In the early ’80s, there was a brief fad for vintage-style hobble skirts, which are so narrow that one can only take tiny steps. The term “hobble skirt” was first used in the early 1900s to describe designs by Paul Poiret. (Nowadays, we’d say we were dressing “steampunk.”)
I remembered the hobble skirts last Tuesday when I was wearing my ultra-tight vintage Patrick Kelly gown at the Committee to Protect Journalists dinner. It’s so tight around the legs that at some angles it looks like a catsuit, like it did here. But not in this photo from Getty/Michael Nagler! Thanks for getting this great shot, Mike. I’m trying to figure out how I can use it on my driver’s license and passport. What?! I like to look my best on government documentation!
As I minced along that night, it suddenly dawned on me that I was wearing a full-length hobble dress. Luckily, I wasn’t in a rush. If I had been in a hurry, I would have been better off with the opposite of a hobble: a Bonnie Cashin hitch-up skirt.
Cashin, who died in 2000, was a groundbreaking sportswear designer. You might recognize her name because she designed handbags for Coach, which did some Cashin-inspired pieces last year. How I wish I had a photo of the Coach bag I had in high school! We all had Coach bags with the toggle closure, which Cashin had introduced decades earlier.
She did the same closure on outerwear.
Cashin explained the origin of her hitch-up skirt design in an interview:
“My studio, out in the country, in Briarcliff, in the old carriage house, had steps that went up to a second floor. And I was constantly holding my skirts going up. I entertained a lot. And I’d be running up stairs with a martini in my hand. And so I thought I’d better hitch my skirt permanently.”
Here is an example from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art describes the style this way:
The Cashin silhouette … is … achieved with an unusual skirt fastener. She called this favorite device her “dog leash” in recognition of that simple hardware. The effect is to winch up the cloth and make the mohair more layered and luxurious by a profoundly simple hitch.
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana ?
Except, being a good story-teller, she never said the last line. She would come up with something new. It might start out “Orange went to the supermarket and met Peach and Plum …” and continue along those lines for quite a few minutes. All the fruits and vegetables would get in on the action. Orange you glad little children are so cute?