FROM THE ARCHIVES: Those abominable long skirts

From the Archives | Sandy Main

A story headlined “Dress ‘awful’ in 1901” caught our eye in a special Daily News Progress Edition in 1969. The writer was decrying the “abominable trailing” skirts in fashion at the time.

“I believe the dress of women this year to be the ugliest the world has ever seen. How swiftly upon the heels of another doth each calamity tread.

“First in ugliness come the dragging, ill-conditioned skirts. Who fashioned and formed these ungodly garments? There they are, thousands and thousands of them, daily paraded up and down the sidewalk, lopsided, bedraggled, inefficiently held up by clutching hands, stumbled over and stepped upon by scores of awkward feet. Those skirts — why was I born to see and wonder at them?

“Next to the abominable trailing street skirt, in ugliness at least, comes a certain common atrocity in the form of a long cloth sack. A loose, baggy, shapeless, bulging monstrosity which makes the woman who wears it look like an unmanageable half-exhausted balloon.

“All women do not wear the lopsided, draggly skirts, or the bulging sacks, but there are dozens of these things in sight.

“The hats aren’t so bad as they might be, but the hair is worn in such a way as to banish all thought of hats from the heads of wearer and beholder alike. It is a strange fact that this handful of hair, dragged down over one side of the face, is always counterbalanced by the lop-sided skirt. Every feminine creature seems to instinctively haul down her front hair on one side, and clutch at her dress skirt on the other. The effect is nightmarish.

“— Ada C. Sweet (From Dec. 26, 1901, Howard City Record)”

Mrs. Sweet probably would have been a proponent of a fashion innovation that has been proposed in 1893 — shorter skirts.

In an article in the Greenville Independent headlined “The long skirt will remain,” the writer even described the correct fashion of picking up the long skirt.

“Some of the fashion authorities have been making a philanthropic effort to start a boom for short street skirts, but the effort has been in vain. The shape of the trained skirt to-day is altogether too becoming to the average feminine figure to see a unanimous acceptance of the short skirt, therefore the new and picturesque fashions of picking up the train will be received with delight.

“The dress must now be lifted at the back and the fullness brought round to the front, there the folds must be held in place by the firm pressure of the arm against the side and not grasped in the hand. They will then fall loosely and gracefully in a sort of cascade.

“Another correct fashion of lifting the dress is to bring the fullness round from the back on both sides and hold it firmly but apparently loosely under the clasped hands, from which, too, the fullness cascades itself.

“These are considered more elegant than the old way of reaching the hand behind one and grabbing the back of the dress.”

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