The Bifurcated Skirt

Historical Essay

by Mae Silver, excerpted from The Sixth Star

Bicycleskirt grayscale.jpg

The Best Divided Skirt, from Fourth Star handout

Photo: The Bancroft Library, Berkeley, CA

In 1892 at the posh Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco, Anna Janess Miller, editor and owner of her own magazine, Janess Miller Monthly, hosted a fashion show of her bifurcated skirts. Through her periodical, she sold patterns and designs of the divided skirt, all the rage with the women's bicycle set. Curiously, in 1851, another Miller, Elizabeth Smith Miller, cousin to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, originated the first woman's pants creation, the bloomer costume. The women's magazine Lily advocated the bloomer as a response to women's concern for the safety of wearing long skirts and the unsanitary conditions of long trailing skirts in contact with mud and dirt of unpaved streets. The bicycle craze that hit San Francisco around 1895 provoked a need for a safe tangle-free costume for the new woman who wanted her own wheels, another sign of a liberated, emancipated woman who wanted to move in her own time, rhythm, and place.

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