The Cage Crinoline

The cage crinoline, also known as the hoop skirt, was invented in the late 1850′s to relieve women from having to wear layers of petticoats to make her skirt stand out.  Though it greatly reduced the weight of women’s clothing, it did have its drawbacks.    It was a tricky contraption to maneuver and ladies had to take small steps to keep their “bell” from swinging out of control.  If one lost her balance, sat too quickly, or was caught by a sudden gust of wind, her skirt was bound to fly up much to the embarrassment of the wearer. To maintain ones modesty when caught unawares, pantlettes were invented. Until this point in history, women hadn’t worn underpants. Originally, pantlettes were two separate legs that tied...

Unmentionables

Until the early 19th century underpants did not exist as part of a ladies wardrobe, a corset and linen chemise was all the underwear a woman thought necessary, or even desirable.  It wasn’t until the turn of the the turn of the century, when the use of very light fabrics became popular, that women even considered wearing underpants as a necessity for added warmth.  When the crinoline was introduced toward the middle of the century, its tendency to fly up at inopportune moments created yet another need for these undergarments.  Queen Victoria’s stringent standards of propriety established underpants as a  staple article of clothing in every woman’s wardrobe. Pantalettes, an adaptation of men’s pantaloons, were the...

John Lincoln Clem

Nearly 100 years after the Americans had declared their independence from England, the founding fathers’ dreams of a united nation and liberty for all had not yet been fully realized. Dissension between the Northern and Southern states made Civil War inevitable, and the burden of blame rested heavily on the shoulders of both sides. As the fate of the United States hung in the balance, even the very young began to take the nation’s future to heart. The Civil War erupted at a time when a boy’s transition from childhood into manhood was determined more by his actions than his age. Young boys were eager to enlist for their convictions as well as for the adventure. Although the minimum age to get into the army was 18, boys would...

The White Muslin Dress

Fashion trends, though seemingly superficial, reveal a great deal about the social and political climate at any given period of time. The sudden and profound evolution of fashion during the turbulent years of the French Revolution is a prime example. Up until the Revolution, fashionable clothing was stiff and confining. People of substance didn’t need to work and the restricting corsets, heavy fabrics, and elegant embellishments testified to that fact. For the nobility, clothing was a direct reflection of their social standing and the more elaborate and restrictive, the better. The French Revolution which followed on the heels of the American Revolution was directed at the noble class who became targets of the commoners wrath. To be...

The Bib Front Dress

The years 1795 through 1820 saw a dramatic shift in women’s clothing styles. The stiff courtly gowns that marked the earlier 18th century were discarded for simple peasant style dresses in the midst of the French Revolution as no one wanted to risk being associated with the French Aristocracy class. As the French Revolution subsided, Napoleon led a number of military campaigns to Italy, bringing back many statues and artifacts from Greco-Roman ruins. A revival of all things “classical” was stirred. The austere peasant dresses that marked the French Revolution were easily transformed to mimic the garments depicted on the Greek and Roman statues by raising the waistlines to just below the breasts. This distinctive characteristic would...