Monday, November 28, 2011

Pride Feels No Pain, Nor a Hobble Skirt

The first assignment for every second year student at the fashion academy is to accurately recreate a historical costume. We could choose any period up to the 1910's. A pity, I thought at first. You see, I've always had a weakness for the roaring 20's. I imagine it to be a time where women were liberated and acted out by throwing wild but distinguished parties and had an admirer on each arm (not to mention a closet full of exuberant hats and flapper dresses). 
Since it wasn't allowed to make a costume that originated from that time, I started to dig in to the decade that preceded it, the 1910's. 
I found out that the seed of not only the women's emancipation but also the liberation of the female body form lies in these ten years.
The tightly corseted body made way for a straighter and more natural body form. Though corsets were in use during the whole decade, they became looser and allowed more movement as time progressed. 

Evolution of Corset shapes. 1910-1919.
This evolution converged with the fight for women's vote by the suffragettes. 
The strange thing was, that while the ladies got more space to breathe (literally and figuratively), fashion constricted their legs in the form of the infamous 'hobble skirt'. The long skirt was so tight at the ankles, women could only take extremely small steps and would 'hobble' instead of walk. Some people spoke of it as an outrage and a ridiculous vanity. A number of caricatures were manufactured, mocking the fashion, but with the underlying goal to ridicule the emancipation of women. 

Caricature 1914.

When you consult news articles of the time though, you can understand why there was a lot of criticism on the tight skirt. A lot of accidents happened, some were even fatal.

Published in The New York Times on August 31st 1911.

In some cities, around 1912, trams and trolleys were even lowered to avoid any more accidents with women tripping over their skirts. The fashion didn't last very long though, and around 1915 the skirts became a lot fuller. 
Recently there were a few designers who took inspiration from this particular skirt shape. The amazing Nicola Formichetti featured the hobble skirt during his Mugler womenswear debut for the collection fall/winter 2011.  

Fall/Winter 2011 Mugler.
Fall/Winter 2011 Mugler.

Ralph Lauren showed us a more romantic spin on the skirt in his fall/winter collection of the same year. 

Fall/Winter 2011 Raplh Lauren
Fall/Winter 2011 Ralph Lauren.
But back to the production of my historical costume. I found a catalogue from the year 1914 and there I discovered this lovely dress.

Afternoon dress 1914

It consists of a hobble skirt in silk, a chiffon dress and a silk waistcoat. Apart from that there's the underwear, shoes and jewelry. On a trip to Cincinnati I found the most gorgeous early 20th century boots to go with my costume. 

 For the underwear I decided to make a corset and an cotton under dress. The corset was made with real antique metal boning and a metal busk at the front.

After making all the patterns for the dress, skirt and waistcoat, I had to stain my silk with coffee, to get a bit of a 'used' feel. Those were some scary moments when I dipped 80 euros worth of silk in a bath filled with cold coffee. I also did some decorating on the dress and sash in the back with ordinary acrylic paint. This is the final result.

 Right now, I'm working on my collection that will consist of four silhouettes. So: More to come!

Until then, dress in hobble skirts but watch your step!

The Mere Alchemist


  1. I got stuck with my bootheel in the cobble streets yesterday. Will women ever change? :)

  2. Knap ontwerp Ilke! Heb je die borduursels ook gemaakt?

  3. Waauw Ilke echt héél héél indrukwekkend! Knap!
    Niet alleen je ontwerp maar ook wat je in je blog schrijft.
    Je kan je passie zo meeslepend en mooi verwoorden.
    Ik was er door geraakt tot diep in mijn artistieke ziel.
    Keep on trucking, forget the traffic lights and go where no woman has gone before.

  4. @Uschi: No, they won't :) Hopefully
    @danielle: Those are decorations with acrylic paint made with stencils.
    @Lodde: Thank you for all the support!

  5. @Uschi: Hope this wasn't with THE boots...

    @Ilke: Another one well done!

  6. Dearest Ilke, from now on I will be a faithful follower of your blog. Promise. Keep up the superb work! (Emma-Louise)