Bloomers versus Diaper Covers: What’s the Difference?

 

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Bloomers have been “having a fashion moment” as they say in the apparel business, reincarnated as “bubble shorts” or “puckers” in kids  clothing, and often the bottom half of rompers.  It’s interesting to me that bloomers have something of a sweet innocent vintage vibe to them, considering they were once a risque progressive fashion choice.

“Bloomers” are named after Amelia Bloomer, a women’s rights activist who sported “Turkish trousers” in 1851 as a statement of gender equality. They looked like an easy-fitting trouser, worn under dresses to allow the wearer to ride a bicycle or participate in active sports:

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But many people think of bloomers as something worn by Little Bo Peep:

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And therefore bloomers have something of a fairytale, children’s book quality to them. I personally make bloomers fairly regularly, to go under costumes, but for some sewists they may be something new. Recently I read a comment in an online forum regarding the Duchess And Hare “Love Pattern #9”, specifically about the romper version’s bottoms:

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This was her FB comment:

“The size 3 crotch panel is tiny and doesn’t cover anything! Yet the size 12 is huge and would dig into their legs and bunch up?”

It seems that she was confusing the inseam of the BLOOMERS….with a crotch width for DIAPER COVERS.  Although the terms “bloomers” and “diaper cover” are often used interchangeably (for example on Etsy I use both terms because you never know what the customer will type into search) they really are quite different:

  • different silhouette (see definition above: originally bloomers extended to the knee)
  • different drafting of rise shape (more in a minute on this)
  • different inseam (bloomers have inseams, briefs do not)

Bloomers (LEFT) are drafted as a pant or trouser.

Diaper Covers (RIGHT) are drafted as a panty or brief.

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Marketing lingo (especially online) favors the term “bloomers”…it sounds so much more charming than “diaper cover”.  And so plenty of small businesses are selling diaper covers and calling them “bloomers”, even naming their shop with “bloomers” or “bloom” in the name.

To clarify the difference, let’s look at some free online patterns. Compare a standard bloomer pattern (LEFT) with a typical diaper cover pattern (RIGHT):

First look at the shape of the RISES  (red):

  • BLOOMERS (left): curved like any shorts/pants
  • DIAPER COVER (right): straight vertical line

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Then compare the shape of the INSEAM (blue):

  • BLOOMERS (left): similar to a pants shape and angle
  • DIAPER COVER (right): like a panty/brief, the inseam forms a “crotch width” which doesn’t extend down the leg at all:

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How do the rise and inseam shapes translate from pattern to garment? Again look at the BLOOMERS (left) and DIAPER COVER (right):

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Let’s compare how they look when worn.  BLOOMERS (left) and DIAPER COVER (right)….see how even a small bloomer inseam length can make a big difference when worn by short little baby legs, keeping in mind that the rise for all infants-wear must be long enough to cover a diaper:

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You may wonder  “How can such differently shaped patterns both end up in  a similarly functioning garment?”  Here is how a Bloomer pattern can be “slashed-and-spread” to create a Diaper Cover pattern. Look at the free Bloomer pattern  (LEFT) and free Diaper Cover pattern , both from Creativa Atelier:

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I printed them in half-scale to show pattern manipulation (Bloomer on the left, Diaper Cover on the right):

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Okay I’m going to flip over the Diaper Cover pattern (on the right) so that both have the front facing to the right and the back facing to the left:

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Now through the magic of slash-and-spread, the bloomer changes shape;

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to become a diaper cover:

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They’re not exaclty the same of course because IRL they would be drafted separately, but this may help show how one pattern can be converted into another;

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Going back to the sewist who was confused by the Duchess and Hare “Love Pattern #9” pdf, she was expecting a romper with a bottom like a DIAPER COVER, however the pattern is for BLOOMERS. Does it matter?

It depends on what you want regarding fit. If you are looking for true BLOOMERS, then the Love Pattern #9 pattern is what you want.  It’s currently a popular children’s silhouette. However there are also rompers (especially for infants and toddlers) with a DIAPER COVER bottom.  For under mini-dresses I prefer diaper covers for babies with their short little legs,  because  the leg opening is high up at the top of the thigh (you can always swap out the bottom half of a romper pattern from Bloomers to Diaper Covers). But for toddlers who are potty-trained, or on the cusp of being potty-trained, a Bloomer is better….because a Diaper Cover on a child not wearing diapers can be bulky/droopy at the crotch.

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IF YOU CHOOSE DIAPER COVERS:

…. make sure the child’s diapers are covered, and the bulkier the diaper, the wider the crotch width needs to be (cute DIAPER COVER photo from the free Made Everyday diaper pdf) :

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When in doubt, and if possible, it’s a good idea to measure the child’s crotch width while wearing diapers, and check that measurement against the pattern. On a rough average, crotch widths while wearing diapers range from 4″ for Newborns, up to 5″ for 2-year olds.

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IF YOU CHOOSE BLOOMERS:

…make sure that the inseam is long enough to act as a crotch width (at least 2″ inseam) ….but not so long that the finished product impedes baby’s movement:

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One last note: when choosing  a Bloomer pattern for littles still in diapers, be careful to avoid patterns with a sharp crotch hook to avoid an unfortunate “crotch-bight” or “camel toe” effect (sorry!):

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You can avoid this by staying away from patterns with a sharply curved hook in the  rise (LEFT), and using a pattern with a more gentle curve and less sharp hook in the  rise (RIGHT):

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I hope that shows you the difference between bloomers and diaper covers, let me know if it’s not clear!

Happy sewing,

Janet

 

 

 

 

 

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6 Responses to Bloomers versus Diaper Covers: What’s the Difference?

  1. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Does it make sense, Jill? Not sure if it’s helpful or confusing!

  2. Marsha says:

    My great-great-grandmother was one of those uppity women who wore bloomers while riding her high-wheel bicycle in the late 1800’s. Since bloomers are part of my family heritage, I’ve known about the history of them since I was a little girl. GGGrandmother definitely wasn’t wearing diaper covers!

  3. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Hi Marsha, I can just picture your “uppity” great-great! She must have been a character. Here’s to strong women!

  4. Louise says:

    Thank you very much for this explanation. Ive been looking at my bloomer cover patterns and wanted to know whether the rise is supposed to be more like a nappy cover or more like shorts. Your post has more than answered my query.

    Louise :)

  5. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    You are so welcome Louise…these are the kinds of questions that get me thinking while I’m trying to sleep!

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