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What is a Hobble Skirt?

Made-to-measure Hobble Skirts can now be found at The Little Black Hobble Skirt

A Hobble Skirt is a narrow skirt which is intentionally designed to shorten a woman’s stride by “hobbling” her legs. The Hobble Skirt emphasizes her figure and imposes an elegantly restrained and sensual way of walking. Indeed, where genuine Hobble Skirts are concerned, "The Walk is The Look".

Sarah of RoSa in 1950s style calf-length hobble skirt with kickpleat in black twill suiting 

Historical Hobble Skirts

The term "Hobble Skirt" originates from around 1910, when revolutionary Oriental-influenced designer creations introduced the fashionable Western woman to skirts which were narrow enough to reduce her stride. Hobble skirts, and the manner in which it was necessary to walk when wearing them, were soon found, by those of more refined taste, to be extraordinarily attractive and well worth a little inconvenience on the part of the wearer.

If in doubt, there is a brief scene in the movie "Funny Girl" filmed at Hoboken railroad station in which tall, raven-haired actress Bettina Brenna (now, we are honoured to say, our Facebook friend Bettina Linke), playing the part of a "Ziegfeld girl" perfectly and authentically demonstrates how attractive walking in a Hobble Skirt can be. You can find some screen captures of this on the "Little Black Hobble Skirt" Facebook page

Always bear in mind that several of the famous Hobble Skirt-era designers were women. The suggestion by some fashion historians that women at the height of the suffragette movement were somehow being forced against their will by tyrannical male dress designers to struggle around in restricting skirts is quite wrong. It was generally accepted as the fashionable ideal of the day and, despite the impracticality, women loved to wear it - possibly because of its ironic comment on their role in society, or possibly because they wanted to clearly demonstrate their superiority in overcoming any limitations imposed by their clothes.

Archive photos and film clips from the first Hobble Skirt era show groups of women at society events, teetering elegantly along in their immense hats and restricting hobble-skirted outfits, dressing to please themselves and each other - irrespective of baffled male opinion, which seems to have been equally divided between those who believed fashionable women had finally taken leave of their senses, and those who thoroughly enjoyed watching them wear the new styles.

The Hobble Skirt should therefore be viewed, not as a symptom of male oppression, but as a statement of feminine power and independence symbolizing women's struggle for emancipation and control in the early Twentieth Century.

Hobble Skirt c.1910

Following the lunacy of two World Wars, Hobble Skirts were brought back in the late 1940s, primarily by Jacques Fath and Christian Dior. The concept of achieving elegance by restricting the stride with a slender skirt has been a recurrent and influential theme in women's fashion ever since.

Because of their esoteric and controversial nature, truly extreme versions of the Hobble (or Pencil) Skirt have rarely been mass-produced as an off-the-peg item and have always been difficult to find outside the realm of Haute Couture.

Now, the made-to-measure "Little Black Hobble Skirt" Collection, exclusively available from a specialist website, offers you the opportunity to enjoy a genuine Hobble Skirt of your own.