Biking in Bloomers

This Momentum Magazine article inspired me to write a blog about bloomers. I’ve actually been wanting to for a while, but since I’m inspired, I will just do it now!

This is a great idea – the author Jess Matthews photo-logged her bike outfits for an entire month, to show that it is possible to bike in normal clothes. Actually, the article didn’t inspire me so much as the author’s comment that she wears “tri” shorts under her skirts. Those seem a bit bulky to me, especially when there are so many other options! I don’ t know how far her commute is, so maybe she needs something with a bit of padding. My commute is only 4.5 miles, or almost 5 if I take the trail instead of surface streets, so I don’t need padding.

But I do wear shorts under my skirts. I always have, actually, and have a well-worn collection of different types of things I collectively call “bloomers.” Technically, only a few of these items are really like bloomers. Bloomers were introduced in the 1850s, and shockingly popularized by Amelia Bloomer.

Mrs. Bloomer was not the first woman to wear them, but because she wrote about them in her women’s rights magazine, the new style was nicknamed after her. Unsurprisingly, the style was mocked, and Mrs. Bloomer herself eventually stopped wearing them.

A “bloomer” suit from the 1850s.

Nevertheless, the style remained as a women’s undergarment, having developed over the centuries. I’ve always loved the look of the ankle-length, straight-legged bloomers under tea-length dresses, commonly worn by little girls in the 1830s.

A little girl in 1838

I actually started wearing bloomers under my skirts and dresses when I was in elementary school. My mother had made me a pair of shorts that had elastic on the hem, and I remember wearing them under dresses with pride – and it meant I could play on the monkey bars without fear of my underwear showing.

Fast forward to my adult life. I still wear them. My favorites are from The Vermont Country Store, where they are called “pettipants” and made in nylon to keep skirts from sticking, just like a nylon slip does. I also have some from JC Penneys, where they are a bit cheaper. Hey, when you own several pair, the cost adds up!

Pettipants from the Vermont Country Store

Pettipants from JC Penneys

As lovely as these are, they are obviously a bit bulky under some skirts, especially pencil skirts, which I too love. So I also have a collection of now old cotton exercise shorts from Target. They are fitted, long, and prevent my thighs from rubbing in the summer (don’t tell me you don’t have that problem too!). They don’t carry them any more, so these are the closest I could find in terms of images:

Target gym shorts

Then of course there are Spanx-type shorts, which I also have.

Spanx Assets Mid Thigh Shaper

I have a few pairs of these Spanx Assets shapers too – slightly less expensive than Spanx. These are fine but they are a bit too constrictive sometimes, and the waist is higher than I want to wear sometimes – I don’t want my underwear waistband to stick out over my skirt waistband! Is that too much to ask?

Imagine, then, my delight at discovering Jockey’s Skimmies SlipShorts. Low rise, non-constrictive, slippery, comfy, cool – exactly what I’ve been looking for my whole life! I swear! I’ve already bought three pair – completely worth the investment.

Jockey Skimmies SlipShort

This is exactly the thing I need for wearing under skirts when I am on my bike. If the skirt blows up, or I’ve hiked it up to fit over my top tube (drawback to riding a men’s bike), I am confidently, yet comfortably, covered. And I don’t worry too much about showing too much leg. When I ride my road bike, and wear my Pearl Izumi bike shorts, I’m showing just as much leg. More, even, because my things and rear are outlined in tight black spandex. I am so enthusiastic about these that I’ve convinced three other colleagues to buy them as well, to both wear under skirts when biking, and just in general. I feel like Jockey should give me a commission or something! Even if you don’t need to worry about what to wear under your skirt while you are biking around, these are worth checking out.


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