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Crinoline (circa 1840-1868)
Crinoline – a synonym of femininity, dress that on the one hand emphasizes feminine assets valued in Western culture such as full hips and bust, separated by a thin waist on the other hand tightly covering real shape especially of legs. It was a perfect reflection of its age – a period of dynamic industrial and technological development, matched by drawing on examples of the past. Of the age when role of the women from socially leading bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie and rising middle class was to take care of the household and reflect and emphasize social status of husband and family. Rich dress, restricting movements was becoming a visible mark of a social status and a condemned to idleness woman – a luxurious kind of a knick-knack.
Another invention which had a direct significant influence on spreading fashionable novelties and making them more affordable was sewing machine – an idea that was being worked on for over 100 years by constructors in many countries. Ultimately successful was Isaac Merritt Singer – an American inventor who improved previous designs and patented his machine in 1851. This invention accelerated sewing of fashionable dresses and perhaps contributed to a rapid increase of dress’ perimeter, however on the expense of detailed, hand-made ornaments typical for a fashion in Biedermeier period. New technologies however were not leading to modern forms. A historical model for widened skirts of the period was drawn on marvelous courtly dresses of Rococo period often referenced also in interior decoration and furniture of the Second Empire era. Together with a widened skirt, corset, previously in the beginning of 19th century, reduced to fit the waist and support the bust with no stiffening elements, was back in style. In the second half of 19th century it was again being stiffened with baleen, so that it could compress female’s waist. In opposition to Rococo corset which flattened and pushed up breasts, corset of crinoline period was molded for breasts and heaps. Moreover, it was equipped with a busk for a hook and eye fastening and reinforced with a steel boning.
Tendency in fashion to widen skirt appeared in 1820s, when starched petticoats with ruffles were being gradually added giving it a domed shape in second half of 1830s. Around 1839–1840 following patterns of Rococo fashion, the desired outcome was being achieved by sewing in inside one of the petticoats hoops made of reed or a strip of a horsehair. Soon however in 1842 a fabric of linen warp (possibly silk or wool) and a woof of horsehair was being used for producing stiffened petticoats. A name of the fabric ‘crinoline’ derives from Italian words crino (horsehair) and lino (linen). They were however, uncomfortable, heavy, restricting movements. In the beginning of 1850s to visually enlarge perimeter of skirts they were being decorated with horizontal rows of ruffles over the entire surface. Breakthrough innovation that lead to spread of crinoline and contributed to increasing comfort of users was a light construction of horizontal, flexible, steel hoops connected by tapes patented by an American inventor Thompson in 1856. It retained the name of crinoline also used for a dress worn on top of it. Thompson’s crinoline rapidly conquered Europe where thanks to its affordability and convenience it became available also to working class women of lower social strata. However, fashionable dressers wore much wider skirts which around 1860 could even reach perimeter of 6-8 meters. In 1860s crinoline again started to decrease and changed shape – it was being narrowed at the top and flattened from the front so as to finally disappear altogether from fashion around 1868 by transforming into a bustle.
Along dress on crinoline a rather modest, well fitted bras were being used. Everyday dresses were fastened in front by small buttons, with long sleeves sewn low and expanding towards bottom en pagode style. They were completed by a small collar. Also in fashion were basque jackets trimmed with haberdashery or with rounded flaps worn on top of a blouse. For a ball and evening dresses – when exposed arms and short sleeves were allowed – wide horizontal decolletage was being decorated with horizontal ruffle, lace or pleat - called berta. To visually heighten a silhouette back in style were inspired by a Rococo fashion shoes on low heels, with decorated insole which replaced flat footwear worn during Empire style and Biedermeier periods. Completing appearance of a fashionable lady was a hairdo of plainly combed hair, covering ears, with a middle parting and heavy knot over the neck. For more elegant occasions hair were attached or laid in curls falling over the shoulders on the sides of head. A fashionable headwear obligatory for all women when out of home was a flat bonnet tied under the chin called kapotka decorated with flowers, laces, tulle, feathers or ribbons and even with mock fruits.
Ladies fashion of the time was still dictated from Paris from a court of famous for her beauty and elegance empress Eugénie who in this respect tried to match Marie Antoinette. First of great Parisian fashion designers recognized as a father of haute couture - Charles Frederic Worth was creating his designs for her and for other rulers and European aristocrats. He opened his fashion house in Paris in 1859.
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