In the fall of 1908 Wilbur was making demonstration flights and setting new records before crowds of spectators at Camp d’Auvours in France. One of those records did not involve prizes. Rather it was the occasion of the flight of the first woman to fly.
On October 7, he granted Mrs. Hart Berg the distinction of being the first woman to fly in a heavier-than-air machine. Mrs. Berg was the wife of Hart Berg who was the wife of Wilbur’s European agent.
The short ride was quite notable and brought her considerable fame as a style leader of the day.
This distinction was achieved accidentally. Just before the flight her husband, concerned about her modesty, tied a short piece of rope around the hem of her skirt to hold her dress securely in place in the wind.
In her excitement after the flight she forgot to untie the rope and hobbled around for awhile with the rope still tied to the hem of her dress. It just so happened that a leading French dressmaker was one of the spectators that day. She rushed back to Paris and sewed a new skirt design that quickly found favor with the fashion-conscious.
In this way the “hobble skirt” was born. It became the vogue the world over.