Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Outdoor Dress Of The Future

Twice Told Tuesday features a photography related article reprinted from
my collection of old photography books, magazines, and newspapers.

Family Magazine
"The Outdoor Dress Of The Future"
September 1896

"We are not cranks," one of the contributors to this 1896 article wrote. Today we would probably find this entire discussion about skirt length amusing. (Particularly in light of the fact the drive-up barristas in Washington are now going topless.)

Articles such as this can be very helpful in dating photographs and in understanding the plight of our female ancestors. Have you ever looked at how your female ancestors were dressed in a photograph and wondered what they really thought about the costume? Listen to these women, I think you're going to like this one!


Mrs. Bertha Welby
Secretary Of The "Rainy Day Club"
Speaks Of The Rainy Day Costume and the Growing
Sentiment In Its Favor

WOMEN in the past have been martyrs to their clothing, but I think the time is coming, and very soon, when we shall no longer be handicapped in life and rendered less happy and useful than we might by our dress. A number of active women of New York have formed what we call the "Rainy Day Club," whose one purpose is to bring about the adoption of a convenient street-skirt for rainy days. We are not cranks. We believe very heartily in prettiness, and every one of use wants to be just as stylishly and becomingly and attractively attired as possible, but we believe in health and comfort and convenience, too.

We haven't put our theory into practice yet, but intend to in the fall, when we have pledged ourselves to wear out-of-doors, and particularly on rainy days, a skirt which will be several inches shorter than the one now worn.

The length will be to some extent a matter of individual taste, but personally I prefer one about five inches from the ground, with shoes whose tops are two inches higher than those usually worn. This would render leggins, which I don't like, unnecessary. The costume will attract very little attention. Even now ladies are not infrequently seen wearing their short bicycle skirts when their wheels are at home. The bicycle has paved the way for the short skirt for general wear.

Mrs. Lumsden, President
The Health Culture Club of Brooklyn
Tells Of The Widespread Approval Of
The Short Street-Skirt

Last spring six women, myself among them, formed a club to promote the adoption by women of a sensible costume for the street. We have sixty-five members now, and the list is increasing constantly. This growth in membership, however, sinks into insignificance when compared to the very widespread interest which has been evidenced in our plan. I have received letters from many parts of the country commending it; some of them, moreover, have been from men.

We are now having our costumes made, and they will be about three inches from the ground for general street wear and six inches for rainy weather.

They will be pretty and graceful rather than ugly. We don't pretend to be superior to the fashions, but we intend to resist them so far as they interfere with sensible dress.


Mrs. Bertha Willsea, A Well Known Reader
Believes That Woman's Dress Should Have Variety
And Harmony

I am not at all an admirer of the so-called strong-minded women and am careful to keep out of any movement which savors of strong-mindedness. But the most womanly woman will like the short skirt when she comes to know just what it is.

It will be pretty if the women who wear it are careful and tasteful in regard to foot apparel, and it will give variety to women's dress, which is an important advantage. Sameness and monotony are nearly synonymous terms. Dress is important in lending variety to a woman's outward personality, and the jaunty walking-skirt will become an effective instrument to that end. It is the costume of activity, while the long skirt is the costume of repose.

I believe in trains and everything else that is graceful and attractive in woman's dress, but let the costume be appropriate to the time and place. That thing is most artistic which is most in harmony with it surroundings.


Miss Grace Drew (Marjory Daw),
One Of The Best Known of New York's Young
Newspaper Women
Speaks Enthusiastically Of The

The nature of my occupation requires that I walk a great deal, and I never go out without wishing that I could tear off the yards of skirt that are like sheathing about my feet.

If men could know from personal experience anything of the discomfort of the long skirts, if they should have to wear them for a day they would never again criticise women for desiring to rid themselves of at least a part of them.

The short skirt will do away with the heavy useless petticoats, and tights or bloomers will be worn under it, thus materially lightening our dress.

On several occasions lately while shopping and out on business I have worn my bicycle suit, which is practically the same costume which is being advocated for out-of-door wear; it has attracted no appreciable attention and has been a source of immense comfort to me.


Miss Grace Burgess, Comedienne
Approves Of The Short Skirt Because Of The
Saving in Gloves and Boots

I am very fastidious about my gloves and boots, but being in the dramatic profession I am obliged to be out in all sorts of weather.

Every woman knows that it is impossible with wet skirts draggling about the feet and the necessity of holding up the skirt, to keep the shoes or gloves in good condition.

That is one reason why I am in favor of the new costume.


Various Authors. "The Outdoor Dress Of The Future." Demorest's Family Magazine. September 1896. pg. 641-642.


Blogger Lidian said...

What a splendid article - and equally splendid photographs.

I love the idea of the ainy Day Club. And I'm going to claim (distant) kin to Bertha Willsea, who must be descended from the Wiltsie family (as am I, but a century before her).

July 2, 2008 at 12:54 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


Those were the actual photographs of the women who had written the articles.

So your distant relative is the one wearing my favorite fashion accessory!

Anything I write about from New York, I'll bet there is a connection to you, and I like that!


July 2, 2008 at 2:29 PM  

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