February 12, 1893: Duluth Society Men Condemn Crinoline and Hoop Skirts

On the day in Duluth in 1893, the Duluth News Tribune reported that local “Society men” had condemned the wearing of crinoline and hoop  skirts. The fashion trend of hoop skirts made from crinoline (a combination of horse hair and linen) peaked in the 1870s, but it threatened to return in the 1890s and those Duluth men were agreeing with “papers all through the East” that all agreed that “the big skirt must go—or rather, not come.” The reporter preferred the “soft clinging robes of the present style and warned that wearing hoopskirts would mean “absolute failure in the matrimonial market” and would result in “several more old maids for society to frown upon”—simply because an interested beau would not be able to put his arm around his intended’s waist. The reported asked dozens of prominent local men (but not women) their opinion of the trend. Here are some select responses: Captain Torrey: “An utter impossibility that such an insane fashion should be tolerated for a moment.” W. B. Chapin: “Well, my wife usually does as she pleases, but I will not allow any such fashion as this to enter her mind.” C. J. Kershaw: “I know one girl who won’t wear crinoline—that’s the girl I buy tickets to the theatre for; she can’t have me and hoop skirts too.” Walter Ayers: “The penal code says nothing against hoop skirts—but it should.” W. C. Sargent: “If it be death, than death be mine, but gods of fashion save us the crinoline. C. B. Woodruff: “As secretary of the Swagger Club of the Northwest, I refuse all hoop skirts from entering our inner circle.” T. W. Hoopes: “Well, our new St. Bernard occupies so much space in the house we’ll have to give up all ideas of any crinoline.” John Panton mentioned that he and Joe Watson built their large Glass Block dry good store anticipating the hoop skirt’s return: they needed more space, as “hoop skirts take up more room both behind and before he counter.”

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