How 19th-Century Activists Ditched Corsets for One-Piece Long Underwear | Innovation

In the 1870s, many female tourists to Manhattan sought out the city’s most curious boutiques—underwear stores that sold what was called “ladies’ hygienic underdress.”

“Through sheer weariness they may have omitted Central Park, passed by Stewart’s, and forgotten Tiffany, but the ‘chemiloon’ is a thing to be remembered even when the feet are blistered and the back aches with premonitory pains of malarial fever,” New York World reported in 1876. “There exists a deplorable ignorance regarding the nature and fashion of this mysterious garment, or rather combination of garments, which was introduced in whispers and is not yet discussed in ordinary tones. ‘What is it?’ is still the question of the masses.”

The “chemiloon,” or union suit as it was often called, was the predecessor of long johns and today’s onesie—the one-piece pajamas you reach for before settling in with a cup of hot chocolate. Sure, when most people think

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