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But Maryanne wore her hoops as a duchess wears her crinoline.

Bridess Gauze White Bridal Crinoline Petticoat For Ball Gown Wedding Dress

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Inflating a crinoline with tubes, 1857

The spring steel structures were also very light so rather than imprisoning women in cages (as some of the reports and images suggest) they had a liberating effect. They freed women from the layers and layers of heavy petticoats and were much more hygienic and comfortable. The Lady's Newspaper of 1863 extolled the virtues of a cage crinoline (probably very similar to the photograph above).

Contemporary photographs show that many women wore smaller versions of the crinoline, as opposed to the huge bell-shaped creations so often seen in fashion plates. Large crinolines were probably reserved for balls, weddings and other special occasions.

Inflating a crinoline with tubes, 1857

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  • Cage crinoline, about 1860. Museum no. T.195-1984

    There were also many tales of accidents that could befall hapless wearers of crinolines, such as being caught in her hoops as she descended from a carriage or of causing havoc if she were a factory girl or servant as china, glass and other delicate materials could easily be swept off shelves and tables. In 1860 the textile firm Courtaulds instructed its workers 'to leave Hoop and Crinoline at Home'. The most frequent, and terrible, accidents were caused by sparks from open fires, a situation not helped by the wearing of highly flammable fabrics such as muslin and silks. Punch advised husbands to insure their wives at Fire Insurance offices and there were various suggestions for incombustible dresses.

    The crinoline craze reached its peak during the late 1850s and early 1860s. After about 1862 the silhouette of the crinoline changed and rather than being bell-shaped it was now flatter at the front and projected out more behind.