Crinoline fashion of women 1850s

Fashion in 1850s, woman wears a gown with a low tight waist, a triangular body, and a long skirt. The wide sleeves are becoming narrower. From 1845 onwards, the two-piece costume was created, with a skirt and a jacket. The petticoats are replaced by a underskirt reinforced with horsehair: the crinoline. In 1856 the cage comminoline of flexible metal hoops appears. The skirt is becoming wider and decorated with strips and ruffles. The crinoline requires meters of dust. Because of the strong contrast, the extremely constricted waist is also much better. (Sometimes women fall asleep due to this extreme constriction.) The sleeves get a pagoda shape. Because of the large shawl, the silhouette resembles an inverted triangle. The hairstyles are simple, with middle separation, pipe curls or braided up to 1850 on the side of the face, and a flat bun against the back of the head. The awning hats are becoming smaller and smaller, with a border around the head and underneath the chin.


This round fashion is called “à la Pompadour”. The mode of the xviii th century particularly influenced the Second Empire, including baskets. The dress then takes a dome shape, the fabric of the skirt is flush with the ground, hiding the shoes without hindering the movement. In 1854, The Little Courrier des Damesquote a “boned skirt”. A series of whalebones form a lighter petticoat, supporting the voluminous and therefore heavy skirt. Auguste Person presents in 1856 his model of crinoline-cage. Consisting of a structure of steel circles of varying size, ranging from the smallest upwards to the widest at the bottom, it forms a cage. The metal elements are held together by strips of cotton or linen, or inserted into a petticoat. Thus the crinolines could be put flat for storage or transport needs. Several factors lead to this innovation: the increase in the volume of the skirt, the taste for richer and heavier fabrics, the convenience of a lighter structure to move and the release of the legs.

1850 – 1858: the fashion of flying
This mode corresponds to the manufacture of silks, wools and cotton woven or printed available patterns for flying or bowling, which are the success of all factories Lyon, Alsatian and English. The motifs are thus awarded at the Universal Exhibitions of 1851 and 1855. The success of these dresses, sold “kit” is explained by the ease of assembly. In addition, it creates a harmony effect between the steering wheels and the shape of the skirt on which sits the bodice bust. After 1855, the rich fabrics weary, just like the profusion of ruffles. Also, from 1858 the dresses evolve towards a refined cut.

Transformation dress
In 1845 appears the transformation dress. The women’s days are punctuated by visits, exhibitions, lunch, afternoon tea, opera, theater, ball… Every hour of the day is a dress, including a particular bodice. The necessary rapidity of change brought about by the close meetings during the day leads to the split of the dress into two parts. This doubling allows to keep all day the crinoline and the skirt, on which one attaches a bodice closed the day and broadly décolleté for the evening ball. A third one at the smaller neckline can be worn for dinner or theater. But this practice develops especially after 1870. Elements can also come to complete the outfit, such as adding garlands of flowers on the skirt for a ball for example. The use of guimpe, sometimes with sleeves, in the same fabrics, a scarf or a bolero that hide the neckline is also observable. Note that wedding dresses have two corsages: one for the church or the temple, the other for the evening. It is indeed during her marriage that the woman can, for the first time, reveal her bust. A certain strict codification of decorum confers on the bourgeoisie a semblance of aristocracy.

The velvet appeared, the richness of the fabric of the exemption superfluous ornaments and dresses found a certain simplicity.
The bodice is always worn on the shoulders and it is adorned with jabot or lace only to accompany the silk or canvas dresses.
The sleeves are wide at the top and open and very wide at the bottom to drop the lace highlighting the fineness of a gloved hand if possible.
Around 1856 appears the petticoat called crinoline which will gradually replace the petticoat and give an impressive look to the skirts.











