THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF FLATBUSH
by Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt
History tells us that in the year 1709 the petticoats worn by the ladies
of fashion in England had attained an enormous size. The "Tatler," the great
"censor of the morals and manners of the day," jestingly speaks of it as a
"silken rotunda, not unlike the cupola of St. Paul's."
This fashion seems to have reached its most absurd height in 1745. A
pamphlet was at that time published against the fashion, entitled, "The
Enormous Abomination of the Hoop Petticoat," because the garment "had become
of so enormous a circumference that it could not be longer endured."
Slowly and gradually this unnatural fashion passed away, but its
extinction was not to be final. Somewhere about 1858 it was revived in a more
moderate form, and hoop-skirt making became an industry that gave employment
to thousands of workmen. There were manufactories in all the large cities.
The ribs were made of steel or tin, with a woven cover over each rib. They
were pliable and not expensive.
It is probably that through the invention and improvement of machinery
the hoop-skirts of this century were much lighter and less cumbersome that
the "stiff hoops" which Pope denounces in his "Rape of the Lock."
The fashion held sway for nearly twenty years, only varying in the size
and shape of the framework. Then the modern hoop-skirt passed into disuse,
and woman once more presents herself in the size of her natural figure.
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