Saturday, August 18, 2018

Great Balls of Fire

Crinoline illustration.

Sometimes fashion kills, and but ask Victorian women. But first let's get in the situation and start at the beginning (as it should be) So in the 19th century the crinoline appeared in the lives of women. It was patented by R.C. Milliet in Paris in 1856 and it was an authentic revolution becoming the most fashionable of the moment. At that time the skirts got their great volume thanks to layers and layers of starched petticoats that made the movement uncomfortable and certainly very heavy. Fashion was fashion, and women were willing to cope with whatever was necessary (they say you have to suffer to look beautiful).

Spanish woman putting on a crinoline (1860).
But then, the appearance of the crinoline changed everything and the ladies began to use that cage-shaped frame composed of steel rings designed to hold the petticoats and the dress (still wearing kilos of clothes, but it was more bearable). It was not something completely rigid that it moved in tempo with the movements of these elegant women, acting as if the dress had a life of its own. Its booster was Eugenia de Montijo who was a great promoter of haute couture in France hand in hand with Charles Frederick Worth (we talked about this great designer in a previous post). Like I mentioned a couple of times, upper class women were the ones who set the fashion guidelines, and in this case, it was not going to be less. The use of the crinoline spread and then the tragedies began on daily bases. This novelty had a problem and it was its great volume. It is known that there was still not electricity in the houses in that century, so the rooms were lit with gas lamps and they had a fireplace for cold winter days in each room. And the catastrophe was coming. They (what innocent creatures) got ready for their day with the crinoline coming and going without realizing of its great diameter, then they stumbled with the lamps or they approached the fireplace, a spark reached them and the flames devoured them alive with barely time to save them. And so this scene was repeated day after day. The death by the use of this complement was very serious issue. It is said that the number of women killed by their own dress was 3,000 in no less than 10 years (yes, you have read well ... 3,000).

A woman wearing a crinoline and being dressed
with the help of long poles (1860s).

Fortunately after 1865 the diameter of this killer was considerably reduced, and in 1870, the female figure got a more vertical look. The success of the crinoline was that its use was popularized in any social class, all women wore it. And some of them paid a very high price ... they paid with their lives.

See you next week, vintage lovers!

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