1.Queen Victoria and her cousin the Duchess of Nemours, 1852
2.Eugénie, Empress of the French
3.Mathilde Bonaparte, Princess of France
4.Claire de Béarn, Duchess of Vallombrosa
5.Queen Isabella II of Spain, 1852
6.Marie Henriette of Austria
7.Alexandra Feodorovna, Tsarina of Russia, 1856, Hermitage Museum
8.Princess Louise of Prussia, 1856
9.Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaievna of Russia Duchess of Leuchtenberg, 1857 Hermitage
10.Princess Tatiana Alexandrovna Yusupova, Hermitage, 1858

Crinoline dress
A crinoline is a stiffened or structured petticoat designed to hold out a woman’s skirt, popular at various times since the mid-19th century. Originally, crinoline described a stiff fabric made of horsehair (“crin”) and cotton or linen which was used to make underskirts and as a dress lining.

By the 1850s the term crinoline was more usually applied to the fashionable silhouette provided by horsehair petticoats, and to the hoop skirts that replaced them in the mid-1850s. In form and function these hoop skirts were similar to the 16th- and 17th-century farthingale and to 18th-century panniers, in that they too enabled skirts to spread even wider and more fully.

The cage crinoline made out of spring steel wire was first introduced in the 1850s, with the earliest British patent for a metal crinoline (described as a ‘skeleton petticoat of steel springs fastened to tape.’) granted in July 1856.Crinolines were worn by women of every social standing and class across the Western world, from royalty to factory workers.

1850s Victorian dress Style
A similar silhouette remained in the 1850s, while certain elements of garments changed.

Necklines of day dresses dropped even lower into a V-shape, causing a need to cover the bust area with a chemisette. In contrast, evening dresses featured a Bertha, which completely exposed the shoulder area instead. Bodices began to extend over the hips, while the sleeves opened further and increased in fullness. The volume and width of the skirt continued to increase, especially during 1853, when rows of flounces were added.

Nevertheless, in 1856, skirts expanded even further; creating a dome shape, due to the invention of the first artificial cage crinoline. The purpose of the crinoline was to create an artificial hourglass silhouette by accentuating the hips, and fashioning an illusion of a small waist; along with the corset. The cage crinoline was constructed by joining thin metal strips together to form a circular structure that could solely support the large width of the skirt. This was made possible by technology which allowed iron to be turned into steel, which could then be drawn into fine wires. Although often ridiculed by journalists and cartoonists of the time as the crinoline swelled in size, this innovation freed women from the heavy weight of petticoats and was a much more hygienic option.

Meanwhile, the invention of synthetic dyes added new colours to garments and women experimented with gaudy and bright colours. Technological innovation of 1860s provided women with freedom and choices.

In the 1850s, the domed skirts of the 1840s continued to expand. Skirts were made fuller by means of flounces (deep ruffles), usually in tiers of three, gathered tightly at the top and stiffened with horsehair braid at the bottom.

Early in the decade, bodices of morning dresses featured panels over the shoulder that were gathered into a blunt point at the slightly dropped waist. These bodices generally fastened in back by means of hooks and eyes, but a new fashion for a [jacket] bodice appeared as well, buttoned in front and worn over a chemisette. Wider bell-shaped or pagoda sleeves were worn over false undersleeves or engageantes of cotton or linen, trimmed in lace, broderie anglaise, or other fancy-work. Separate small collars of lace, tatting, or crochet-work were worn with morning dresses, sometimes with a ribbon bow.

Evening ball gowns were very low-necked, off-the-shoulder, and had short sleeves.

The introduction of the steel cage crinoline in 1856 provided a means for expanding the skirt still further, and flounces gradually disappeared in favor of a skirt lying more smoothly over the petticoat and hoops. Pantalettes were essential under this new fashion for modesty’s sake.

Cape-like jackets were worn over the very wide skirts. Another fashionable outer garment was an Indian shawl or one woven in Paisley, Renfrewshire in a paisley pattern in imitation of Indian styles. Hooded cloaks were also worn.

Riding habits had fitted jackets with tight sleeves, worn over a collared shirt or (more often) chemisette. They were worn with long skirts and mannish top hats.

