Harem skirts in the headlines

MICHAEL FALLOW
Last updated 05:00 01/11/2012

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You don't have to spend long in the vaults of The Southland Times researching its 150-year history - soon to be marked on November 12 - to realise a couple of things.

1. We need nicer vaults.

2. Weddings and fashions have long been important matters hereabouts.

The two came together provocatively in 1911 when one fashion-forward bride went sensationally against tradition.

A large crowd gathered outside Invercargill's St John's Church on June 14 to see her arrive in traditional white all right - but she and one of her bridesmaids were wearing the "harem skirt" that had in previous months been cutting-edge fashion in major cities around the world.

We would recognise them now as culottes. Back then, women brave enough to wear them attracted much attention.

In New Zealand, the trend had not gained popularity for street wear. They had almost invariably been worn by advertising models.

The Times wasn't of a mind to be too descriptive, saying that the bride and one of her bridesmaids "were attired in the unconventional costumes" made of white satin.

At least no harm was done. Two years later the dictates of fashion led several city women to the Invercargill police court for having menacing hats.

They had been stepping into the confined spaces of crowded trams with the pointy ends of their hatpins sticking out dangerously.

There were such things as pin protectors, and the city council passed a bylaw requiring prosecution of anyone not using them. Of the eight women who appeared in court on July 9, 1913, four were fined five shillings, one one shilling, and three were convicted and discharged.

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