démodéadjective: old fashioned, out of style, unfashionable [from French, the past participle of démoder "to go out of fashion," from mode "fashion"].
how to make an 1830's - early 1850's crinoline
what does it look like?
how to make an 1830's - early 1850's crinoline
IMPORTANT NOTE: THE RESEARCH FOR THIS PAGE IS OUT OF DATE (the text below is from 2002). I HAVE SINCE FOUND NEW RESEARCH & PRACTICAL INFORMATION THAT LEADS ME TO BELIEVE THE BEST APPROACH IS 1-2 PETTICOATS (AT LEAST ONE CORDED), HEAVILY STARCHED. I'M LEAVING THIS PAGE UP AS IT MAY BE USEFUL TO SOME PEOPLE, BUT PLEASE NOTE THIS IMPORTANT CAVEAT. I DON'T PLAN TO UPDATE THIS ANY TIME SOON (sorry, too much else to do). THANKS!
When I decided to make an 1840's ballgown, I was frustrated by the lack of information available on how exactly to make a crinoline. I wasn't sure how to my crinoline effective. I put together about three petticoats, but found that I was nowhere near the amount of fullness that I wanted under my skirt. I then turned to published works and the web, but found little information that was of help and soon began to tear my hair out in frustration. Luckily, with the help of the fabulous people on the h-costume list and some trial and error, I was able to create an effective 1840's crinoline. In order to be helpful to others, I decided to put these instructions online to help others with this relatively mysterious garment.
First, a caveat: I try to be as accurate in my costuming as I can and want to be. While the nineteenth-century hoopskirt was not worn until 1854, some costumers chose to wear one anyway for these earlier periods. That's fine by me. At the same time, while I tried to base my crinoline-making method on period-accurate techniques, you will see that I incorporated some aspects that are not period. That's my choice. I made my decision based on what was effective in giving me the correct look and feel, while being as accurate as budget and time permitted. When I talk about "accuracy" or being "period accurate," please know that that's what I strive for (within reason), but it may not be your objective. So please take what you will from this and don't see it as a prescription!
Throughout the period 1830 to the mid-1850s, women in many Western countries wore multiple petticoats (later termed crinolines) to create a fashionable silhouette.
"During the 1830s and 1840s as many as ten layers of petticoats were worn on top of the pantalettes, the chemise, and the corset, and they were made up of all manner of fabric. Wadded, quilted ones furnished both warmth and width, and also added bulk and weight. At least one red flannel petticoat was standard in the wardrobe of all women and girls. The number of petticoats required was reduced somewhat when crinoline was introduced in the 1850s. It was considered very progressive, because it took the place of two or three petticoats and was named for its content, the French term 'crin,' which means horsehair, and 'lin' from linen. The crinoline was fitted with pads or rolls of cloth to keep its shape. Eventually whalebone and reed, and then flexible bands of steel shaped into a framework, replaced the crinoline, and the hoop skirt made its appearance" (Betty J. Mills, Calico Chronicle).
In this webpage,the term crinoline refers to both multiple petticoats (1830s-1840s) and crinolines (1850s). You will often hear hoopskirts referred to as crinolines, but during the nineteenth century, they were referred to as cage crinolines to distinguish them from their earlier predecessor.
While the silhouette changed from year to year, each style from the early 1830's to 1854 can be made using various combinations of the following instructions.
The most important thing to do before beginning any costuming project (if you're aiming at accuracy) is research! Even if you're working from a pattern, you'll want to do your own research to discover whether the pattern you are using is appropriate. Some patterns are cut for our modern shape (without underpinnings) or our modern understanding of comfort. You'll want to decide to what degree you're going to try to adapt your own body and sense of comfort to the period you're wearing.
