The dressmakers have risen in rebellion, and one of their mightiest personalities is heading a revolution against the hobble skirt. Others are defending it - in a modified form. The result is that the powers that be have come to grips. How will the hobble skirt fare?
Poor little skimpy, attenuated thing! Such a meagre enemy! The pannier toilette is its rival, and doggedly bent on conquest.
It tells a tale, this sensational change in the modes, for no one would have taken such drastic measures to oust the hobble skirt if it had not been regarded as a difficult mode to kill.
That is why everyone concerned simply gasped with astonishment when the modes of March (1912) were revealed, and the pannier toilette stood forth as an accepted vogue.
Make a mental picture of the little girl fashions that have been the mode. They might well have been called the little boy ones, for their straight and rigid lines and their encasing proportions remove them very little from the garb of masculinity.
Then regard the picture shown here of the pannier toilette. Is it not a startling contrast? Yet it is the sensation of the hour in Paris, and is likely to prove a great attraction amongst us. The majority of people seem heartily tired of the hobble skirt and all its ways, including the accidents for which it has been responsible. Hence a very keen interest is being evinced in the pannier modes.
A "Feminine" Style
Remember that there are always modifications to be made. The sketch shows the extent of the changes that are proposed. It remains for Fashion's devotees to decide just how far they will go in accepting the great revolution.
What the designers have done is to carry us back as regards our apparel to the days of the Second Empire, in the 'fifties of last century, when the Empress Eugenie was the cynosure of neighbouring eyes throughout Europe, setting the fashions for everyone.
The "feminine" woman was then extolled everywhere. No one had heard of the open-air girl, and the tailor-made woman had not walked into the picture. In their voluminous silk frocks, the fabric of which would stand alone so rich was it, with their pointed "Court" bodices, their large sleeves, their frills and furbelows, women lived to sit upon sofas engaged in needlework, or looking at albums. They did not want to tramp the roads and fields - their own garden plots were enough for them - and so had no inclination to wear suits of a sturdy and masculine-looking build, even if they had been forthcoming.
The pannier costume as designed in the spring of 1912. Elbow sleeves and pointed Court corsage are distinctive features
Seeking for elegance in its truest interpretation, the designers of that day filched many of the modes of the period of Marie Antoinette, and amongst them the pannier and fichu. In 1912 dressmakers are doing the same; they are borrowing from both periods - that of the Empress Eugenie and Queen Marie Antoinette - and on the old designs are grafting modern notions.
This means that, though the new skirts are much wider than the ones of last year, and though we are to walk in silk attire - to be precise, in taffetas - though flounces are to flourish and large sleeves are to appear, we shall look neither like the women of the Empress Eugenie's day nor like the fine ladies of the time of Marie Antoinette. Annodomini controls the fashions to a great extent, and the twentieth century is most arbitrary in matters modistic.
What is being done is this. The new taffetas do not stand alone. They flop and fall into the softest of folds, for the silk is as fine as crepe-de-chine, and with no more solidity than that material possesses. It is quite easy, therefore, to make a skirt of a considerable width without giving it the appearance of a crinoline or of any stiffening, though let me tell you that it is suggested that dress linings shall be worn again, and that underskirts will be once more in fashion. The modes have been too hard upon the makers of petticoats lately and it is good news that their trade will be revived.
In another way there is a useful modification. The panniers of old were bunched upon the hips, giving great breadth to the figure and making the waist look small. Not so now. The contrast between the long, straight silhouette of last year and the hour-glass lines of the old-fashioned pannier dress would be too astounding to be acceptable. So the panniers are placed much lower than before, and very graceful they look, and by no means clumsy. No one wants the small wasp waist to return, and any attempt to bring it into fashion will be disputed hotly by all sensible women. None of the great designers and modistes are in favour of it. Nevertheless, the waist will be allowed to show a little curve or "hinge" at the sides, giving the feminine outline to the figure that has long been taboo.
What a help towards elegance the pointed Court corsage is, once the chosen design of women for all their best frocks. Then, again, the width of the sleeves adds delicacy to the figure, and certainly wide sleeves are to be an accepted vogue. There are various adaptations of old methods, and prominent among them is the bell shape shown in the picture, with its dainty frilling of lace, so soft an environment for the arms.
Questioned upon the subject, an authority in dress declared the other day that long sleeves are to be the smartest fancy, but that sleeves of elbow length will also be permitted, because of their daintiness, upon gala gowns to be worn in the daytime.
Rivals of the Second Empire toilette there will be. Already their machinations are made known, and we are confronted with the warring element in various directions.
What say you to the Directoire vogues once more? Shall you welcome them? I think you will not be able to withstand them, for of a truth they are very fascinating, and a most decorative contrast to the straight lines of the one-piece hobble frock.
Here, again, lace enters the arena, an indispensable item for the throat and wrist ruffles, collars, and gauntlet decorations that are charateristic accompaniments of the late eighteenth century modes.
The Directoire fashions women wear are borrowed from the men's vogues of the stirring days that preceded the great Revolution and the Empire of Napoleon. Just glance at the bewitching adaptation illustrated here, and admit that there are most fascinating possibilities in the vogue for spring wear.
A pretty representation of the Empire vogue.
Note the flowing skirt and short train, the "flop" collar on a postilion coat with basque and pleated "tails"
A charmeuse, velvet, or ratine coat has big pointed revers of white velvet, silk, or satin, and a pocket flap to match on the left hip. As I write there is an absolute furore for white fitments. No coat is of the latest smartness without them. Then there is a charmeuse skirt cunningly draped and at one side divided, the sole survival of the harem skirt's desperate attempt of 1911 to make a lasting impression upon us.
It is because that almost inseparable item of the little girl frock, the low overturned collar, is being attacked that the changes are being rung upon high chokers. In other words, the stocks and collar-bands that are seen are a direct snub to the Puritan and Peter Pan models.
The quite grown-up woman is the individual specially considered this spring by the designers, which means that, instead of creating the modes, the little girls will have to follow the lead indicated by their elders. I wonder how they will like that, whether they will be obedient or whether they will rebel, and adhere tenaciously to their own "school" of fashions.
It will be observed that to the pannier toilette is given a black tulle chemisette and collar, that quaint conceit being one of Fashion's latest freaks, and, let me add, a really pretty one when the bulk of a gown is coloured.
Colours are to be a pronounced asset this season, and the chameleon or shot kinds are at the zenith of their charm. Lettuce and the seaweed greens, the bright and pretty brown known as havane, ultramarine and turquoise blue, every imaginable shade of ecru from oatmeal to ochre, and all the reds, including magenta, scarlet, and rose, are aspirants for fame and favour.
Greatly to the surprise of the community of dress lovers, the short-waisted corsage appears as the rival of the pointed Court corsage. What is scarcely strange is that it has met with a new success. It would seem that we cannot spare it for long, and though the natural waist-line is the one extolled in the main, the Empire vogue is amongst us, pressing its claims for patronage.
Perhaps the pretty representation of it on one of these pages will console girls for the loss of their beloved hobble. Let them take stock of the elegancies the drawing portrays - to wit, the flowing skirt with its little train - revealing the fact that the toilette is for afternoon wear, the "flop" collar made of embroidered muslin, and the postilion coat with a little basque and pleated "tails." Also the cockaded hat in keeping with the coat, and edged as regards the brim with ostrich feathers. A very picturesque model, I think.
Have not the fashions changed in the spring of 1912?