Crinoline Look from the Contrast Fashion Show

This post from Ruby Pierce is the second of a series of four to share the text she wrote to accompany the four historic looks in the fashion show at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center in October.

The Rococo look was long-lived in it’s influence on fashion, evidenced by the similarities present in the Crinoline look, almost 100 years later. The extremely small waist was in vogue again, emphasized by an enormous and full skirt. The skirt was supported by a cage crinoline, or hoop skirt, which was among the most significant fashion innovations of the Victorian era. This silhouette was seen by some as a revival of the hoops that were used for garments from the 18th and 16th centuries. This silhouette would have been first accompanied by a chemise: a slip-like undergarment, which would have been worn under the corset. A camisole or corset cover would have been worn over the corset, and the hoop placed over that. A petticoat (or perhaps a few) would have been placed on top of the hoop, in an effort to create additional fullness.

The hoop reached its peak size in the 1860s, however, the largest hoops were reserved for the wealthy and only worn on special occasions. The majority of women sought a relatively more comfortable and reasonable silhouette, like the one seen here. Most daily wear for women was made out of taffeta, cotton or linen, which were stiff enough to maintain the desired skirt shape, but also quite easy to clean. Photography at the time was black ­and ­white, but clothes certainly weren’t ­­– many women opted for wearing bold colors such as this. Synthetic dyes were developed in the 1850s, which produced shocking and vibrant colors such as mauve and red. This look would have been for an evening affair, such as a dinner or semi­-casual dance, which is evidenced by the dropped neckline and higher quality of the fabric.

The model for this look was Audrey Aller.


Phyllis G. Tortora and Keith Eubank, “Costume for Men and Women: The Crinoline Period,” in Survey of Historic Costume (New York: Fairchild Publications, Inc. 2005), 309.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, s. v. “Corsets and Crinolines in Victorian Fashion”, accessed November 15, 2015,


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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
This work by Vassar College Costume Collection is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.