On this day in 1860, the Grady, Nicholson, & Company general store advertised their new shipment of hoop skirts in the weekly Southern Banner:
The wide, bell-shaped hoop skirt, such as the ones featured in Gone with the Wind, was popularized in the mid-1850s by Empress Eugenie of France, the wife of Emperor Napolean III. The first ad for hoop skirts in the Athens newspapers appeared in 1857.
The hoops were constructed with circles of cotton-covered steel wire held together with strips of tape that ran the length of the hoop, from waist to floor. The hoops were collapsible, but also broke easily.
This method of creating a full, round skirt was lighter and cooler than the layers of petticoats previously required, though women of this period still wore multiple layers of clothing (chemise, stockings, corset, drawers, shirt, hoops, dress, gloves and bonnet) on a regular basis, regardless of the weather.
After the Civil War, the large skirts went out of style quickly, much to the relief of historian and parliamentarian Justin McCarthy, who, in his book Portraits of the Sixties, wrote of hoop skirts that
Its inconvenience was felt by the male population as well as by the ladies who sported the obnoxious construction. A woman getting out of a carriage, an omnibus, or a train, making her way through a crowded room, or entering into the stalls of a theatre, was a positive nuisance to all with whom she had to struggle for passage.
Others looked back just a generation later and remembered sidewalks "practically monopolized by moving monstrosities," noting that "then no lady was correctly attired according to the prevailing idea who did not present a spectacle curiously suggestive of a moving circus tent."
- Southern Banner, March 11, 1858 - Jul. 1862 on Microfilm in the Heritage collection.
- Athens Historic Newspaper Archive collection in the Digital Library of Georgia.
- History of American Costume, 1607-1870 by Elisabeth McClellan in the Reference collection.
- Portraits of the Sixties by Justin McCarthy via PINES.
- The Arena (No. XXII, September, 1891) via Project Gutenberg.
- Women's Clothing at 1860 page on the Memorial Hall Museum Online website.
- Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900 by Joan L. Severa in the Heritage collection.
- Athens, Georgia: A Pictorial History, 1801-2001 by James K. Reap in the Heritage and general collections.
- The Culture of Fashion: A New History of Fashionable Dress by Christopher Breward in the general collection.
- Eugenie and Napolean III by David Duff in the biography collection.
- Everyday Dress, 1650-1900 by Elizabeth Ewing in the general collection.
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Costume and Fashion, 1550-1920 by Jack Cassin-Scott in the general collection.
- The Circus Comes Home: When the Greatest Show on Earth Rode the Rails by Lois Duncan in the children's collection.