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JAMA 100 Years Ago
September 25, 2002


Author Affiliations

JenniferReiling, Assistant Editor

JAMA. 2002;288(12):1534. doi:10.1001/jama.288.12.1534

The German correspondent of the Medical Press and Circular in a recent issue tells of a Teutonic crusade against the corset and the trailing skirt, which he considers has, like the French anti-alcohol agitation, come to stay. It is encouraging to learn this, for it is not long since that we heard that in German society it was considered almost immodest for a woman to dispense with the corset. It seemed to be considered a sort of defensive armor against masculine arms. The corset has long been under medical condemnation, and we do not believe that the women of the present day suffer so severely from its effects as did their ancestresses, though the fashion-plate ideals are bad enough yet. It can even be considered in some special cases and in some of its modifications as having a utility, but it is hard to find how to say a good word for the trailing skirt. Indoors it is a somewhat perilous sacrifice of hygiene to conventional esthetics, but on the street it is in every sense an abomination. With the old-fashioned way of letting it sweep the sidewalks and crossings its untidiness was alone enough, one would think, to disgust women into its disuse. At the present time it is more the fashion to occupy one hand in holding it up behind, a very ineffectual method of securing either cleanliness or hygienic safety, and certainly inconvenient enough it would appear. Moreover, the body twisting it requires tends to produce deformity and should the practice continue long enough we may expect to see the female half or more of our species become generally one-sided, with hypertrophied lattisimi dorsi and spinal curvature. No man, or woman either, can complacently anticipate such a result, and, moreover, there is nothing really becoming or graceful in the practice, but rather the reverse. It seems as if it might be an effect of a dissemination of a knowledge of the germ theory of disease, and perhaps we may hope that a spread of information as to the deforming possibilities of the present popular custom will be the last straw that will break the camel's back of fashionable slavery to the trailing or posteriorly uplifted skirt.