The crinoline in all its forms

The crinoline in all its forms

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Title: The decadence of the crinoline.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 46.6 - Width 36.6

Technique and other indications: Colored lithograph produced in Wissembourg.

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot website

Picture reference: 04-509604 / 53.86.4877 D

The decadence of the crinoline.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: September 2007

Historical context

Under the Second Empire, layered petticoats (up to six or seven) gave way to the hoop petticoat, an avatar of the crinoline. But this new crinoline is much more technically sophisticated than the XVI farthingale.e century and much lighter than the baskets of the XVIIIe. Above, we put on the dress "with two or three skirts", weighed down with drapes. It then becomes a subject of study for cartoonists.

Image Analysis

The work of an anonymous caricaturist, this Second Empire lithograph is exemplary of what newspapers then routinely offered to their readers. Its author opens this series of scenes with the "Last Triumph of the Crinoline" where it shows a woman in an imposing dress and a little girl also dressed in crinoline petticoats and panties. In the last vignette, "The crinoline definitively hunted by the fashion of the Ier Empire ”, he directly opposes this clothing fashion to that which, in part, will supplant it. These two vignettes thus function as the front and back cover of the work, but they also establish a chronology, the intermediate vignettes having the role of announcing, in the tone of satire, the disappearance of the crinoline.
The designer first makes fun of this elitist garment by having it worn by men, who have donned it for carnival, or by a young black girl nicknamed "Snowball" symbolic of the lowest social class. He plays with the shape of the crinoline, which would compete with that of the dromedary, then points out some risks inherent to its volume: in such outfit, it is difficult to get into a stagecoach without cluttering the public road and attracting the reprimands of a gendarme. In addition, this burden can easily ignite, which would require the intervention of firefighters. The announced disappearance of the crinoline then leads him to imagine its "recycling": abandoned on the public highway, the crinolines are used by peasants as scarecrows or sold off when weighed. Finally, the cartoonist does not fail to highlight the ambiguity of this outfit: the devil himself dresses in crinoline or stirs the fire under the skirt. Guarantor of irreproachable behavior, a veritable enclosure erected around the woman, she is also clearly an instrument of seduction. "The crinoline is sassy," writes a columnist. Impertinent by her size, by this monstrous challenge against man. To the one approaching the crinoline seems to be saying, "Do you want to get off that sidewalk or are you going to have the audacity to brush against me as you pass, to hug me?" ""


From visual play to diversion, from critical observation to moral judgment, from realistic events to imaginary situations, the charge highlights certain behaviors of the bourgeoisie of the Second Empire through the staging of the most symbolic female clothing of the diet. The criticisms against the crinoline exist, relayed by women opposed to these puffy outfits: “Skirts of a moderate size were desired by a few really well-made women, but the majority of flawed sizes won out (T. de Beutzen, "Fashion", in The Illustration, June 16, 1860). The caricatures of Cham, Bertall and Daumier transform dresses "too" large into so many burdens: dresses which strike passers-by, burn in contact with chimneys, get caught under the wheels of vehicles. The "constraining" artifice was still maintained in the 1860s, however, favoring a decorative and fixed profile, when the stake was on forms as much as on freedom.

The crinoline therefore arouses controversy. We debate its virtues, its dangers, its hypocrisy. It will undergo several modifications, and its vogue will last about fifteen years. Symbol of the splendor of the Second Empire, it will collapse with him. The Republic, she swears by the famous "ass of Paris", accessory also called "turn", which consists of a padding worn under the dress at the lower back.

  • caricature
  • women
  • fashion


François-Marie GRAU, Histoire du costume, Paris, PUF, 1999. James LAVER, History of fashion and costume, Paris, Thames & Hudson, 2003. Michelle PERROT and Geneviève FRAISSE (dir.), Histoire des femmes en Occident, volume IV, “The XIXth century”, Paris, Plon, 1991.Georges VIGARELLO, History of beauty, Paris, Le Seuil, 2004.

To cite this article

Julien NEUTRES, "The crinoline in all its forms"

Video: Victorian fashion: How to sit in a hoopskirt crinoline?