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    Hoop skirts hobble 19th century ladies

    Hoop skirts, worn by high society women at formal events, were the height of fashion in the mid-nineteenth century. With crinoline attached to a bell-shaped frame of whalebone, metal or other stiff material, the hoop skirt was an inner petticoat followed by a second petticoat and then my lady’s dress, which was thereby formed into what was deemed to be a fashionable shape.

    Fancy ball gowns with hoop skirts in the early 1860s. Wikimedia Commons

    Fancy ball gowns with hoop skirts in the early 1860s. Wikimedia Commons

    Hoop skirts offered a number of challenges. Navigating in a hoop skirt was difficult. And how could a lady sit in a hoop skirt without taking the space of three people?

    “A New and Great Invention in HOOP SKIRTS,” however, promised to solve that problem, as claimed in an advertisement by Charles Robson & Company in the Halifax Morning Chronicle, September 27, 1864.

    “This invention [reads the ad] consists of… two Elliptic Steel Springs, ingeniously braided tightly and firmly together, edge to edge, making the toughest, most elastic, flexible and durable Spring ever used, enabling the wearer, in consequence of its great elasticity and flexibleness, to place and fold it when in use as easily and with the same convenience as a silk or muslin dress. It entirely obviates and silences the only objections to Hoop Skirts, viz: the annoyance to the wearer as well as the public, especially in crowded assemblies, carriages, railroad cars, church pews, or in any crowded places, from the difficulty of contracting them and occupying a small space. This entirely removes the difficulty, while giving the Skirt the usual full and symmetrical form, and the lightest, most stylish and graceful appearance for the street, opera, promenade, or house dress…

    “The bottom rods on all the Skirts are also double steel and twice or double covered to prevent the covering from wearing off the rods when dragging down stairs, stone steps, &c., &c., which they are constantly subject to when in use.”


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