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Title: Crinoline
Identifier: 985.7.1
Donor: Ruth Ingram Antiques
Item Date: 1855 1865
Creation Date: 2012
Location: Bradley Museum

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Description: A hoop skirt made of metal wires held together with cloth tape. The hoops are covered with cloth. Hoops increase in diameter from the waist down. Front opening at waist is edged with leather straps; in this area the loops are joined to the leather with metal studs. Extra piece of fabric has been sewn to waistband. Black printing on waistband: "M. Plimpton, Mass." And date. The number "28" (waist size) also appears. The two hoops closest to the waistband have been tied with string.

Purchased from Ruth Ingram's Antiques in Unionville, Ontario.

The cage-shaped crinoline first appeared ca. 1857. It was an undergarment designed for upper class women and evolved from the ever expanding petticoat. It served to demonstrate a lady's enlarging "place in the world," making it difficult for men to manoeuvre through a room crowded with crinoline-wearing matrons. It also provided a barrier between the sexes and the classes. As a result, the crinoline was much despised by men. Soon even the Church condemned the crinoline, for it quickly turned into a seductive undergarment and a woman's "sex attraction should be static and not dynamic." Since the crinoline was cheap to reproduce, the fashion trend spread to all classes. Now even a factory girl was wearing a crinoline. It's estimated that in 1859, Sheffield was producing enough wire for half a million crinolines each week. The crinoline's sex appeal laid on two fronts: a) it had become a common garment worn across classes "for it is a rule of feminine fashions that when a mode, intended to indicate social rank, becomes universally worn, it is then erotic in function." b) as a lady climbed steps, she had to lift the crinoline, revealing her ankles, and the glimpse of a pair of ankles was "a precious privilege". The crinoline also attracted unwanted attention when the wind blew, another reason it was morally condemned. There were dangers to wearing the crinoline, too, as some ladies "burnt to death by inadvertently approaching a fire." By the 1860s, women enthusiastically embraced the crinoline for its sexually attractive functions and resumed wearing a tight laced corsets to show off an hour-glass figure. Source: "The History of Underclothes" by C. Willet and Phillis Cunnington (Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1992) pgs: 154 - 157.
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