Monday, February 10, 2014

Dressing a Lady in the Civil War: Hoop Skirts

And of course, the hoop skirts. Who doesn't remember Scarlett O' Hara's enormous hoop skirts?
Hoop skirts became really fashionable right around the late 1850's. Actually, it's strange that they weren't used earlier. It was an awesome invention really; ladies before (during 1830's and 40's) wore many many layers of petticoats to make their skirts large. Now they only needed two petticoats (I'll explain why here) with the cage crinoline.
I think most ladies thought they were great; in the summer it was probably so much cooler. As a reenactor, I concur. When it's hot out you can really get a good air flow under there.
The ironic part of the hoop skirt was that to accommodate the hugeness of it, skirt circumferences became lots bigger. Which also means they got heavier. The corset really helped take the weight off from the actual skirt.
The crinoline at the bottom is a cage, made of metal, while the others are more like a petticoat with metal strips inside (these are hoop skirts). So there are hoop skirts and cage crinolines. Although back then, they were all called crinolines.
Hoop skirts were worn by everyone. The only exception was ladies who worked lots of manual labor, or had a particularly grubby job that involved in getting down on the floor, or if you worked in the hospital.
From what I have learned, hoop skirts were not allowed in hospitals, although I have seen a few original pictures of nurses who broke this rule. It seems like a good idea not to wear one, what with cramped quarters.
Notice how in this one, one of the steel rings comes up in the back. In the 1860's, fullness was desired towards the back, so the hoops became larger in the back as well.

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