Terminology Tuesday #5 Quirky and curious fashion terms: Rationals

Something quick and cute this week. It caught my eye when putting together my last post on jodhpurs….

It’s Rationals


photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34219731@N07/5963271762/

A popular name for full, pleated, serge* bloomers or knickerbockers worn by women for bicycling in the 1890’s. The name rationals comes from the political movement of the time that advocated a more rational or sensible approach to female dress. Rightly so! See also bloomers…

* serge a durable twilled woollen or worsted fabric

Bloomers or bloomer costume

A knee-length dress worn over pants gathered at the ankle. The costume was modeled after clothing worn in health sanitariams, and adopted by women’s rights activists of the 1850’s. Although she did not originate the style, women’s rights pioneer Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818 – 1894), popularised them and they were accordingly named after her. See also knickerbockers…

amelia bloomer

photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/96856282@N05/9388012458/

Amelia Jenks Bloomer

Amelia Jenks Bloomer
photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25281256@N05/3811891316/



photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/muell-r/6181905721/

Loose breeches gathered or pleated into a buckled band at the knee. Originally introduced for male country wear in 1860, they were adopted and worn by boys upon reaching school age, after graduating from shorts, further graduating to full length pants upon adolescence, popular until the 1940’s.


photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/moirabot/3009254135/

An aside but how awesome! Who knew! Well probably tons of New Yorkers but anyway. And I now also know that there are heaps of businesses in New York with knickerbocker in their name! Very cute.

Used by men for golf and sportswear in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Also see Plus Fours…

Plus Fours

Full baggy knickers popularised by the Prince of Wales (later the Duke of Windsor) in the 1920’s for golf and other sports. Generally combined with patterned wool socks and brogue leather shoes, reintroduced for men in the late 1960’s. When first introduced the length of these knickers was 4 inches longer than typical knicker length, hence the name.



Edward Prince of Wales by W.Orpen 1927. photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thelostgallery/10868224954/

Group of men some wearing plus fours riding penny farthing bicycles

Group of men some wearing plus fours riding penny farthing bicycles
photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beamishmuseum/7655758746/

I’m loving all these comfy yet stylish pants. I’m going to have to either get busy sewing or shopping.

Happy Tuesday,


To read more Terminology Tuesday posts click on the Culture tag in the “Let’s Talk” cloud top right of the home page.

OR click here to read my previous post.

* Bibliography: The Fairchild Books Dictionary of Fashion 4th Edition by Phyllis G.   and Sandra J. Keiser


One Comment on “Terminology Tuesday #5 Quirky and curious fashion terms: Rationals

  1. Pingback: Terminology Tuesday #6 Quirky and curious fashion terms: Aesthetic Dress. | the art of costume