Continuation of the history of the crinolin (link). On to the victorian era.....
A young Queen victoria
The Victorian era begins
With the ascension of Queen Victoria to the throne in 1837 the fashionable women in Britain looked to their queen for affirmation of new fashions and indeed to set trends.
Under the influence of the new queen the style of dress changed from the voluminous billowing sleeved confections with bonnets covered in ribbons to lean toward a more austere elegance.
1859 fashion plate of both men's and women's daywear, with seabathing in background. He wears the new leisure fashion, the sack coat.
A low waist and sloping shoulders characterised the style, along with wide sweeping skirts which required layer upon layer of crinolines to keep their shape.
This was both uncomfortable and unhygienic and most likely the full production was only endured for visitors and outings. At home an abbreviated version would have been worn in most cases.
Technology brings change
With the development of sewing machine in the 1850’s the production of women’s clothing was made immeasurably easier and much faster.
As such new designs could be experimented with as demand could more easily be met leaving room for experimentation.
Early advertisment for a sewing maching from around the 1950's
The focus shifted from the waist to the skirts during this period and skirts became wider and wider leaving the crinoline unable to bear the load.
A satirical cartoon by the great George Cruikshank of an early version of the inflatable crinoline published in ‘The comic Almanac’ in 1850 before inflatable crinolines were widely used.
Enter the inflatable crinoline. Patented in May 1856 this baby had to be inflated with a bellows; then deflated when you sat down and reinflated when you got back up again!
Due to the fact that inflating, deflating etc was so impractical this invention soon developed into steel cage or whale bone structure.
There is a common misconception that these structures were cage like and led to women being restricted in many ways, such as being unable to climb a narrow stairway or sit down easily.
This however was not the case; the steel cage was actually far lighter than the old horsehair crinoline and incredibly flexible.
Cage crinoline, with spring steel hoops covered in off-white linen. British, from about 1860
This allowed ladies a freedom of movement as the cage would simply move and bend should a lady sit down or brush past a solid object.
Fashion plate from the Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine, 1865.
To be continued...
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