Hobble skirt

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A postcard (circa 1911) depicting a man pointing at a woman wearing a hobble skirt. The caption says, "The Hobble Skirt. 'What's that? It's the speed-limit skirt!'", because a hobble skirt limits the wearer's stride.

A hobble skirt was a skirt with a narrow enough hem to significantly impede the wearer's stride. It was called a "hobble skirt" because it seemed to hobble any woman as she walked. Hobble skirts were a short-lived fashion trend that peaked between 1908 and 1914.[1]

History[edit]

Hobble skirt style, 1911
Journalist Marguerite Martyn drew this sketch of herself wearing a hobble skirt while interviewing millionaire Edward Howland Robinson Green in 1911, with a quotation from him.
Long pencil skirts considered as a modern variation of the old hobble style

The hobble skirt may have been inspired by one of the first women to fly in an airplane.[2] At a 1908 Wright Brothers demonstration in Le Mans, France, Mrs. (Edith) Hart O. Berg asked for a ride and became the first American woman to fly as a passenger in an airplane, soaring for two minutes and seven seconds.[2][3] She tied a rope securely around her skirt at her ankles to keep it from blowing in the wind during the flight. According to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, a French fashion designer was inspired by the way Mrs. Berg walked away from the aircraft with her skirt still tied and created the hobble skirt based on her ingenuity.[3]

The French fashion designer in the Berg story might have been Paul Poiret[2] who claimed credit for the hobble skirt, but it is not clear whether the skirt was his invention or not.[4] Skirts had been rapidly narrowing since the mid-1900s.[4] Slim skirts were economical because they used less fabric.[4]

The hobble skirt became popular just as women were becoming more physically active.[4]

Hobble skirts inspired hundreds of cartoons and comic postcards.[4] One series of comic cards called it the "speed-limit skirt."[2] There were several reports of women competing in hobble-skirt races as a joke.[4]

Boarding a streetcar in a hobble skirt was difficult. In 1912, the New York Street Railway ran hobble-skirt cars with no step up.[2] Los Angeles introduced similar streetcars in 1913.[5]

Hobble skirts were directly responsible for several deaths.[2] In 1910, a hobble-skirt-wearing woman was killed by a loose horse at a racetrack outside Paris.[2] A year later, eighteen-year-old Ida Goyette stumbled on an Erie Canal bridge while wearing a hobble skirt, fell over the railing, and drowned.[2]

To prevent women from splitting their skirts, some women wore a fetter or tied their legs together at the knee.[1][6] Some designers made alterations to the hobble skirt to allow for greater movement.[4] Jeanne Paquin concealed pleats in her hobble skirts while other designers such as Lucile offered slit or wrap skirts.[4]

The trend began to decline in popularity at the beginning of World War I, as the skirt's limited mobility did not suit the wartime atmosphere.[7]

The next time skirts would be narrow enough to impede movement would be with the sheath skirts of the 1950s, first introduced at the end of the 1940s.[8][9] Though shorter lengths (from just below the knee to the lower calf) and advances in fabric would enable a little more movement than in the hobble-skirt era,[10] the 1950s sheath skirt's new waist-to-hem tightness, said to reveal the shape of the leg, still created problems of mobility, with split seams a familiar occurrence.[11] Nonetheless, they were widely promoted by designers and the fashion industry, their narrowness exaggerated even more by having models pose with one leg directly in front of the other.[12] Some other skirt styles of the time also had very narrow hems, particularly the knee-length puffball/pouf skirts shown by Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent from 1958 to 1960. A few of Saint Laurent's 1959 skirts were so narrow at the hem that some fashion writers revived the word "hobble" to refer to them.[13] Sheath skirts remained part of the fashion picture into the early 1960s and then went very much out of style with the rise of the flared miniskirts of the mid- to late sixties and the easy, comfortable clothes of the 1970s. When the tight silhouette of the sheath skirt was revived in the early 1980s, it was no longer as restricting, as it was now usually produced in stretch fabrics and could even be in mini lengths. These 1980s-style stretch sheath skirts in various lengths have been revived off and on ever since.

