Friday 24 February 2012

A Chat on Short Walking Skirts

THE ideal of Mrs. Stopes is being slowly realised and the article in the Pall Mall Gazette on sensible skirts has set dressmakers thinking. Women are getting tired rather of wearing dresses that the rational dressers complain either gather the mud and the microbes of the pavement, or else necessitate the wearer carrying several pounds of material by holding her derss up to avoid the London mud. But you cannot avoid it with a dress of the ordinary length. Slowly, but surely, it begins to cake on the edge of the skirt, bespatters the boots, soils the stockings, and renders a woman an object of misery, a martyr to an inch too much of material. For some time a Patent Shapely Skirt Association has been trying to get women to buy a sensible skirt. The feature of it is this - that it is without a foundation, is made within 3in. or 4in. of the ground, and is a dress that will not go mud-gathering, without being ugly. In fact, it is a very pretty dress. The founder of the Patent Shapely Skirt Association explained the principles upon which she worked when I paid her a visit the other day. Her establishment is a very large one, and she told me at the present moment she had twenty dresses to complete a trousseau. "But here is the shapely skirt," she said; and she brought out a smart, neatly-made walking dress of blue serge. . . . "I think," added the dressmaker, "that the writer of the article in the Pall Mall rather exaggerated the advantages of short skirts. It is not necessary for a woman to wear a skirt up to her knees in order to keep it out of the mud. A dress only needs to be three or four inches off the ground to keep it perfectly clean." "But don't women object to even four inches off their skirts? It reduces their height." "Yes, they do complain of a dress when it makes them look short - there is no overlooking the fact that they do; but, at the same time, they appreciate the advantages of always being clean and smartly dressed, instead of being untidy and mud-spattered." "Wouldn't it be possible to invent something that would shorten a dress temporarily?" "Well," answered madame, "we have been putting tape into the skirts of some dresses so that a woman could draw up the back of a dress several inches from the ground; but this gave an ungraceful, lop-sided appearance to the wearer, as the dress longer in front than at the back, and a woman would have to take off her bodice when she got nidoors to let down the back again. The tapes were of no use if rain came on suddenly, because she couldn't get at them. There is nothing made in the nature of a dress-looper. Years ago, clasps to catch up the back or side of a dress were used; they were fastened by a cord to the waist, and were very ugly, so they didn't prospect. There is no way, either, of carrying a dress with ease. To hold it up behind is hard. The best way, if it must be carried, is to bring it in a bunch to the side. Dresses are more difficult to wear than they were, because, when steels were fashionable a woman had something to hold her skirt up by. Even if you wanted to hold up one of our shapely skirts, there is an advantage that you are relieved of the weight of about 2lb. of underskirt by the absence fo a foundation." - "Do you claim any other advantages for the skirt?" - "Yes, gold and tennis can be played with ease on a wet ground, its advantages for walking are appearance; last but not least it will enable Englishwomen to get rid of the idea in the minds of foreigners that Englishwomen have big feet."

London Journal, 1890

1 comment:

  1. love these posts! they add a spot of historical interest to any day.