There was a time when fashionable ladies knew how to capture attention when they came into a room -by taking up all the room! The era of crinolines meant difficulty squeezing through doorways, getting into carriages, and even getting dressed. In the image above, two maids on ladders lower a dress onto a woman and her crinoline.

The name is a combination word of "crin" — a stiff material made using horse hair — and "linen." But it wasn't the stiff fabric that gave the crinoline its remarkable silhouette; it was the under-hoops, made of bone or even steel, which formed a cage. A patent for a metal crinoline cage was first awarded in 1856.

Such was its popularity — described by satirical magazine Punch as "Crinolinemania" — that some steel factories catered exclusively to the crinoline market, churning out around 3,000 every day. Crinoline-only shops offered them for sale to an eager public. Yet it was, as is obvious, a very difficult object to wear.

It was also a deadly fire hazard. From the late 1850s to the late 1860s, around 3,000 women died in crinoline fires in England.

The crinoline style eventually was replaced by the more understated bustle, but is revived in the form of the petticoat now and then. Mashable has a collection of stereocards lampooning crinoline styles from the National Museum of Scotland. -via the Presurfer

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