When I set out to create my 1840's crinoline, I was frustrated by normally helpful secondary sources. When it comes to crinolines, most histories of fashion offer information like that offered by Elizabeth Ewing in Dress and Undress: "The underclothing of a lady of fashion consisted of a chemise, long drawers trimmed with lace, a corset, a flannel petticoat, an under-petticoat three and one half yards wide, a petticoat wadded to the knees, and stiffened on the upper part with whalebones inserted a handsbreath from one another, a white starched petticoat with three stiffly starched flounces, two muslin petticoats and finally the dress." The Cunningtons' History of Underclothes describes the petticoats of 1841-56 in a similar manner: "A number, ranging from four to six, were worn according to the season. Only the outermost, of which glimpses might be displayed with discretion, was in any sense decorative... Some were flounced. Beneath this was worn a plain white longcloth petticoat, both being gathered onto waistbands fastened by strings... Beneath these was worn a knee-length petticoat of some stiff material, of which the most notable was 'crinoline'..."
While both of these sources offer information of value, they present two problems. First, I doubt very much that every crinoline or set of petticoats was created in the same manner. While Ewing was probably quoting primary sources from the period, I sincerely doubt that every lady wore exactly one flannel petticoat, one under-petticoat three 1/2 yards wide, etc. Do you wear the exact same underwear as your mother or best friend? I doubt it. The second problem presented by these sources was their lack of construction information. Even a normally helpful work such as Norah Waugh's Corsets and Crinolines limits itself to the kind of quotes presented above. None of these works told me how to go about actually making such a garment.
Similarly, while some of the most important resources for costume historians are pictures (including photographs, paintings, and drawings), I was again frustrated with this source. Most of the illustrations I looked at were not much help, as they either showed the outer dress or skirt, or the outermost petticoat, and not what was underneath and how it was put together.
While these works provided some help, I needed some solid how-to advice. Jean Hunnisett's Period Costume for Stage & Screen (1800-1909) (a great how-to manual, although many of the techniques are designed for the theater and are not necessarily period accurate) offered some direction, suggesting the use of a bustle or bumpad to fill out the back. Beyond this, Hunnisett gives vague directions of using "multiple petticoats" and then offers the appropriate-for-theater (but not for living history) technique of making the entire crinoline out of net.
Thankfully, the kind people of h-costume were (as always) ready to assist me. The following ideas are distilled from their advice, my own experience, Hunnisett's 1830-1865 petticoat instructions, and information gleaned from Janet Arnold's 1840's dress patterns in Patterns of Fashion: Englishwomen's Dresses and Their Construction, c. 1660-1860.
It seems that there are many different methods of making a crinoline. There are a few basic elements:
Depending on the silhouette you are trying to attain and your hip shape, you'll want to make either a straight waistband or a yoke. Take a look at the shape of the skirts and dresses for the period. In the 1830's, the shape is a cross between an A-line and a dome shape (there's fullness at the hip, but not too much, and the fullness widens towards the hem). In the 1840's and early 1850's, the shape is a dome (bell, birdcage, etc.), with LOTS of bulk (we're talking straight out!) at the hips. Note that for both periods the ideal was to have as little bulk as possible at the waist itself; this was achieved by sewing all of the petticoat layers to one waistband. The 1830's silhouette has a natural waist (meaning, the skirt begins at the natural waistline), while during the 1840's the ideal was of a dropped waistline, with a bodice that extends past the natural waistline. You'll see this dropped waistline more in fashion plates than in actual photos, so if you're making an 1840's dress, it's up to you whether to go with the dropped waistline or not. During the early 1850's, the waistline went back up to its natural position.
If you make a waistband, make sure to make it wide enough to attach multiple layers. Double the outer fabric and add something stiff in the middle (such as a piece of interfacing or organza). As I am quite endowed in the hip department, I decided to use a yoke in order to give me more room to graduate the petticoat fullness. This method won't work for an 1840's crinoline unless you REALLY have hips! (but it might be appropriate for an 1830's crinoline). Again, you want a stiff interlining if you go with a yoke. Note: I don't have any research supporting multiple petticoats sewn to one waistband; this was recommended to me by other costumers, but there's no research that I've found to say it's historically accurate.
