Pantaloons are knee-length, calf-length or ankle-length loose pants that can be worn by either men or women. The word pantaloon comes from the Italian word pantalone, which in turn was derived from a character in a seventeenth century comedy play. The character in the play, Pantaleone, was shown wearing these pants, and was probably the first person to wear them in public.
During the French Revolution, the revolutionaries disdained the then-fashionable breeches in favor of pantaloons. Breeches were symbolic of the ousted royals and aristocrats. The pantaloon, on the other hand, seemed to have a more fraternal character.
In Georgian England, the principle trend setter of the ton, Beau Brummel, adopted ankle-length pantaloons for more fastidious than fashionable reasons. He liked to present a neat, clean appearance, and his pantaloon had foot straps to keep it straight and uncreased. This pantaloon fashion was, of course, the precursor of the modern day trousers.
Women took to wearing dress pantaloons in Napoleonic France. Knee-length and ankle-length versions were worn as undergarments under the light muslin Empire-waisted gowns. White or skin-colored girls pantaloons were also in vogue at this time.
Bloomers, also known as bloomer pantaloons, made their appearance in the mid-nineteenth century in the United States. Designed by the women's rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller as practical garb for gardening, the pantaloon pattern resembled harem pants and were worn under a short skirt or dress. The attire was certainly more comfortable and sensible than what was being being worn by most Western women at the time: stiff corsets and long, full skirts that needed six or more petticoats underneath. Mrs. Miller's fashion was adopted first by her cousin Elizabeth Cady Stanton and then by Mrs. Stanton's friend, Amelia Bloomer.
The attire ended up being named after Mrs. Bloomer as she publicized it in her feminist magazine The Lily, and urged women to wear a pantaloon in place of the cumbersome petticoats. Since such bifurcated garments were considered the territory of men at the time, there was much controversy on the matter, and women who wore them had to face considerable ridicule and disparagement. The pantaloon fashion was championed mainly by activists interested in women's rights and women's dress reform, and did not catch on with the wider public. Mrs. Bloomer herself eventually forsook it in favor of the cage crinoline, but the pantaloon became acceptable as a bicycling attire for women in the last years of the nineteenth century.