Crinolines on an Omnibus by Charles Vernier, 1850s.
“I’ve been inspired by some recent froofy 1850s tiered dresses … probably not [for] Costume College as hoops can be bothersome in a crowded room or classroom.” – Val L.
When I started this adventure in learning about historical fashion a few years ago I had three distinct fashion allergies: hoops, ruffles and bows. Heavens, how that has changed. Now I see dresses and fashion plates featuring one, two or sometimes all three and think “I’d like to make that one.” This is a dangerous passion.
But Val’s comment above, made in reference to a recent post on Victorian summer dresses, is valid…not every venue is suitable for a hooped skirt. Luckily, hoops didn’t become The Fashion until the mid-1850s. (The generally agreed upon date seems to be 1856, although in Paris, where all things fashion come early and with no small amount of impact, they seem to have appeared a few years sooner.)
So, can Val have her froofy 1850s tiered dress and not wipe out an entire room of Costume College attendees? Yes!
Stiffened petticoats appeared in the 1830s in response to the need to support increasing skirt circumferences. They were made of horsehair and linen. The name “crinoline” was invented by one of the fabric’s manufacturers who combined the word crinis (hair) and linum (flax).
David Hough invented the cage crinoline and he earned a U.S. patent in 1846. By 1850 “crinoline” evolved to mean the rigid supporting structure itself. The next leap forward in design came in 1858, when W.S. Thompson developed an eye fastener so that the steel hoops could be hung with vertical tape…the familiar cage crinoline shape we recognize today. At that point, manufacturers were able to incorporate petticoat layers over the crinoline under-structure and the results were wildly successful. These “adjustable bustle and skirt” models were patented by Douglas & Sherwood in 1858:
Of course, tiered ruffles weren’t new in the 1850s. The 1840s saw plenty of tiered ruffles, albeit confined to the shape created by layers of petticoats (usually three) over a corded petticoat.
1840s one piece gown, the fabric sky blue and tan check, the dropped shoulders and deep pointed bodice embellished with cream silk fringe, the full skirts tiered
1840s fashion plate Les Modes Parisiennes
1845-1848 – Day dress – Silk taffeta, satin
Dinner dress American, about 1840, MFAB.
1848 fashion plate, Pariser Moden
Dress in checked white linen, with prints of flowers bouquet; Italian manifacture, 1848-1850 ca. Collection Galleria del Costume di Palazzo Pitti. All rights reserved. Photo-Marcello Bertoni
Dress recreated from an 1849 engraving. (threadheaded.blogspot.com.au)
Fashion plate, 1847 Germany, Pariser Moden
Day dress, ca. 1845, Australian. Muslin printed with floral motif.
The 1850s saw changes to bodice shape and style, as well as underpinnings for the skirts. Mimi Matthews, who writes primarily on topics regarding the 19th century, gives an excellent guide to the evolution of general fashion during the 1850s in her blog article here.
So, when it comes to a froofy tiered 1850’s dress, cage crinolines aren’t necessarily required as long as you stick with a bodice appropriate for the earlier years. I don’t know about Val, but that is great news for me given my previous attempt at making a cage crinoline (which, as you may recall, ended in utter frustration).
Here are a few examples of tiered styles from the early 1850s – no hoops required!
1850 – fashion illustration
1850 Day dress and evening dress in tulle and grenadine, trimmed with ribbons. Shawl of white lace
1850 Grahams – day dresses.
1850, America – Woman’s dress and matching cape – Printed cotton plain weave, with supplementary weft patterning (mfa boston)
1850, Stockholms Mode Journal
1852 Ball Gown, French – silk, cording, cotton, and lined hem.
1852 Le Moniteur de la Mode
Après-midi Robe et Capelet (Pèlerine) Ca. 1853 Amérique, le coton mousseline Avec impression polychrome frontière.
April 1852 Le Moniteur de la Mode
Victorian Dress C. 1850, This dress has detachable pagoda sleeves.
Silk day dress, ca. 1850-55. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag (Netherlands)
Summer Sheer Cotton Dress, ca. 1850 – In The Swan’s Shadow
January 1852, Day Dress perfect for afternoon tea or a garden party; Ladies Companion Magazine.
Dress 1852, American, Made of silk taffeta
Fashions for January 1850
And here are styles from 1855, just as the cage crinoline was poised to become the definitive fashion necessity:
A printed cotton day dress ca. 1855.
1855. La Moniteur de la Mode.
Day dress, 1855. Centraal Museum.
Evening dress, ca. 1855.
Godeys Lady’s Book, day dresses from France, 1855.
Cotton summer dress, 1855. In The Swans Shadow. National Museum of Czechoslovakia.
Carriage dress, ca. 1855. England.
1855. Le Moniteur de la Mode, Paris.
Los Modes Parisiennes. February 1855.
Muslin summer dress. 1855.
Les Modes Parisiennes. February 1855.
And here are three more examples of tiered ruffle gowns of the period, dated only “1850s” (although I’d wager the center plate is from later in the decade, given the bodice on that fabulous plaid gown and the hair styles):
Day dress, 1850s. Fashion Museum, Bath, England.
Tea dress, 1850s.
Lastly, a gorgeous example – one of my favorites: a gown dated from 1855 (photos courtesy of Kent State University) which I was going to save for a Weekend Wow but, since I missed this weekend and we’re on the subject…