Skip to content

Crinolines & Cie THE BOURGEOISIE ON DISPLAY (1850- 1890)

Start Date 08 May 2015
End Date 10 April 2016
Venue Musée du Costume et de la dentelle
Location Brussels, Belgium

The crinoline initially took the form of an underskirt fitted with horsehair (from which it takes its name), reinforced with whalebone, making it very heavy. It would then spread out using concentric hoops made of wicker, then metal. The metal crinoline, a brand new phenomenon, is produced industrially from 1854 in England and France. It has the advantage of freeing up the legs but also carries the risk of inadvertently revealing them. To save their honour, women now wear ‘tuyaux de modestie’ (‘modesty tubes’) or pantaloons, which, until that point, were reserved for specific activities such as dancing and horse riding. 

There are all kinds of crinoline: from cage crinolines which only reveal the metal structure, skillfully constructed to guarantee better movement, to those whose structure is concealed in a fabric underskirt. Their shape changes over time, in accordance with the prevailing fashion and technological advances, but all create an extravagantly shaped silhouette. 


The dresses worn over these structures, known by metonymy as crinolines or crinoline dresses.