my female protagonist desperately needed a respectable place to eat.  Where could she go?  Jan Whitaker’s expertise was invaluable.  Two of her books were of particular help to me: Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class (2006), and Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn: Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America (2002).  I like her work so much that I included her site’s link when I first set up my own blog.

I’m sure you will enjoy her post!

Until next time,


Waitress uniforms: bloomers

The bicycling craze of the mid-1890s brought “wheelwomen” dressed in bloomers into public view. It didn’t take long for enterprising restaurant men to latch onto the sensational pants-like garment as a waitress uniform. It was the middle of a nationwide depression and they hoped that male customers would flock to their establishments and the money would pour in. And this proved true, sort of.
Bloomers were originally a pragmatic garment of the 1850s woman’s rights movement intended to permit women to conduct everyday affairs without dragging 50 pounds of skirts and petticoats over filthy floors and streets. They were designed to do this by raising the skirt hem up to the shoe tops — with long gathered trousers worn underneath to modestly hide the ankles. But because of relentless ridicule, prior to the bicycle craze they had been worn only in private or in exceptional situations: doing gymnastics, while housecleaning, or by Westward-bound women crossing prairies and mountains.
Click here for the rest of Jan’s post.
Be the first to like.

7 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: 19th century waitresses in bloomers (courtesy of Jan Whitaker’s blog)”

  1. Marcia RichardsMarcia Richards

    I love reading about these things from the past. I haven’t been very successful at finding this kind of information on my own. So that’s one reason I’m grateful to have found you! Your historical links are helpful because they lead me to some early 20th century information. Thanks, Kathy! Love your flashbacks!

  2. Tiffany WhiteTiffany White

    Sometimes, I think we’ve lost all of our style…

  3. Debra Eve | Later BloomerDebra Eve | Later Bloomer

    Of course, I love bloomers and agree with Tiffany…they never should have fallen by the wayside! Great article by Jan.


Comments are closed