As I decided to go for the long-waisted effect, I cut this yoke to hit directly at my natural waist, but started attaching petticoats at one inch below my natural waist. The yoke extends five inches down my hips. I sandwiched a layer of interfacing between two layers of white cotton, and sewed four running "guide" stitches horizontally from end to end, one inch apart from top to bottom.
I then attached each layer of petticoat at the position of each row of running stitches, which allowed me to graduate fullness down my hips. Again, if you're not as graciously endowed in the hip category as I am, you may want to attach all of your petticoat layers to a waistband (either at your natural waist, or dropped about an inch if you're going for the 1840's dropped-waist look). I drafted up Hunnisett's yoke pattern from Period Costume for Stage & Screen, and it worked quite well.
Make sure the yoke fits well. Mine is a tiny bit too loose, and the weight of the petticoats makes it sag a bit in the back. Luckily, I was able to correct for this with my bumpad.
Crappy drawing of the yoke, laying flat (CB = Center Back):
Again, depending on the silhouette you're trying to achieve, you'll want to fill out the back of your crinoline with either a bustle or a bumpad. For the 1830's, Hunnisett recommends a knee-length bustle that basically looks like a big couch cushion (the bustle is the width of the hips and extends to about the backs of the knees). Hunnisett's is cut in a large, elongated half-circle shape. The bustle is sewn with about 4 or 5 horizontal channels and then stuffed with net.
For the 1840's and 1850's, you'll want to make a small pad, shaped like a half-moon, that fills in the small of your back. Hunnisett provides patterns for both, although the bumpad doesn't really need a pattern.
You'll wear your bustle or bumpad either underneath or on top of your crinoline -- experiment and see what works best.
You'll want to mix and match the following, based on what works for you. All I can say is, experiment! You'll want to layer different combinations of the following:
Cut the petticoats out from straight widths of fabrics, not gores (triangle shapes). You'll want a lot of fullness, but the amount will vary depending on your height. Remember not to make your petticoats wider than your dress or skirt. You don't really need a pattern, but if you feel you want one, I recommend Past Pattern's #706 1850's-1860's petticoat pattern.
Pleat, gather, or cartridge pleat each petticoat onto your waistband or yoke. If you use a yoke as I did, you can attach one or more layers of petticoat at graduated spots up the length of the yoke. For ease in sewing, attach your innermost petticoat to the bottom edge of the yoke, and work up as you work out. If you need information on pleating, gathering, or cartridge pleating, check out Frances Grimble's After a Fashion: How to Reproduce, Restore, and Wear Vintage Styles. There are instructions for cartridge pleating online on the Elizabethan Costuming Page. Remember that more of the fullness of the petticoats should be at the sides and back of the waistband -- I put about 2/3 of the fullness in the back half of the skirt, and 1/3 of the fullness in the front half of the skirt.
Make the outermost petticoat plain (meaning: no cording, no flouncing, etc.). Sometimes cording/flouncing/etc. can show through your skirt fabric. If you want to do anything decorative (tucks, lace, eyelet, etc.), you'll want it to be on the outermost petticoat.
This was my biggest question, and I'm sorry to say that I can't answer it for you. I used the following arrangement, from inside (bottom edge of yoke) working up the yoke to the outside layer (waist-level):
Please note, I was aiming for an early 1840's dome shape. Also, as the costume I was making was an evening dress for the wife of a California miner, I did not make my crinoline as full as it could have been. Underneath this crinoline I wore a small bumpad that filled in the small of my back.
I very strongly suggest using a corded petticoat for a base, as it really does give some structure to the whole arrangement. On top of the corded petticoat, I suggest using as many flounced petticoats as you can stand to make. Finally, make the outermost layer a plain (no flounces, no cording) petticoat, and decorate this if you like with tucks or lace.
I used four sets of hooks and bars down the length of the yoke.
what does it look like?
the following works were of use to me in creating this crinoline:
the following works were also of use to me in creating my entire