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Hoopskirts Wider Than Doors: Fact or Fiction?

Could Mother Wilder’s dress really be so wide it couldn’t fit through a doorway? That's what Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in Farmer Boy.

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I was curious. So, I had to research (because facts are fun). 

Yes! Hoopskirts made some dresses wider than doors!
You can see an example of a hoopskirt at the Almanzo Wilder farm in New York.
Women and teenage girls wore hoopskirts to make the bottoms of their dresses wide like a bell. Whalebones or other hard material made the hoopskirts stiff. They wore multiple petticoats on top of the hoopskirt so the whalebones wouldn’t show.

Hoopskirts were fashionable but difficult to wear. A lady couldn’t just sit down on a sofa or chair. First she had to gather and lift her hoopskirt, petticoats, and dress. Then she could sit.

In my book The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide, (affiliate) I explored the facts behind hoopskirts and many other topics readers today wonder about in the Little House books. I loved researching the sidebars called "Fact or Fiction?"

 Happy Trails! ~ Annette Annette Whipple is a nonfiction children's author. Learn more about her books and presentations at

1 comment

  1. I can believe it, especially doors in those days. I and my bridesmaids had hoop skirts at my wedding, though I am sure not as wide as in Laura's childhood. But the photographer had a hard time getting us as close together as he would have liked due to the skirts.