Friday, December 23, 2011

Hobbled by Fashion

by Nancy DeWitt

Of all the fashions of the Edwardian era, none was more controversial—or dangerous—as the hobble skirt that was popular from 1910 to 1914. Hobble skirts were so narrow at their base that wearers were forced to take tiny, geisha-like steps. Many denounced the hobble skirt as unsafe, while others ridiculed such a restrictive fashion appearing at a time when suffragettes were demanding more freedom.

We just put this beautiful blue hobble dress on display. It is hobbled by its narrow cut and a placquet that hugs the knee area.  Made of fine woven silk with oriental or early Art Deco motifs, the fabric is very lightweight and seems more appropriate for a scarf than a dress. The dress was likely made by a private or skilled home seamstress.  

Hobble skirts were outrageous enough to make an impact on the transportation industry. By 1914, streetcars throughout the world were modified with special ‘hobble skirt cars’ that had low doors, allowing a woman to mount and disembark the car “without encouraging curiosity and diminishing privacy.” Ironically, the hobble skirt trend died soon after these streetcars were introduced.

Can you think of any other fashions that influenced transportation design?   For a video about Hobble Dresses, please visit our Fountainhead Museum YouTube Channel.

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