In the 1830s a linen material woven with horsehair called
crinoline was first used for cloth petticoats. The word crinoline comes from
the French for 'crin' and 'lin', meaning horsehair and linen
respectively. This version of a petticoat was the original crinoline and later
the name continued in use incorrectly, but universally for the caged or hooped
In the 1840s flounces were added to the full skirts and
these gave an illusion of extra skirt width.
The new skirt style which emerged in 1841 was achieved by a
method of gauging fabric into organ or cartridge pleats which introduced yet
more fullness. This was abandoned in 1846 for flat pleating which gave even
more width. After 1845 double flounced skirts helped push the shape out,
making the skirt look even broader.
As the decade progressed, more and more petticoats were
added until the skirts were very full. For decency as well as fashion a
minimum of six petticoats was considered essential. They became very heavy and
unbearable in summer heat.
in 1856 the cage crinoline petticoat or artificial crinoline was
introduced. With this support, ladies had to wear just one petticoat to soften
the cage ridges. Of course as gusts of wind often blew the crinolines
sideways, long drawers became essential underwear.
Right - Image of basic frame crinoline giving domed
The American W. S. Thomson patented the metal cage crinoline
in the USA, France and Britain in 1856. Marketed in these three countries it
soon became a huge hit. The crinoline knew no class differences and it was the
first fashion to be adopted in England and America by all classes, even if the
quality of the crinoline was doubtful the cheaper it got. Illustrations of
working women wearing cheaper versions of the cage show ugly ridges of steel
Women loved the cage crinoline. At the height of its
popularity enough steel was produced in Sheffield to make half a million hoops
in one week. Ladies were freed from the heavy petticoats that had begun to
weigh them down and they were able to move their legs very freely beneath the
The cage crinoline could be awkward in wear and could cause
damage to objects, knocking them with a swish in the wrong direction. Even so,
it was a welcome alternative to restrictive petticoat layers. Pottery workers
found crinolines difficult to work in, but they persisted in wearing them
despite causing breakages. The fashion was everywhere and reached small towns
quicker than ever before after the railway spread ideas more rapidly from town
The skirt reached its maximum width in
1860 when the emphasis began to slope toward the back of the skirt.
the skirt a more pyramid shape which was frequently achieved when skirts were
made of several panels. Fullness was reduced at the waist and hips making the
skirt lie smooth over the stomach and the fan like shaped panels spread out at
Pictures - Crinolines of 1858
The back began to develop an almost train like quality.
Eventually the front flattened and the fullness swept even further to the back
of the skirt. By 1864 the support of a crinoline frame was decreasing in use.
The double skirt became fashionable again.
Most women were wearing a modified form of the crinoline
without upper hoop rings by 1867. Just a few steel hoops were left at the
bottom, but now at least two petticoats were needed to stop hollows appearing
in the silhouette. As had happened a century before with double skirt styles,
it was not long before the skirts were being looped and drawn up into a puffed
effect similar to the polonaise of the eighteenth century.
Crinolines were still worn, but they simply changed their
shape. By 1869 the flounce frilled horsehair
tournure dress improver or bustle was the undergarment to own to
achieve the fashionable silhouette of the day.
Buy my latest ebook and learn how to recognise changes
between Paniers, crinolines, bustles, bras and corsets and the affect this
has on the outer silhouette of female costume
My How to Recognise Undergarments in Fashion History e-book has 12 chapters about the changes in under foundations in costume history found in
various articles on this website.
It also has a new chapter on the history of drawers and knickers and
one covering the chemise and petticoats. This
you to read, print and copy from various web pages of fashion-era.com all in one go.
The Undergarments ebook includes information from my
articles on early corsetry, C18th Paniers and the sack dress, stays to corsets,
crinoline styles from 1830s to 1860s, bustle styles of 1870s & 1883/5,
Edwardian corsetry, bras and girdles
before and after 1950, and a new chapter on drawers, pantaloons, knickers to
panties. A look at Rational Dress Reform, the contribution of Mrs. Bloomer and Dr. Jaeger
to the resultant
cycling and swimming dress. For
more information on the contents of Undergarments click here.
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