The Hobble Skirt: One Crazy Craze
In 1910, St. Louis’s fashion-conscious women wanted to be seen in the latest trend, the hobble skirt. Completely impractical, the hobble skirt was so named because its fit was confining to the point that it literally inhibited a normal gait for the wearer.
The ankle-length skirts were slim-fitting around the hips and legs—a precursor to the pencil skirt—and then narrowed significantly at the hem. Conventional wisdom was the tighter the better, as the restricting garment showed off a woman’s shape and made her take tiny, deliberate steps.
A Post-Dispatch article in August of 1910 referenced a police captain who was dismayed that the fashion was causing “street congestion.” Instead of paying attention to the flow of traffic, the policemen were helping hobble-skirted women to cross the street. And the men driving the wagons and cars were stopping to watch the women in their tight-fitting garments!
The Missouri History Museum has an example of a hobble skirt in its collection. This teal blue asymmetric hobble skirt evening dress is made of silk and tulle with rhinestones, fur, and flower trim. The woman who owned it—Eugenia H. Buder—came from a prominent St. Louis family and would have worn the dress in her early twenties.
Thankfully, fads come and go, and the popularity of the hobble skirt had declined by 1913, allowing the women of St. Louis to once again move freely about the city.
—Keri O’Brien, Editor