I only heard this story for the first time a few years ago – on the Wikipedia history of the hobble skirt. Although the entry has now been somewhat modified, the story survives and is being repeated as fact. The story asserts that the shape of the Coca Cola bottle was either inspired by the hobble skirt or visa versa. However, the term ‘hobble skirt’ bottle was only invented by Coca Cola collectors sometime in the 1980s to describe the beverage’s trademark bottle shape, and the legend was born from an assumption that the bottle and the skirt style were somehow historically connected.
The term hobble skirt was invented in 1910 to describe a fad for a skirt with such a narrow hem that a woman’s ability to take natural strides was impeded. The style itself was a bit of myth, with the only real examples appearing on comic postcards or in sensational news reports with staged photos. Period fashion reports suggested the style was originally called the ‘aeroplane’ skirt, inspired by how some early female aeroplane passengers had tied their skirts below the knee with a cord or elastic to keep their petticoats in place during flight.
A narrow hem style was a fashion but not in 1910. By late 1912, skirts were being draped so as to give the illusion of a narrow hem, primarily for evening dresses and wedding gowns. However, these styles were not inspired by aeroplanes, but rather orientalism — a trend being championed by Paris couturier Paul Poiret at the time. The fashion was inspired by the line created by Turkish harem trousers and tightly draped saris, and the look of kimono-clad geishas taking mincing steps. In reality, the hobble style of 1912-1914 was not hobbled at all — women could take normal strides because of hidden slits and modesty panels beneath the skirt’s draping.
As for the Coca Cola bottle — In an attempt to standardize packaging and create a trademark identity for coke, a bottle design was created in 1915 that was based on the cocoa bean. The coca leaf and the kola nut, were uninteresting, however, the cocoa bean (which produces chocolate – an ingredient absent in the Coca-Cola recipe) has a bulbous, ribbed shape and was the true inspiration for the 1915 patented bottle design. The first examples of the bottles appeared in 1917 and by 1920 the bottle was universally in use for Coca Cola.