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The Nineteenth-Century Women's Dress Reform Movement

Document 3



       I have a great love for all that is pleasing to the eye; that I would seek to be graceful, accomplished, and beautiful. After this admission, it will be no matter of surprise, that my pen should light upon some offence to sight.  It is an eye-sore. I mean, WOMAN'S WALK. . . .

       Take, if indeed such an one could be found, a naturally grown, naturally developed figure, with every joint playing easily on its hinges, and every muscle in its full native plumpness and witness the "poetry of motion." Encase the bust in whale-bone, hang upon the hips some dozen yards of dry goods and as many pounds of cotton, squeeze the feet into shoes of neither breadth nor thickness, throw upon the shoulders, folded across the arms and chest, not less than two of four square yards of woolen blanket, and what becomes of its ease and grace!. . . .

       Some eighteen months since, being necessitated from a precarious state of health to monopolize rather more of the fresh, open air, than is generally considered creditable, or even justifiable in my sex, I conceived the notion of getting up a suit expressly for walking. . . . And what a deliverance was that! The suit consisted simply of a pair of cassimere [wool] pantaloons, a frock of woolen material, loose, plain waist, and sleeves, with a skirt reaching to the knees, of decent dimensions, in width, thickly lined throughout, a light cap or hat upon the head, and thick-soled, high-topped boots.

       In this rig, I could just about double the distance, in the same length of time, which had been the extent of my ability with the accustomed appendages, and what is more, with half the fatigue.

       My "debut" in this mongrel garb, was to be sure, quite a novel, and to the excessively modest, quite a shameful affair. But a gallant few had the courage to admire at least the convenience it promised. Some had such perverted tastes as to discover in it real becomingness.

-- Excerpts from Theodosia Gilbert, "An Eye Sore," Water-Cure Journal,  May 1851

5. Why did Theodosia Gilbert choose to wear the new style of dress?




6.  What were the different reactions to her new outfit?




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