I recently ran across these two prints that are dated 1904. To someone who knows about fashion in the early twentieth century, this would seem like a very improbable skirt length for the time. But they reminded me of the words of outdoorswoman, Annie Smith Peck, who wrote in 1901:
“…Men, we all know, climb in knickerbockers… Women, on the contrary, will declare that a skirt is no hindrance to their locomotion. This is obviously absurd, and though a few ladies have climbed mountains like the Matterhorn in extremely scanty and abbreviated skirts, I dare assert that suitably-made knickerbockers… are not only more comfortable but more becoming… A scant skirt barely reaching the knee and showing the knickerbockers below, such as some ladies have worn, is as ungraceful a costume as could be devised; and for a woman in difficult mountaineering to waste her strength and endanger her life with a skirt is foolish in the extreme.”
While these pictures seem to show the women in leggings rather than knickers, the outfit is pretty much as Annie described it.
The imaginary women in the prints are also shown as if they were wearing corsets. What did Annie have to say about that?
“It may not be necessary to add that no one should climb mountains or even hills in corsets. One must have the full use of the lungs, and the loosest corset is some impediment to the breathing. As ordinarily worn they are impossible. Moreover, they greatly increase the heat, impede circulation, and promote rush of blood to the head.”
Images of women participating in sports were popular in the early 1900s. Artists like Coles Phillips and Howard Chandler Christy were known for their sporty, but still very feminine, women. This artist seems to be sexualizing the women somewhat, with the posing and the slender legs.
I think the signature is T T Pollock, but I could not find a reference to that name, nor to Polleck. Maybe someone will recognize it for me.
No skirts for Annie!
Update: Researcher extraordinaire Lynne has discovered that the artist was Homer Polleck, though some references have his name as Pollock. He lived and worked in Kansas City, Missouri, and died in 1917.