Pencil Skirts, Victorian Style

Pencil Skirts, Victorian Style

GREEN SWIRL

OBSERVATIONS: WIDTH OF A WOMAN’S SKIRT

The humor in this columnist’s observations taught me plenty about a man’s attitude regarding the width of women’s skirts, comparing the tight fit of the day’s fashions to the wrapping of a mummy or a soaked bathing suit clinging to the unfortunate woman’s form. He infers that the pursuit of fashion is so all-important that the wearers sacrifice comfort, modesty, safety, decency, the capacity to go anywhere by both carriage or the power of one’s own two feet. The Victorian humor in this brief piece published in 1875 is evident!

Width of womens skirts 1. Harrisburg Telegraph. Harrisburg PA. 2 Jun 1875

Harrisburg Telegraph of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on June 2, 1875.

Width of womens skirts 2. Harrisburg Telegraph. Harrisburg PA. 2 Jun 1875

Harrisburg Telegraph of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on June 2, 1875.

Note the writer’s final sentence:

“When fashion pushes the matter to that extremity we trust that respectable women will assume trousers at once, and so preserve some of their modesty while they increase their powers of locomotion.”

Victorian American dry humor at its finest.

GREEN SWIRL

TWO OF THEM ABREAST MADE THE PAVEMENT IMPASSABLE

Just like women’s styles change today, skirt fashions changed through the decades of the Victorian era.

Sometimes (think Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind) skirts were enormous bell-shaped wonders constructed of extreme yardages of fabric over gigantic hoop skirts.

 

1860 Victorian Costume with hoop skirts

1860 Victorian Costume with hoop skirts. From drawing by Pauquet. Source: Uploaded by Churchh; wikimedia commons; Public Domain, via Bellatory

widest hoops ever

Historic Image of a young woman in her petticoats, corset cover, and the widest set of hoop skirts I’ve ever seen. Image: Pinterest.

Hoop Skirt and Corset Ad. Part 1. Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on May 8, 1869

Hoop Skirt and Corset Ad. Part 1. Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on May 8, 1869.

Hoop Skirt and Corset Ad. Part 2. Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on May 8, 1869

Hoop Skirt and Corset Ad. Part 2. Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on May 8, 1869.

GREEN SWIRL

THE LIMIT OF PROPRIETY HAS BEEN REACHED

During the bustle-era of the 1870s and 1880s, skirts became quite narrow. These narrow skirts hampered movement, not unlike pencil skirts do in business suits of today (particularly if not made of stretchy fabric). This green dress may be like a pencil skirt, but the style is also called a sheath because it fits so precisely.  The style is gorgeous on the right figure but far from comfortable to wear.

Medicis Suit with hooded cape and Polonaise round skirt, from 1881. Page 124 of Harper's Bazaar, 1867-1898.

Medicis Suit with hooded cape and Polonaise round skirt, from 1881. Page 124 of Harper’s Bazaar, 1867-1898.

THE AVERAGE WOMAN WHO HAS ON HER LATEST DRESS CANNOT SIT DOWN WITHOUT SUFFERING

I'd like to sit but dressmaker says I mustn't

“I’d like to sit but my Dressmaker says I mustn’t!”

GREEN SWIRL

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Victorian America's Sense of Humor

Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt LC

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