Hello, my sweetie!
I’m sure you already know that I’m a Regency-era nerd! Research helps me improve my writing and I want to share with you interesting facts I’m learning through this process.
I’m very happy that I can do so through my articles. Shall we begin?
At the forefront of the most outrageous clothes worn by women, is the 19th-century crinoline, a construction that lifted the back of the skirt. For the dress with the wireframe that supported it, the word originally meant a stiff fabric made of horsehair (crin in French) and flax (French lin).
The excruciating dress, designed to dramatically transform a woman’s silhouette, is responsible for the injuries and deaths of women. In combination with the corset, which reduced the waist diameter just as dramatically, the Victorians suffered and it was easy to lose consciousness. They fainted, suffered and caused a lot of damage to their vital organs.
And yet they wore it!!!
In those years it was not the comfort but the right look that mattered. After all, people in fashion say that “if it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t impress”! And women clearly suffered for fashion, as they do today with high heels and plastic surgery!
At first, the crinoline was only worn by high-class ladies, and later it became so popular that all women wore it. Fashion was curtailed when it was considered that certain movements could endanger a woman’s modesty. Also, the width of the crinoline made it difficult for women to pass through doors and the many fabrics it had made it very hot. The more fashionable the crinoline was, the more dangerous it was.
The huge petticoat we have all identified with the Victorian style dress was the cause of death for some 3,000 women!!! Amazing, right?
In England, 19 women died in a two-month period as a result of the fire-fighting crinolines. The women who were around when the incident happened couldn’t help because they were afraid they would catch fire too.
The ladies also found it difficult to get into the vehicles of the era, as they feared that the end of the crinoline would be gripped in the wagon and vehicle wheels.
Keep reading, sweetie. It’s just started to get interesting! 😉
In 1856 R.C. Milliet filed a patent for crinoline with a metal cage assembled from metal hoops attached to textile bands. The cage immediately became fashionable and was adopted by women across the social spectrum.
But while it certainly relieved women of many weights, crinoline in a cage also had many disadvantages…
Its most obvious problem was its size. The crinolines swelled up to 1.80m in diameter, causing difficulties in crossing doors, climbing or descending on carriages and hazards when using home furniture, such as chairs.
Another problem was how light the cage was compared to the previous layers of heavy pants. A mighty gust of wind could lift it up, revealing the most “obscure” of the secrets of the Victorian era: that women had legs! If the woman did not properly spread the crinoline while trying to sit down, the wreaths could be shaken to her face. What a scandal!
The most serious problem with crinolines was the very high health and safety risks they caused to working women. The maids who cleaned up the congested Victorian rooms were in danger of not only scouring the powders but also breaking the small furniture. There were cases where factory workers were left disabled and others were killed because their crinolines were caught by a machine.
At a time when the open fire was still prevalent, crinolines were also a fire hazard because the fabrics of the time—silk, muslin, satin, and cotton—were highly flammable.
Wearing crinoline was quite a test, just like the other 19th-century torture… the corset! 🙂
The corset was reinforced with banners and was tightened from the back to give the desired hourglass shape.
Tightening had been achieved to compress the chest and internal organs and reduce lung capacity, resulting in hyperventilation and fainting tendencies. The problem was so common that at the popular events there was a special room with sofas and armchairs for the suffering guests! Oh, dear!
But by the mid-1860s, fashion had begun to move and crinoline shrank, making room for the “crinolette”, a crinoline with a small cage that stretched back to the ground. The Crinolette was outdone and replaced by the tournament, a more durable fashion innovation that lasted until the turn of the century.
Today we find crinoline in bridal studios mainly but made of non-flammable materials, of course.
Well, my sweetie, this is the end of my first article!
I hope you enjoyed it—I certainly did while writing it!
Thank you for accompanying me on my writing journey!
It would be lovely if you could share your thoughts with me! Or whatever you like…Surprise me!
Written by Violet Hamers