Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Cage Crinoline

Civil War Jubilee prints from my Moda repro collection.

In looking at costume during the 1850-70 period to see how dress prints reproduced in this line were used, I found many portraits with the classic Civil War silhouette of a bell-shaped skirt supported by a cage crinoline.

Because dress silhouette is a good clue to the date of a photo I read a little about the phenomenon of the hoop skirt or cage crinoline
 a much-ridiculed fashion.

The fashion for wide, round skirts developed in the 1850s. Steel hoops were patented mid-decade as a response to the need for functional support for a nonfunctional look.

Empress Eugenie with husband 
Napoleon III of France

Some credit the Empress Eugenie with it's invention, although this is not true. She and the royalty of the era wore exaggerated wide skirts and did much to make them a fashion necessity.

Queen Victoria with her bell-shaped daughters
about 1861, by
John Jabez Edwin Mayall,
National Portrait Gallery

The English royal family were difficult to gather into one photograph because Queen Victoria and her many daughters wore them.

Queen Victoria's mother,
The Duchess of Kent.
The fashion for bell-shaped skirts
was probably at its most extreme about 1860, the year
before the Duchess died.

Queen Victoria's daughter-in-law Alexandra
at her engagement to the Prince of Wales, 1862

The point of all this width was to set the rich aristocrat above the woman who had to work,
whether the work was housework, child care or any other practical labor.

Humorists loved to make fun of the crinoline.
Here is a series of stereo-card photos
showing  preparations for an evening out.

The pictures are French.

The problem with the cage crinoline was that
it became an inexpensive manufactured item
available to any woman who had fashionable inclinations.

The upper classes developed a new silhouette about 1863,
a more elliptical silhouette, narrower at the sides, larger in back.

1868 Fashion Plate

So when you see the exaggerated round skirt, think about 1856 to 1865...more or less.

Carlotta and Maximilian
in 1857 before taking over the
short-lived Mexican empire.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has quite a few cage crinolines in its costume collection:


suzanne said...

There's an enormous amount of yardage in those skirts, which would also seem to price these dresses out of the range of the un-wealthy, not to mention the difficulty of doing housework while wearing the hoop skirt. Fashion is so much about showing off! Thank you for this beautiful and humorous insight into the Gone With the Wind era.

Judy said...

I was thinking the same thing as Suzanne. I couldn't imagine paying our prices of today, an average $10/yard for enough fabric to cover those hoop dresses, wow! Some of those prints and satins were quite beautiful I'm sure. I would like the western days dress and even then it would cost a pretty penny. In our day we spend more on quilts than we do on clothes!

Featheronawire Sally Bramald said...

There is a mention here of one of her (Eugenie) dresses being used at a later date to cover a small sofa at her home in England, Farnborough Hill. (Now a school and with many doorways too narrow for hooped skirts. My daughter attended there. She didn't buy the house until 1881 when the extreme fashion had passed)

Anonymous said...

I've just found your blog. It is wonderful. ;-) I love Civil War Era fabric and quilts. I can't wait to explore more here. Nice job!

Rachel said...

Fantastic! Thanks so much!

Unknown said...

Inconceivable points. Sound arguments. Keep going the truly amazing work.Gettysburg Museum of History