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Hobble Skirt??? What is that and where did it come from?

The Hobble skirt – is a skirt with a very narrow hem that restricts the wearers walking stride. It was a short-lived clothing trend that started around 1908 and lasted until the beginning of the first world war.

Its origins are thought to be inspired by the first American woman to ride in a plane. In 1908, the Wright brothers were in LeMans, France to demonstrate their newly invented flying machine. Mrs. Edith Berg, who was a pioneering Aviatrix of the time, was so taken with the demonstration, she asked one of the Wright Brother to take her for a ride. To protect her modesty in the windy open “cockpit” of the plane, Mrs. Berg tied her skirts around her ankles.

This is Mrs. Edith (Hart) Berg with Wilbur Wright – notice her skirts tied around her calves.

A French fashion designer happened to see Mrs. Berg and her tied skirts and was inspired to come up with a new fashion he aptly named The Hobble Skirt. That French fashion designer was none other than Paul Poirot.

A Poirot dress featuring the hobble skirt.

The design inspired many jokes and cartoons with one of the more famous names for the fashion – The Speed Limit Skirt. Named, because the skirt forced a walking speed limit.

A postcard (circa 1911) depicting a man pointing at a woman wearing a hobble skirt.

The caption says, "The Hobble Skirt. 'What's that? It's the speed-limit skirt!'", because a hobble skirt limits the wearer's stride.

The New York and Los Angeles public transit systems introduced “no step up” cars to accommodate women in hobble skirts.

Several deaths have been directly attributed to Hobble Skirts…. Paris - 1910, a woman was killed at the racetrack. A horse had escaped its handler, and the woman was trampled to death as she was not able to get out of the way. In 1911, Ida Goyette (one of my distant relatives) stumbled on an Erie Canal bridge. She fell over the protective railing, was not able to get her footing and subsequently drowned.

By 1914, the Hobble Skirt had fallen out of popularity as it was felt the narrow hem was too frivolous and didn't fit into the fact that the world was dealing with a significant war.

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