In popular culture[edit]

Movies and television series[edit]

  • Intolerance: The Dear One (Mae Marsh) wears a makeshift hobble skirt in the hopes of impressing a man.
  • Titanic: Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) wears many hobble-skirted gowns throughout the film. Early in the film, she runs across the deck in a beaded hobble skirt, stumbling and tearing it. The skirt nearly causes her to fall overboard.
  • The Addams Family: Morticia commonly wears long, black gothic hobble dresses.
  • Darkwing Duck: Darkwing Duck's girlfriend, Morgana Macawber commonly wears a long, red hobble dress.
  • Dick Tracy: Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) appears in a shiny black skintight gown.
  • Ugly Betty: In the episode "Icing on the Cake", Amanda (Becki Newton) wears a tight silver rubber hobble dress named the "Amanda".
  • What a Way to Go!: Louisa May Foster (Shirley MacLaine) is seen in shiny red pencil hobble skirt.
  • Static Shock: Daisy Watkins wears a purple pencil hobble skirt in the first few seasons of the show.
  • Parade's End: Sylvia Tietjens wears a hobble dress to her mother-in-law's funeral, c. 1912 (episode 2); the gentry disapprove of her stylishness, but the servants admire it.

Music videos[edit]

  • "Love Religion" — U96

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b F, José Blanco; Hunt-Hurst, Patricia Kay; Lee, Heather Vaughan; Doering, Mary (23 November 2015). Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe [4 volumes]: American Fashion from Head to Toe. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781610693103.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h David, Alison Matthews (24 September 2015). Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781472577733.
  3. ^ a b "Women in Aviation and Space History". Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Milford-Cottam, Daniel (10 February 2014). Edwardian Fashion. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9780747814757.
  5. ^ Walker, Jim (2007). Los Angeles Railway Yellow Cars. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738547916.
  6. ^ "Fashion Plate Collection : Fashion Trends". Digital Collections. University of Washington Libraries. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  7. ^ "Hundred-Year-Old Fashion Fad: The Hobble Skirt". 22 September 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  8. ^ Howell, Georgina (1978). "1948-49". In Vogue: Sixty Years of Celebrities and Fashion from British Vogue. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd. p. 221. ISBN 0-14-00-4955-X. Dior produces...an arrow-thin sheath....His tightest skirt has to be split for walking.
  9. ^ Mulvagh, Jane (1988). "1950". Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion. London, England: Viking, the Penguin Group. pp. 209, 210. ISBN 0-670-80172-0. Body line was the key term this year, as the sheath superseded New Look dresses....The designers of the most uncompromising sheaths were Dior...and Schiaparelli...The daytime sheath was seen at all three main fashion capitals...The sheath was the most fashionable evening line.
  10. ^ Mulvagh, Jane (1988). "1950". Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion. London, England: Viking, the Penguin Group. p. 209. ISBN 0-670-80172-0. [T]he sheath...was attainable as a result of developments in corsetry, such as the use of nylon and light elastic net.
  11. ^ Mulvagh, Jane (1988). "1952". Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion. London, England: Viking, the Penguin Group. p. 221. ISBN 0-670-80172-0. American Vogue emphasized that...[w]e want skirts we can step out of an automobile in without splitting their sides...
  12. ^ Howell, Georgina (1978). "1950". In Vogue: Sixty Years of Celebrities and Fashion from British Vogue. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd. p. 226. ISBN 0-14-00-4955-X. To make skirts look even narrower at the knee, models are photographed with one leg behind the other...
  13. ^ Howell, Georgina (1978). "1959". In Vogue: Sixty Years of Celebrities and Fashion from British Vogue. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd. p. 259. ISBN 0-14-00-4955-X. Yves Saint Laurent at Dior raises the skirt to the knees...and pulls the skirt in to a tight knee-band....Vogue...show[ed] the hobble first in its 'least exaggerated'...form before leading up to the 'extreme trendsetter'.

External links[edit]