Cultural norms and modesty were amusingly different a hundred years ago. Showing legs and ankles were a sign of avant guard fashion. There's a definitely an Oriental fetish quality to the writing of the era too. In 1921, the story of Fah Teh Loy's bifurcated pantaloons caused quite a stir. So memorable in fact that a columnist just had to write about it..
Fah Teh Loy’s Wearing’Em Higher Than You’d Suppose
They’re' wearing 'em short in Chinatown. Sure, of course. It doesn’t make any difference that they are bifurcated. Short they are. to the high water level Of thé shortest skirt, and more. Fah Teh Loy, who's as pretty as any court lady that ever looked out from a bit pf old blue china, walked down the Dupont street part of Grant avenue today, and the setting took on much the aspect of Powell street on a tradewindy afternoon.
She had on a blouse cut in the traditional manner set by modish Peking dames 3000 years ago, but there was a touch of white fur at the wrists and the neck. The blouse was blue silk, and the trousers too. And. as said, they were cut as short as the shortest.
Time was when the trousers were decorously long and could be worn by the head of the family, at a pinch, without ridicule. But the skirt hems climbed and so have those of the pantaloons.
The girls of Chinatown have a turn for the chic, anyhow—they’re always about the Frenchiest damsels to be found in San Francisco. But it’s certain that if Fah Teh Loy walked down the Bois as she did down Dupont street today Paris would strew her path with metaphorical flowers.
Whether she rolled her own or not. there's no telling. The pantaloons have that advantage—or disadvantage —over skirts. They don’t balloon enough even in a San Francisco wind to let the curious see.
But ah ! those ankles of little Loy! No wonder the tourists remember Chinatown when they’ve forgotten what the Ferry building looked like.
Chinatown Belles of Bifurcated Pantaloons Right Up ' With Times