Crinolinemania: The Deadly Victorian Fashion Garment Which Killed Around 3,000 Women
A modern-age observer might think that crinolines look very unattractive and highly uncomfortable. It’s hard to understand why would anyone voluntarily wear something which resembles a birdcage around their waist?
Nonetheless, the Victorian fashion trend shows that attractiveness and comfort didn’t go hand in hand. Many women in the mid-19th century became real fashion victims who followed a trend, which cost them more than just money.
What is crinoline?
A strange name, which seems to suit the same strange object perfectly, appeared in the mid-1800's. Perhaps, the strangest of all is the fact that it’s still occasionally worn today.
The name “crinoline” comes from a combination of two words: “crin” – a material made with horse hair, and “linen.” Even though the fabric was quite stiff by itself, it didn’t form a remarkable, some would say ridiculous, silhouette. It was all down to the under-hoops that were made of bone or even steel, which formed a cage.
Even though crinoline helped achieve the desired profile, it was heavy, uncomfortable, hot, and unhygienic, especially during the summer days.
A fashion trend or a deadly garment?
The trend became so popular that the satirical magazine Punch nicknamed it “Crinolinemania.” Many steel factories catered exclusively to the crinoline market. Yet, it’s not surprising that this object was not the easiest one to wear and, in some cases, even deadly.
The numerous advertisements tried to reassure that their product would provide the desired look and wouldn't hinder the freedom of movement. This created the false sense of security, which resulted in many tragical accidents.
From the late 1850s to the late 1860s, around 3,000 women died in crinoline fires in England. Other dangers included the hoops being caught in machinery, carriage wheels, and gusts of wind.
Crinoline was widely criticized by media. People wrote articles, poems, and songs, complaining about the fashion trend.
Even Queen Victoria was believed to dislike this garment. In 1858, she requested the Prussian ladies not to wear crinolines because there was not enough room in the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace during her daughter’s wedding.
Would you follow a fashion trend even if there was a possibility of becoming a real victim of it?