The Victorian Crinoline

The 1800s crinoline, also called a hooped skirt or extension skirt was inspired by the open cage or frame of the 16th and 17th century farthingale and the 18th century pannier. The word “crinoline” originally referred to a stiff fabric with a weft of horse hair and a warp of cotton or linen thread. The Victorian Crinoline developed various appearances during it’s’ fashion lifetime as a result of new designs and methods of manufacture.

At least six heavy layers of petticoats were required to create the desired dome shape of the skirt which could be replaced as well. Thus the cage crinoline satisfied the needs of the women who wanted a perfect dome shape for their skirts. Due to the advent of cage crinoline, the women were freed from the hassle of wearing layers of petticoats and more concentration could be given to design a skirt to suit a particular bodice. The overall aim of crinoline was to give the “full” shape of wide skirt, reduced waist and matching bodice. The basic aim was to give a contrast between a tight fitted bodice and full skirt.

A very important reason for the advent of crinoline was that the layers of petticoats were not sufficient to create the perfect dome shape (as desired by the womenfolk of the Victorian era). Once a suitable model was developed, more effort could be given to developing better crinolines. Six layers of petticoats was a heavy weight and it would have given an ugly and inelegant look to the lady, who wore it. Thus the cage crinoline was developed to give the perfect dome shape in a simple and convenient manner.

The cage crinoline has an interesting history. Like so many fashion influences, this crinoline was made in France and subsequently adopted in England and America. Although the new crinoline did free the lady’s legs of “frou-frou” petticoats, it was often dangerous. It could have easily caught fire from candles, fire-grates or tossed “smoke-pins” of the gentleman. The bell shaped skirt soon took on the shape of cone with steel hoops only from the knees down. But, if the lady was smooth and flat over the hips, then wasn’t that worth it? It was not uncommon for a crinoline skirt to balloon up in the front if the lady wasn’t careful. But after all, it was the fashion and they were relatively inexpensive to buy.

The decline of crinolines began in 1860’s and after that Bustles or Tournures came in vogue. Instead of creating a dome shape the Bustles were used to create fullness at the back area around the buttocks rather than at the sides and front. Fashion changes every time and that’s what happened with crinolines, however ‘Crinolines’ did make an impressive mark in the history of women’s clothing of the Victorian era.

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