“Almost all absurdity of conduct,” wrote Dr. Johnson, “arises from the imitation of those whom we cannot resemble.”

When a bout of rheumatic fever in 1867 left the Princess of Wales with a limp, London society ladies began to copy her gait. This grew so popular that it became known as “the Alexandra limp.”

The affectation was widely derided — John Stephen Farmer called it “an erstwhile fit of semi-imbecility” by “a crowd of limping petticoated toadies” — but it was followed almost immediately by the “Grecian bend,” in which ladies began stooping forward from the waist. Albert Jones Bellows described a sighting in Boston:

She waddled a few rods past the store, and then turned round, smiling, or rather smirking, complacently on her ‘crowd of admirers,’ with an expression of face which seemed to say, … ‘All my torture is repaid by the admiration I excite.’ And I wanted to quote the apostrophe of Burns to the louse:–

‘O, wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
And e’en devotion!’