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Saturday, September 6, 2014


Crinolines go way back in history. If you were to look at drawings or old photos of women in long dresses—say about the late 1700’s to the late 1800’s: They normally would be wearing a crinoline. But underneath it? Why a hoop skirt which had metal casings going round along with material. Imagine having to wear one of those? And underneath that, the slip. Imagine trying to sit down with that thing on.
Think “Gone With The Wind” and the dresses that Scarlett wore: They had crinolines underneath them which made the dresses stand way out from the waist down. And the ever popular hoop skirt was underneath that; however, instead of metal casings, the casings were made of bone. Under all those layers were bloomers and a camisole with the popular waist corset that held a woman’s waist in tight. Imagine trying to sit down in a dress with all of that underneath it. Not impossible but no doubt the entire bottom of the dress would fly up unless a woman held it down. And that probably happened way too much. Oh the horror of it all.
Being encased in the gigantic crinolines as well as the other layers of torture undergarments, must have been horrid and hot as well. And ah, no air conditioning then either—an important factor. No wonder women fainted or had vapor attacks.
The early 1900’s saw a different view of how a woman would dress: It was the Gibson Girl look. Crinolines had been cast aside. A pinched waist and also a bustle that was attached underneath the long dress were in vogue. This look was popular for a while until long dresses minus the crinoline became the rage. Down side to these dresses as well as those prior, was a million buttons. Snaps had not been invented yet nor the zipper. What did a woman use to button up a dress? She used a button hook or if she were lucky, someone else used the hook. And of course the slip still ruled as did camisoles.
In the 1920’s women revolted against the underneath layered look and wore the vamp type dresses—but not all women. There were those that refused to bare it all.
Forward in time and crinolines lost favor among women—that is until the 1950’s when teenagers wanted to wear them underneath their skirts. At first the crinolines were white and made of tulle; mothers had to starch them so that they would stick way out underneath a skirt. And of course underneath that was the ever popular slip. Good heavens, mustn’t show an upper leg—still.
Then with the advent of many different colors of crinolines it made every young teenage girl want them all. Some were multi-colored. I know because I wore those things. It was such a rush to walk down the street with my skirt sticking out to high heavens and making crunchy noises. What was my favorite color? Why the multi-colored one of course but I also wore a white one underneath that and the slip. It WAS the thing to wear.
Was my mom happy with having to starch them? I don’t think so. And wearing two crinolines at once under my skirt, made it virtually impossible to get through rows of desks in junior high. But ah, I wasn’t alone for all of my female friends wore them as well. Sitting down at my desk was almost impossible but it worked after I smashed the crinolines down. My friends had to do the very same thing. This wearing of them went on for two years and realistically, I was never so glad to quit wearing them. They were hot, cumbersome and seemed to get soiled easily. Don’t get me wrong for girls also wore straight skirts and those were heaven compared to having wear crinolines. I know all too well for I couldn’t wait to wear a straight skirt—but the slip underneath it was still there.
Come high school, no female wore crinolines ever again but they would appear underneath formal evening gowns. Ah the torture was still alive and well. Every single prom required a girl to wear a strapless evening gown with a huge crinoline sewn underneath it. In retrospect, those evening gowns were pure punishment due to the staves that were in the bodice and crushed your ribs to no end. Vertical lines stayed on your chest for about a week. But then that’s another story in itself.
When I arrived at college, crinolines had completely vanished. To be free of those things was magnificent.
Do I have any crinolines? Absolutely not. I have worn them in vintage style shows but for owning any, that would be a definite no. If you google crinolines, you will find them under the tab “vintage.” Holy cow, just think: The crinolines we wore are now labeled that. Sort of petrifying isn’t it?
If you wore these crinolines, hold tight to your memories for no one today has a clue as to what they were—or how much they were at first lusted after and later despised. As for my feelings, I’m so thankful that they are a thing of the past but hey wearing one or two was certainly a blast way back when!
Sherry Hill
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Sherry Hill
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