Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What Every Girl Should Know About Wearing Hoopskirts, 1938

Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Fashion repeats itself, and supporting skirts from beneath - whether by a farthingale, hoops, or a crinoline, depending on the century - is a style that keeps coming back. We've featured it here on the blog many times, including here and here.

But until I came across a tearsheet from a 1938 Fall Fashion issue of Life Magazine, I'd no idea that hoops had also had a brief resurgence for evening wear in the late 1930s, an era that I'd always thought was defined by slinky, body-conscious bias-cut gowns. (This tearsheet was part of an amazing exhibition, RetroSpective, currently on display at the Museum at FIT, New York - I'll be writing more about this exhibition next week.)

The editorial copy in Life describing this "new" fashion in dance frocks, above left, is amazingly snarky, even for fashion reporting, including this gem: "American women, notoriously hippy, are expected to pounce upon the bell-shaped silhouette. The nipped-in waist, the wide-spreading skirt, are perfect camouflage for excess pounds below the waist...." And this was from a mainstream American magazine!

I also loved how these small, sarcastic cartoons, (as always, click on the image to enlarge) that illustrate the perils of wearing a hoopskirt in the 1930s were so similar to the challenges facing the Victorian ladies in their crinolines, as well as this poor 18th c. lady betrayed by her hoops. It made me think of what a 2013 fashionista would face if the cycle of fashion brings back hoops again: imagine wrestling the things through a modern airport security check, or onto a stool at Starbucks. But you never know....

Click here to read the entire feature on Fall Fashion, available online courtesy of GoogleBooks - including what must have been a pretty racy photoshoot of a model in a revealing black hoop petticoat and corset.
Top: "A hoop hangs under this black taffeta dress with blue ruchings", photo from Life Magazine, Sept. 5, 1938.
Below: "What Every Girl Should Know About Wearing Hoopskirts", illustrations from Life Magazine, Sept. 5, 1938.


Anonymous said...

One of the reasons hoopskirts came back into fashion at that time was that Gone With The Wind was being cast and started production. There was lots of publicity, especially over that casting of Scarlett. If I remember correctly, this was also when snoods became really popular again. The earliest photos of the 1930's snoods that I remember were Schiaparelli.

I enjoyed the article and the little cartoons.


Anonymous said...

I was going to remark about Gone with the Wind as well. Even Pride and Prejudice was affected by the publicity and costumes of that time in the version made in the 1930's, I don't think the hoops lasted long because of being unwieldly , more women working, and the depression. In 1957 crinolines with hoops that came to mid calf were the rage. I wasn't happy but wore one for my wedding. Hard as anything to get it right, to sit modestly, or to get in and out of vehicles-- and that was just what they called ballerina length. Without the hoop, the dress is a lace gown.
Fashion baffles me and te fact that we females go along with idiocy confounds me-- sometimes one has no choice because all the stores carry the same styles .
Thanks for finding this and bringing it to our attention.

Jeanne said...

Interesting post. Shared.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

I hadn't thought of the influence of "Gone With the Wind" but OF COURSE you're right - makes perfect sense. Modern fashion is constantly being influenced by the movies - think of how much was inspired this year by "The Great Gatsby - and I'm sure that Miss Scarlett's lavish gowns must have seemed especially appealing in the Depression era .

carolyntbj said...

If you continue to scroll thro the Life mag, on page 63 there's a pic of Selznick with the comment "Hollywood no longer teases him about Gone With The Wind which is still to be cast." So it was definitely being talked about nationally, even before shooting.

LP said...

In 1984, the hoop reappeared in prom dresses. I know because I had the most beautiful pink birthday cake confection of a dress. I had to wear a hoop and a corset; it was a very Pepto Bismol pink with white lace and bows. VERY GWTW. My friend bought the same kind of dress in ravishing red. But, sadly, we didn't end up going to prom. Looking back on the dress, it was probably a good thing we didn't go. It was such a tricky dress to wear!

GSGreatEscaper said...

Also "Jezebel" with Bette Davis, which was set in antebellum New Orleans, was released in 1938. It was in black and white, and this dress could have come directly from that movie.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Carolyntbj, good spot! I suspect that the book was such a huge hit that it, too, must have inspired fashion, even before it was a movie.

LP, Ahh, prom dresses, where every kind of fantasy excess happily exists! There are plenty of hoops lurking today under wedding dresses, too...

GSGreatEscaper, Jezebel!! LOVE Jezebel! This could be that infamous scandalous dress she wears that night to shock all New Orleans!

Crystal Silvers said...

When the bubble butt became fashion i thought, okay hip hops influence, like everyone else. I know plenty of fellow females that started eating and exercising to achieve a larger bum. Then the padded panties got popular and you can even go get surgery to achieve that ultimate "shelf" look. I'm sorry, but i look at some of these women especially the more famous ones and can't help thinking now that they are our version of this very same "hooped" style. The only difference being that we live in an age of physical modification that goes beyond just corseting and our clothing tends to be a lot more revealing. I have seen my niece in a corset and the padded pants slink into a dress to go out and was struck with the fact that there is truly nothing new. The only difference is a couple hundred yards of fabric of course.

Anonymous said...

There is just something romantic about the hoop skirt/bell shape that I (and I think many other women) still love. It's part of why I love period dramas! It's also why bell-shaped wedding dresses are still popular. Thanks for the post!

P.S. This is my first time commenting on your blog - I love it! Your "polite explanation" is EXACTLY what I love about history too; so thanks for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

David Selznick decided to publicize the movie by starting a nationwide search for an "unknown" to play Scarlett. I can only imagine how excited people were at a chance to be in such a huge movie. Of course, there was probably never much chance of that happening.

I had forgotten about Jezebel (don't know how I could).

I actually liked the dresses in the 1940 Pride & Prejudice, even though they're completely wrong for the era of the book. They're kind of over the top fluffy, which I enjoy. And I really like Marsha Hunt in that version, her Mary is so cute. I met her once in the 90s. She was a lovely person and had an interesting life.


Miss Valarie said...

We go to. A lot of formal events and I love wearing ball gowns. I alternate depending on the weather between a 6 ring hoop and a mega full crinoline. The hoop is a little more practical but the crinoline is much sexier. I think the ball gown look is so romantic and so pretty and feminine. The rustling of my skirts when I walk is just lovely.

Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket