The new American girl glides into a new century on the 1899 cover of Puck magazine. She holds onto her hat, her skirts flapping and duster billowing out behind her, a measure of her velocity. She smiles in a frank and carefree way, as Puck pushes her from behind.
Frank Nankiwell‘s marvelous drawing captures the freedom and athleticism that the American girl of this era was enjoying. Though her clothes look constraining to a modern eye, in relation to fashions that had come before, her garb was practical, masculine, and revealingly form-fitting.
In the Gay 1890s, as horizons for women broadened, their increasing physicality prompted dramatic changes in the clothing they favored. Women began wearing shirtwaists and belts borrowed from men’s fashions. Their bell-like skirts hugged their hips and thighs, before flaring out dramatically above the knee. The length was short enough to reveal ankles and leave feet more free. So dressed, the American woman moved faster and more freely, increasingly visible on skates, on bicycles, and in automobiles.
Image from this source.