Wednesday, April 23, 2014

DEATH TO THE HOBBLE SKIRT AND OTHER SCHOOL ISSUES



Just over a century ago, the Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools expressed his concern that the fashions worn by teenage girls in the county schools were getting out of hand. In January  1911, the Monrovia Daily News printed some of his remarks, including his suggestion that legislation be considered, “providing that students of the California schools wear simple uniforms instead of the old ultra fashionable raiment of the present day […] unless the present day tendency of the younger generation to […] extravagance in dress is checked.”

What, exactly, did this extravagance entail? Superintendent Mark Keppel spoke against the “smart filmy gowns” that were “ruinously expensive and altogether inexcusable from any standpoint of reason, art or necessity.” He advocated “reform in dress and death to the hobble skirt, the tube gown, paint and powder, the transparent and cloud-like material in dresses and waists, and to the ‘Baby Doll’ curls and puffs.”


Hairstyles, it seemed, were a particular issue, as they involved “fluffy Chantecler puffs, the baby-like Nell Brinkley curls, the stately coronation braids and the transformation, the moderate pompadour and even the cute little cupid bangs.” All of these styles, it was suggested, should be subjected to reform – and a haircut!

In the end, no legislation was necessary to bring more modest fashions to Monrovia. In 1924, the female students of the Monrovia High School adopted a uniform following a lively debate and a vote of two-thirds majority. The uniform, which a number of students had independently adopted the previous year, was made up of a white middy blouse and a blue skirt. The decision was said to be popular among the general public, who appreciated the simple, attractive style of the uniforms as well as the return to focus on education.

Source: John L. Wiley, History of Monrovia (Pasadena: Press of Pasadena Star-News, 1927), p. 120-122.



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