alexandra limp victorian fashion ladies

Discover the Alexandra Limp and other bizarre Victorian fashions

The Alexandra Limp

In 1863 Alexandra of Denmark married the Princess of Wales. She was very popular and particularly admired for her style among fashion-conscious women of society.

Princess Alexandra who inspired the Alexandra Limp
The Posh and Becks of the 19th Century.

Everything the Princess did, the fashionable young women would copy. So when she wore a choker to hide a scar on her neck, all well-to-do women wore chokers.

In 1867 she suffered rheumatic fever and nearly died. After the illness she had to walk with two walking sticks and for the rest of her life she had severe limp.

The ‘Alexandra Limp’ as it became known, was adopted by London fashion houses and women of status everywhere.

It was the most thunderingly daft episode in the entire history of fashion

Jeremy Clay, Author of The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton: And Other Singular Tales from the Victorian Press

Women could be seen hobbling down the street and soon, to better recreate the limping effect, they would wear odd shoes.

Taking my customary walk the other day, observant of men, women and things, I met three ladies. They were all three young, all three good-looking, and all three lame! At least, such was my impression, seeing as they all carried handsome sticks and limped; but, on looking back, as everyone else did, I could discover no reason why they should do so.

North British Mail, 1869

As the fashion craze caught on, ingenious cobblers began making shoes where one soul was bigger than the other, so enable women to pull off a better ‘Alexandra limp.’

“There must be a line at which even fashionable folly may be expected to stop short at the caricaturing of human infirmity”.

The Dundee Courier and Argus

The Grecian Bend

“The Grecian Bend”, a Currier & Ives lithograph of a woman performing a popular 19th-century postural affectation. Wikipedia

Soon after the ‘Alexandra Limp’ went out of fashion the ‘Grecian Bend’ reached its pinnacle of popularity.

The ‘Grecian Bend’ was inspired by inclined Greek beauties in ancient paintings and statues such as Venus de Milo. It was thought to be daring and erotic by thrusting the breasts forward.

The Grecian Bend was a stooping stance where the bust of the lady was thrust forward and their derriere thrust upwards so that that their back made an ‘s-shape.’

The look was said to be very painful and could lead to spinal disease or permanent injury.

[The look consisted of an] S-like curvature of the upper figure, caused by thrusting out the chest, bending forward the head, contracting the stomach, and elevating the hips.

Scientific American, Vol. 19, 1868, p. 148.

There were various items clothing that helped with the look, such as tight corsets, belts, straps and high heels that made the woman lean forward.

[It resembled] a lame kangaroo … [and was] too exasperatingly ridiculous for laughter.”

Contemporary critic, The College Courant, Vol. 9, 1871 The Masonic Trowel, Vol. 6, 1867

Sources:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-28357269

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandra_of_Denmark

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grecian_bend

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