Victorian London - Publications - Humour - Punch - Skirt length

LAYING THE DUST

LADIES can, we know, sometimes go to very great lengths in dress; but the gown has lately got to such a pitch, and so much latitude is taken m the way of longitude, that there is no knowing where it will end. We have found, occasionally, very great inconvenience in our walks, by following, as excursionists, such a train as that which female fashion seems to entail on all its votaries. It says as little for the ankles as it does for the understandings of the fair sex of the present day that they are compelled to hide their bad feet by at least one yard of superfluous drapery. In addition to the untidy and unsightly character of the proceeding, the dust raised is so great a nuisance, that every lady appearing in the costume of the period ought to be compelled to have a page in attendance, with a watering-pot, wherever she goes.

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1850

As for the ladies of London, or rather of England, they are in personal appearance by no means as good looking as the ladies of America. This is admitted willingly by English writers and travellers. I believe I am able to judge, for I have seen large numbers of American ladies and as many as twenty thousand at one time of the English. The general characteristics of English beauty are dark complexion, dark hair, dark eyes and very rosy cheeks. This seems to contradict historians in their account of the earlier settlers of Great Britain. The Celts, Saxons, Angles and Danes all possessed light complexions, blue eyes, and red or very light hair. There is in England no strong southern sun that could in the course of centuries darken their natural complexion and I have met with no account that explains or attempts to explain the contradiction. As far as the appearance of health is concerned the preference must be given for the English. Of this they are trained from babyhood to take care. Girls there are not women when they arrive at twelve or thirteen. They think, dress, and act like girls. Stays, corsets, and other means of torture form no part of a girl's wardrobe. Out door exercises of all kinds are engaged in with spirit, and the advantages reaped from them are incalculable. The ladies do not dress for the street with one fourth part the elegance they do for home, theatre, opera or parties. In this respect they c ontrast strongly with the ladies of America who in general believe in great show on the public promenades. I know of nothing with which I was so much pleased as the promenade dresses of the English. After being for years accustomed to see long dragging skirts in all weathers, rainy or dusty, at home in the "States," the London ladies looked perfectly charming in their thick soled long boots, short and beautiful scarlet petticoats, neatly looped up dresses, comfortable looking little bonnets and rosy living linings in the same. And, (I say blushingly) such mistresses of skirts as are the English ladies, and with such grace as skirts are handled by them, I did not see an article of female, white apparel, during my whole stay in London, that betrayed a spot of mud however stormy it might have been.

W. O'Daniel, Ins and Outs of London, 1859

THE PRESENT CHARMING FASHION OF LONG SKIRTS

Honesty, now - which of the Two ought to apologise to the other?

Punch, August 9, 1862

POSITIVELY THE LAST OF THE LONG SKIRTS THIS SEASON

Hostess."OH, HOW TIRESOME! SOMEBODY MUST BE STANDING ON MY DRESS! WOULD YOU JUST RUN DOWN-STAIRS, AND SEE WHO IT IS, MR. BROWN?"

Punch, August 10, 1867

LAST NEW THING IN SKIRTS.

Aunt (slightly shocked). "WHY, CHILD, ALL YOUR CLOTHES ARE FALLING OFF!"
Laura."OH, DEAR, NO, AUNTY! IT'S THE FASHION!"

Punch, May 30, 1868

YOUNG LADIES
WHO AFFECT THE SHORT SKIRT NOW IN VOGUE, ARE RESPECTFULLY CAUTIONED AGAINST THE WITCHING HOUR OF SUNSET.

Punch, 13th June, 1868

Mrs. Williamson, who edits the Onlooker, a society gossip paper, had all the women in the Row staring at her. She had some sort of contraption hooked to her skirt to hold it up, thus freeing her hands. She explained that the necessity for holding up the present-day long skirts affected the wrist. " I know many women," she said, " who suffer from 'skirt wrist.' "

R.D.Blumenfeld's Diary, October 7, 1900

The fashion writers in the office are agitated about the suggestion that women's skirts should be shorter. They have gone about interviewing the managers of the great shops, and they are all against it. I have received a note from Paquin on this subject to the effect that short skirts are "ungraceful and unbecoming, and so distinctly inconvenient." He says that the skirt two inches off the ground is all right for dry weather, as it leaves both hands free, but not so in muddy weather. Dare to leave it alone and it hangs full and heavy at the back, gathers in all the rain and mud, sweeping wet and uncomfortable round the ankles. Attempt to hold it up and it is too short to reach with any comfort, and becomes most tiring with the twist and drag of it, whereas a really long skirt is lightly thrown over the wrist or arm, and gives no further trouble. The short skirt, to be safely left alone in muddy weather, says this fashion dictator, needs to be at least six inches off the ground ; and who dares to wear it!

R.D.Blumenfeld's Diary, October 14, 1900