How to be Decorative While Ice-Skating: 1917

dainty skating set november 1917


To be decorative when skating, two things are necessary: first, know how to skate; then see to it that you are costumed with reference to appropriateness, becomingness and the outline demanded by the fashion of the moment.

The woman who excels in the technique of her art does not always excel in dressing her role. It is therefore with great enthusiasm that we record Miss Theresa Weld of Boston, holder of Woman’s Figure Skating Championship, as the most chicly costumed woman on the ice of the Hippodrome (New York) where amateurs contested for the cup offered by Mr. Charles B. Dillingham, on March 23, 1917, when Miss Weld again won,—this time over the men as well as the women.

Miss Weld combined good work with perfect form, and her edges, fronts, ins, outs, threes, double-threes, etc., etc., were a delight to the eye as she passed and repassed in her wine-coloured velvet, trimmed with mole-skin, a narrow band on the bottom of the full skirt (full to allow the required amount of leg action), deep cuffs, and a band of the same fur encircling the close velvet toque. This is reproduced as the ideal costume because, while absolutely up-to-date in line, material, colour and character of fur, it follows the traditional idea as to what is appropriate and beautiful for a skating costume, regardless of epoch. We have seen its ancestors in many parts of Europe, year after year. Some of us recall with keen pleasure, the wonderful skating in Vienna and Berlin on natural and artificial ice, invariably hung with flags and gaily lighted by night. We can see now, those German girls,—some of them trim and good to look at, in costumes of sapphire blue, deep red, or green velvet, fur trimmed,—gliding swiftly across the ice, to the irresistible swing of waltz music and accompanied by flashing uniforms.

In the German-speaking countries everyone skates: the white-bearded grandfather and the third generation going hand in hand on Sunday mornings to the nearest ice-pond. With them skating is a communal recreation, as beer garden concerts are. With us in America most sports are fashions, not traditions. The rage for skating during the past few seasons is the outcome of the exhibition skating done by professionals from Austria, Germany, Scandinavian countries and Canada, at the New York Hippodrome. Those who madly danced are now as madly skating. And out of town the young women delight the eye in bright wool sweaters, broad, long wool scarfs and bright wool caps, or small, close felt hats,—fascinating against the white background of ice and snow. The boots are high, reaching to top of calf, a popular model having a seam to the tip of the toe.

No sport so perfectly throws into relief command of the body as does skating. Watch a group of competitors for honours at any gathering of amateur women skaters and note how few have command of themselves—know absolutely what they want to do, and then are able to do it. One skater, in the language of the ice, can do the actual work, but has no form. It may be she lacks temperament, has no abandon, no rhythm; is stiff, or, while full of life, has bad arms. It is as necessary that the fancy skater should learn the correct position of the arms as that the solo dancer should. Certain lines must be preserved, say, from fingers of right arm through to tip of left foot, or from tip of left hand through to tip of right foot.

“Form” is the manipulation of the lines of the body to produce perfect balance, perfect freedom and, when required, perfect control in arrested motion. This is the mastery which produces in free skating that “melting” of one figure into another which so hypnotises the onlooker. It is because Miss Weld has mastered the above qualifications that she is amateur champion in fancy skating. She has mastered her medium; has control of every muscle in her body. In consequence she is decorative and delightful to watch.

To be decorative when not on skates, whether walking, standing or sitting, a woman must have cultivated the same feeling for line, her form must be good. It is not enough to obey the A. B. C.’s of position; head up, shoulders back, chest out, stomach in. One must study the possibilities of the body in acquiring and perfecting poses which have line, making pictures with one’s self.

In the Art of Interior Decoration we insist that every room be a beautiful composition. What we would now impress upon the mind of the reader is that she is a part of the picture and must compose with her setting. To do this she should acquire the mastery of her body, and then train that body until it has acquired “good habits” in the assuming of line, whether in action or repose. This can be done to an astonishing degree, even if one lacks the instinct. To be born with a sense of line is a gift, and the development of this sense can give artistic delight to those who witness the results and thrill them quite as sculpture or music, or any other art does.

The Greek idea of regarding the perfectly trained body as a beautiful temple is one to keep in mind, if woman would fulfil her obligation to be decorative.

Woman as Decoration, Emily Burbank, 1917 [See this post for “Woman Decorative in her Motor-car.”]

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  One always feels a certain clarion-call to action rather than repose when reading Mrs Burbank’s dictates. In Mrs Daffodil’s case, that action is to hurl the book vigorously aside when reminded of the “obligation” to be decorative.  In Mrs Burbank’s perfect world, there would be no poor posture, no fatigue, no inharmonious colour combinations in one’s costume, and certainly [quelle horreur] no “bad arms” on the ice.  One notes that the author does not mention the red noses and cheeks of the frost-nipped. There are some things in this world that even the most distinguished arbiter elegantiarum cannot control.  Mrs Daffodil fears that “Making pictures with one’s self,” suggests French post-cards and poses plastique, rather than a jolly day at the ice-rink.

Here is a photogravure of Miss Theresa Weld in her charming skating costume.

Theresa Weld

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.





3 thoughts on “How to be Decorative While Ice-Skating: 1917

  1. Pingback: A Naughty Story on Ice: 1865 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

  2. Pingback: A Swell Party on Ice: 1881 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

  3. Pingback: Advice to Young Skaters: 1874 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses

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