What It's Like Wearing A Hoop Skirt

     I’ve always loved pretty dresses. I grew up watching Disney movies and reading historical fiction novels, and I’ve always longed to wear long dresses and petticoats like those heroines. Recently, I unexpectedly became the proud(ish) owner of a hoop skirt, and was finally able to experience firsthand what it’s like to wear a big skirt.

     I wasn’t even planning on dressing up for Halloween until my professor told me that I had to create a costume for a grade. As an education major, a lot of what I learn about in class is about literacy, so my professor thought it would be a brilliant idea to test our ability to visually demonstrate a vocabulary word just in time for Halloween. My word was “ponderous”, which means “clumsy or awkward because of weight or size”, so naturally I thought that the best way to accomplish being ponderous was to wear a hoop skirt.

     Sadly, I can’t say that I went a whole day wearing a hoop skirt, because doing so would be terribly impractical. But I did wear it for most of Halloween night to hand out candy, and for an hour or so at school for my project. During this time I had to stand up, sit down, maneuver through the narrow entryway of my house, and even attempt to use the bathroom. I quickly learned that it’s easy to feel fancy wearing a hoop skirt, and that other people will be obsessed with it, but that like a lot of aspects of being a woman in bygone eras, wearing a hoop skirt is a real pain.

    While the heroines I admired growing up made wearing a big skirt look effortless, the truth is, it can be rather awkward. I never realized how far out hoop skirts sit from the body, and how careful you have to be when wearing one because of that. It’s no wonder that they’re notorious for causing women to bump into things and for catching on fire. Luckily, I never came into contact with anything flammable while wearing a hoop skirt, but I did take out a few photo frames that my mother insists on keeping on a little table in the entryway. I was on candy duty for most of Halloween night and my hoop skirt was nearly the width of the front door. I had a lot of little girls come to my door who told me I looked pretty, but all I could focus on was making sure that my skirt didn’t get caught in the door frame.

     The other annoying thing about wearing a hoop skirt is that you can’t eat or drink anything without getting crumbs (or if you’re really clumsy, your drink) all over yourself. Over the course of the night I consumed a generous amount of pretzel sticks and bubble tea, both of which inevitably ended up on my dress (thankfully, the bubble tea came out of my satin overskirt with some soap and water from the bathroom sink). Needless to say, if you’re planning on eating a lot, I’d advise against wearing a big skirt.

     The one feature that a hoop skirt has that trumps all other skirts is its ability to hold its shape. I wear skirts and dresses pretty frequently, so I’m no stranger to having my skirt static-cling itself to my tights or the ever-present fear of having a Marilyn Monroe moment in public. Since a hoop skirt sits so far out from the body, you can wear tights or leggings underneath it without worrying about static cling or additional bulk. I wore leggings underneath my hoop skirt and nobody had any idea that they were there, and I usually avoid wearing leggings under skirts because their thickness adds too much bulk. Plus, the hoops sewn into the skirt make it really easy to hitch up (although it doesn’t make going to the bathroom or sitting in a chair easy).

I won’t deny that there is a certain novelty to wearing a hoop skirt. They’re fun to spin around in and they tend to make other people happy. But just as I feared (and to an extent, wanted), they get in the way. They’re fun to wear for a night, but I’m still left to wonder how women in the past managed while wearing them on a daily basis.