Updated: Jan 8
If you've ever wondered how those giant ball gowns, with a seemingly gravity defying fullness and movement take shape, Then you should know that what you are seeing is the results of a crinoline constructed undergarment or finish.
So what exactly is Crinoline?
Well, for starters it goes by many different names. Most commonly used today is horsehair braid, Which I routinely use in my own designs.
The name crinoline is often described as a combination of the Latin word crinis ("hair") and/or the French word crin ("horsehair"); with the Latin word linum ("thread" or "flax," which was used to make linen), describing the materials used in the original textile. (cited from wikipedia)
Like many fashion main stays, crinoline was widely use during the 19th century, as a supportive under structure of a women's dress.
It has a "cage" like appearance, sort of like support beams for structures. Otherwise known as a dress skeleton.
What were they made from?
They were made from a variety of materials; whale bone, gutta-percha, cane, and even an inflatable rubber. However, the most popular during that time was the steel hoop crinoline. Today's crinoline is usually made from plastic materials.
What is the difference between, horsehair, a petty coat, a bustle and crinoline?
While they are mostly similar there are slight differences;
HorseHair- is often a neatly netted strip that is added along the hem to create a more full appearance, (although some very creative designers have used them as a focal point of their designs). See image
A petty coat is often made from, fabric and can be added separately to create exaggerated fullness to a gown, I usually use this undergarment for my ball gowns.
A bustle can be one of two things. During the 19th century a bustle looked similar to the image below, used as a fashion statement for a desired silhouette. As you can see they came in different designs and materials.
Interesting to Note;
It's been said that the bustle in this form derived from stately/wealthy women observing the peasant women of their time. The women who often were required to participate in heavy labor in these large skirts, would tuck their gowns up to allow more functionality. Later dressmakers of the wealthy found themselves being asked to recreate this "bustled up" look.
Which brings me to the other type of bustle, one that I use with my clients. This type of bustle is true to its origins as its purpose is to allow functionality for the wearer. There are a variety of points and techniques required to complete a bustle and usually depends on the dress it's self.
And lastly the crinoline design that we have dedicated this post to; its caged design also includes vertical straps and horizontal hoops to its foundation. There are variations near the hem, where one can have a quilted fabric design or continue with the cage design. Lastly, to secure the crinoline to the wearer a belt apparatus is used.
Beautiful but deadly....
Although these additions were design to assist women in creating their desired looks, the crinoline skirt was noted for having contributed to the deaths of hundreds maybe even thousands of women, who lost their lives due to the structures catching fire.
The Modern Crinoline
Crinoline has been resurrected many times over the years most recently by talented designers like Zac Posen, when he began showcasing an ode to Charles James with theses cone shaped crinoline dresses that have become a very popular design. (Left muslin draft of dress, right finished product)
What does the future hold for the crinoline cage?
One can never know but, if history is any key indicator, You can bet they'll always be around in some form or another.
If you enjoyed this post I'd love to hear about it! Was there anything new you learned?
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Jasmine Terry-Ankobil owner and operator of LAIDIECLOTH fashion house, where I create custom designs and perform alterations for formal occasions. As well as my ready to wear shop. & Online Couture Sewing School LAIDIECLOTH U. Please feel free to share this article and/or visit my site www.laidiecloth.com