Published: 00:00, 20 January 2014
In today’s world, it’s difficult to imagine anyone wanting to wear something as cumbersome as a crinoline as part of their everyday wardrobe.
In Victorian times, up to the 1860s, it was the height of fashion. Instead of numerous heavy petticoats under their dresses, women could now wear a crinoline: a cage-like frame made of lightweight steel and linen or flax. With its wide hoop at the bottom, it actually looked a bit like a birdcage.
As you can imagine, wearing such an item was tricky. Because the crinoline was light and roomy, a gust of wind could easily catch the wearer unawares: revealing their legs or worse still, knocking them over and showing much more!
However, there were more dangerous consequences to be aware of: fire. In 1861, the South Eastern Gazette reports that two women died as a result of their crinolines catching fire. One of these women was leaning to get some paper from the mantelpiece one minute and was enveloped in flames the next.
It wasn’t just the crinoline wearer that had to watch out. In 1866, a man caught his foot in a woman’s wide crinoline skirt.
The coroner pronounced a verdict of ‘accidental death from treading on a woman’s crinoline’.
There are many similar stories to be found in the South Eastern Gazette archives. What a dangerous fashion statement the crinoline was!
Sources: 31 December 1861, 3 April 1866
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