Crinolines & Bustles

During the 18thC through to the beginning of the 19thC, hip-pads were worn attached to the back of the dress. These gradually decreased in size but remained while high waists were still in fashion. As the skirt widened in the 1830s the hip-pads (now called ‘bustles’) became larger until they became discarded in favour of stiffened petticoats.

The most popular petticoats were made of horsehair (fr. ‘crin’ – horsehair), appearing in about 1839, and gave the name ‘crinoline’ to any artificial petticoat of the 19th C.

1832 – Hoops of whalebone were introduced to give added fullness to the skirt.

1833 – (for making the dress full behind) “A piece of starched calico of greater length than width is placed upon a ribbon and falls inside; the ribbon is fastened round the waist”.

1839 – “Horsehair under petticoats ….. placed underneath the ‘Gros de Naples’ or Cambric petticoat”.

Flounced petticoats for mid 1850s skirts
?1854 – …. “to give requisite fullness to the bottom of the dress, straw or a band of crinoline is inserted in the hem”.

1854 – …. “petticoats of Gros de Tours (heavy corded silk) with deep and very full flounces.  The hem has a stiff braid, which gives perfect support to the folds of the material ….. Instead, starched percale (French cambric muslin/fine white calico) …. two or three deep flounces superimposed one over the other from the hem up to the knee.  These flounces give a graceful fall to the pleats of the skirt.

1855 – …. “in order to attach the exaggerated “rondeur”, “petticoats of horsehair are not enough, some are made in piqué with 5 rows of very thin and supple whalebone from hem up to knees…..”. Perfect support, but too stiff and bell-like.  (Instead for the woman of distinction) poux-de-soie (heavy corded silk) with 3 fluted flounces …. arranged one over the other.

1856 – A Lady of Fashion’s Underclothes:
Long drawers – lace trimmed,
flannel petticoat,
under petticoat (3½ yards wide),
petticoat wadded to knee and stiffened with whalebone,
a white starched petticoat with 3 starched flounces,
two muslin petticoats,

1856 Crinoline cage of steel wires
(Wathchspring Steel 1857) ‘The Parisian Eugenie Jupan Skeleton Petticoat 6/6 – 25/- (First type was whalebone, then next year Watchspring). This hoop petticoat consisted of 4 narrow bands of steel.  The first was 9″ from the waist and 1¾ yards long.  The second was 12¼ from the first and 4½ inches from the second and third and these three were 2½ yards long.  None must meet in front by ¼ yard, except the one nearest to the waist.  (A contemporary description).

The steel crinoline cage, of concentric hoops held by tapes, replaced multiple petticoats.  A slim petticoat, or underdress, was worn under the crinoline, and a light cotton one over it, unless the ‘cage’ incorporated a deep flounce.  Women frequently looped their skirts out of the dirt, revealing the crinoline flounce beneath, which could be of quite substantial material.

During the 1860s, crinoline was at its widest and the corset’s main role was to make the waist small, requiring a very short corset. Examples of these are:

1868 Thomson’s Glove-Fitting Corset: Cut in three pieces, the centre front formed a Swiss belt and the upper and lower parts gradually increase in size.  The back lacing had two eyelet holes and could be at the front or back.  A concealed spring prevented the lowest stud from opening.

1868 Messrs Johnson, Hatman & Co’s ‘moulded’ corset, was steamed into shape over metal and earthenware forms modelled from ‘beautiful examples’ of women’s bodies from the tiny-waisted to the elderly matron.  Called the ‘Line of Beauty’ corset, the back was unusual in being cut curved at the waist, allowing the stay to tuck well into the back and rounding the waist, which was considered the chief characteristic of a ‘good figure’.