Originally crinoline petticoats, made of horsehair and cotton or linen were worn to give volume to a lady’s skirt. As these crinoline petticoats did not work so well, they were replaced in the mid 1800s by a light cage, usually made of metal, worn under the lady’s skirt which gave a wonderful, sumptuous and luxurious volume to her garment.
Cutaway schematic diagram from Punch magazine, 1856
These dresses certainly did look grand and the wider the cage the better. Skirts became wider and wider so much so that the cartoonists had a field day in mocking this fashion trend.
Caricature of men being "squeezed" by women's expansive crinolines
From the 1930’s to 1950’s crinoline ladies were very popular as a design element for crockery and to embroider on household linen. This was a time of austerity, the great depression and World War 2, so it is easy to understand that these crinoline ladies in the lap of luxury, wafting through beautiful Victorian flower gardens, living the life that dreams are made of would appeal to women during this difficult time. As soon as times improved economically the crinoline lady faded from view.
Considering the times we live in perhaps it is not so strange that the crinoline lady has come back into fashion as a design element?
I have a collection of odd but beautiful tea cups and saucers and my son gave me this delightful Colclough Bone China Crinoline Lady (circa 1945-48) tea cup and saucer as a gift to add to my collection.
Crinoline Lady on a Tea Cup
The lady holds a bunch of flowers from her garden which is a riot of colour – lots of hollyhocks and roses. Hollyhocks are in fact synonymous with the crinoline lady in embroidery designs. This is not surprising as hollyhocks were one of the favourite flowers grown in a Victorian garden and are fun to embroider as well. Flowers in Victorian times had meanings associated with them and hollyhocks stood for ambition and fruitfulness.
I hope you enjoy embroidering your own crinoline lady.
Crinoline Lady Embroidered on a Cloth in a Garden of Hollyhocks and Daisies