Hairstyles and headgear
Hair was dressed simply, middle parted and in a bun or wound braid at the back, with the sides puffed out over the ears or with clusters of curls to either side in imitation of early 17th century fashions.

The indoor cap became little more than a lace and ribbon frill worn on the back of the head.

Beginnings of dress reform
1851 marked the birth of the Victorian dress reform movement, when New England temperance activist Libby Miller adopted what she considered a more rational costume: loose trousers gathered at the ankles, topped by a short dress or skirt hemmed just below the knees. The style was promoted by editor Amelia Bloomer and was immediately christened a Bloomer suit by the press. Despite its practicality, the Bloomer suit was the subject of much ridicule in the press and had little impact on mainstream fashion.

Style gallery 1850–1854

1 – 1850s

2 – 1850

3 – 1851

4 – 1851

5 – 1851

6 – 1851

7 – 1852

8 – 1853

9 – 1854


1.The Bloomer suit, a short dress worn over full trousers gathered at the ankle, briefly adopted by dress reformers in the United States in the 1850s.
2.Male outdoors attire and female riding-habit of 1850 (New York).
3.1851 Parisian fashion plate shows the fashionable use of fabrics printed â la disposition (with border-prints) on skirt flounces and for bodices and sleeves.
4.Madame Moitessier wears a black off-the-shoulder evening gown with ruffles. She wears a brooch and bracelets on both wrists. France, 1851.
5.Mrs. Coventry Patmore wears a small fancy-work collar and a ribbon at her throat. Her thick, wavy hair is parted in the center and poufed over her ears, 1851.
6.Matilde Juva-Branca wears a dark morning dress with a lace blouse or chemisette and cuffs and short leather gloves. Her hair is parted and worn in long sausage curls, 1851.
7.Doña Josefa García Solis wears a simple green satin dress with laced short sleeves over a linen chemise or chemisette. Her lace cap is trimmed with rose-colored tassels and ribbons, and she carries an elaborate fan, 1852.
8.Doña Amalie de Llano y Dotres, Condesa de Vilches wears a bright blue dress with a tiered skirt. The long pointed bodice is trimmed with horizontal bands of ruching over a chemise or chemisette (or an underlayer styled to look like a chemise), 1853.
9.A reform corset from Madame Caplin. This corset was adjusted to the body, not to the dress as before.
10.Fashions of 1853: Flounced skirts, cape-like jackets, and heavily trimmed bonnets.

Style gallery 1855–1859

1 – 1855

2 – 1855

3 – 1856

4 – 1857

5 – 1858

6 – 1859

7 – 1859

8 – 1859

1.Empress Eugenie and her Ladies in Waiting wear formal dress (despite the outdoor setting). The hair styled with ringlets or curls on the sides and a small bun in back is typical. 1855.
2.French plaid silk taffeta morning dress has wide sleeves with box-pleated frills. c. 1855. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.2007.211.767.
3.Mme Moitessier wears a floral evening gown with ribbon streamers. Her lace cap is little more than a frill trimmed in red ribbons. (It is possibly a dinner dress, worn with a full dress cap. However, owing to the size of her cap, it is more likely an irregular headdress.) 1856.
4.Charlotte Cushman wears her hair parted in the center and brushed into puffs over each ear. Her morning dress has wide pagoda sleeves and is worn over undersleeves or engageantes. The high neckline is set off with a white collar. American, 1857.
5.”Going Swimming Fully Dressed” or swimsuit of 1858 is styled like a Bloomer suit (acceptable in the context of beachwear), and includes a cap to confine the hair.
6.Fashion plate from Godey’s Magazine, with full-blown little girl’s crinoline.
7.Countess Alexander Nikolaevitch Lamsdorff wears a morning dress with ruched violet ribbon trim and an elaborate lace collar, 1859. The violet trim and black cap may indicate the later stages of mourning.
8.Jacket from Godey’s Lady’s Book, December 1859. Colorful, braid-trimmed Zouave jackets based on military styles became fashionable in the late 1850s and remained so well into the 1860s.

Source from Wikipedia