The Princess of Wales’ wife, Alexandra of Denmark, was a 19th-century fashion legend whose sartorial expertise birthed plenty of knockoffs. She was known to be partial to choker necklaces and high necklines for a period of fifty years in order to conceal a little scar she had on her neck. Thus ensued the barrage of noblewomen adopting the choker trend in a bid to live vicariously. This all seems very normal, till it isn’t.
When a case of rheumatic fever caused her to walk with a noticeable limp, the masses starting imitating the same. A deformity, yes. Which came to be later known as The Alexandra Limp. Such was the fanatism towards her. And the sheer imbecility of the general crowd back then. Or both. In the affluent areas of Britain, sycophantic women were quick to totter around in a manner that suggested they had uneven gait, which was easily achieved by a crooked pair of shoes.
Fashionable women in the UK did not view The Alexandra Limp as ridiculous or foolish. In fact, they sought out mismatched shoes from a well-known and well-liked Edinburgh cobbler who served the Queen in an effort to intentionally mimic the Alexandra limp. They asked him to create shoes that would make them appear to have a limp in order to replicate the deformity. Predictably, other store owners soon started capitalising on this daft trend and started selling mismatched shoes with one high and one low heel.
The Grecian Bend
Although there might seem a mild overlap between the two, the Grecian Bend and the Alexandra Limp are two different concepts. American women wore bustles as the foundation for their pannier-styled skirts in the 1860s which were gathered at the back. In order to compensate for the excess weight on her back, the woman had to bend forward dramatically.
Additionally, it was the name of a dance move that was popularised in American polite society immediately before the American Civil War. Contemporary artworks frequently depict women bending forward while wearing a tiny parasol and a bustle when painting the picture of that time.
Dopey Trends Persist
And there’s more. History has been proof that seismic shifts shrouded in the promise of change are nothing but building air castles. The difference between the Victorian era and the 21st century is little – both notorious for concocting ways to alter women’s bodies, courtesy societal exceptions and centuries worth of conditioning leading to women imitating and altering the way they look. Corsets, foot binding, rib removals, BBLs, you name it. There’s an exasperating list of procedures that’ve trickled into the lives of everyone, just to become another norm where no one bats an eye anymore. Saddening.
The Welcome Downfall
Princess Alexandra may or may not have had something to say about The Alexandra Limp but able-bodied young women were continuously seen limping around in London and other British cities to the hysterics of the headlines. After a year or two, the trend gradually faded due to the unpleasant side effects of chronic limping (you don’t say), since women may have discovered alternative ways to torture themselves for fashion.
A popular fashion journal of the time was also quoted saying, “The Alexandra Limp is to be discontinued forthwith. The skirt of the season, we are informed, is to cling closely round the feet, in consequence whereof ladies will be obliged to walk as if their feet….were tied together.” It’s…giving…Lady Whistledown, isn’t it? For the good here, at least.
With ELLECyclopedia, we aim to demystify terms from the world of fashion, beauty and pop culture. If such deep dives pique your interest, stay tuned as we’re exploring the origins of many such interesting words. In the meantime, you can also read about ‘houndstooth’. Ever heard of it in a fashion context? Tap here to read all about it.