In the eighteenth century, hooped skirts were a popular choice of ladies dress attire as they enabled a dramatic entrance, and also flattered the figure when pregnant. They did take up considerable space though. For the performance of the Messiah Handel instructed the ladies to come without hooped skirts, and gentlemen without their swords. The capacity of the audience grew from 600 to 700 as a result.
Source: Marek, George (1969) Beethoven: Biography of a Genius. London: William Kimber, p.9.