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Cage crinoline - Thomson's Empress

Thomson's Empress

  • Object:

    Cage crinoline

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1865-1868 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    W.S. & E.H. Thomson (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Steel frame, wool and cotton

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Mr E. W. Mynott

  • Museum number:

    T.51-1980

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

People first used the word 'crinoline' to describe petticoats lined with horsehair cloth in the 1840s. Women often wore crinolines with up to eight petticoats to help support the fashionable wide skirt. Sometimes they had to use padding to give the correct shape. By 1856, ever widening skirts meant the weight of these petticoats became very uncomfortable. Various designs attempted to solve this problem, including petticoats made from inflatable rubber tubes. These were a failure owing to unexpected punctures.

The 'artificial' or 'cage' crinoline appeared in 1857 as a welcome and more practical alternative. It was made of spring steel hoops that increased in diameter towards the bottom and connected with tapes. The number of hoops ranged from 9 to 18 according to the formality of the dress. The variety of different crinoline styles on the market was huge. Spring steel was the most popular material for the frame because it was flexible. In Sheffield, manufacturers produced enough crinoline wire each week to make over half a million crinolines.

Although crinolines were light, women often found them cumbersome and restrictive. Many compared them to steel birdcages. Devices were invented to make sitting down easy. Sometimes the hoops even had hinges to make it easier for women to go through doorways and up stairs.

Physical description

Crinoline frame consisting of a braid covered watchspring steel slotted through six wool braid vertical bands and with an additional four re-enforcing the back only. The shaped waist-band is of red cotton and there are two cotton waist tapes. Full hoops around the bottom half of the cage only.

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1865-1868 (made)

Artist/maker

W.S. & E.H. Thomson (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Steel frame, wool and cotton

Marks and inscriptions

'Thomson's Empress A' and a crown
stamped on a oval cartouche in black on outside centre back of waist-band

Object history note

Bequeathed by Mr E W Minot

Historical significance: This is a good example of a small crinoline demonstrating that they were not all so large. It also represents an example of a crinoline manufactured by W.S and E.H Thomson

Historical context note

The sway of the cage crinoline revealed glimpses of ankles and petticoat hems, and red became a highly fashionable colour for undergarments. A glimpse of stocking or an ankle was quite a revelation for onlookers, after the layers of petticoats and skirts of previous years ! Sermons dwelt on the moral dangers…..

The variety of different crinoline styles on the market was huge. Most of them were made of spring steel because it was flexible. In Sheffield, enough crinoline wire was produced each week to make over half a million crinolines.

The number of hoops ranged from nine to eighteen according to the formality of the dress. Although they were light, they were still cumbersome and restrictive. Many compared them to steel birdcages. Devices were invented to make sitting down easy. Sometimes even hinges were added to the hoops to facilitate entry through doorways and going up stairs!

Thomson's was the largest firm of crinoline manufacturers, with plants in England, France, Belgium, Germany and North America. The London plant employed over 1000 workers, producing over 4000 crinolines a day. An advertisement in 'The London and Paris Ladies' Magazine of Fashion' from 1862, claims that Thomson's were the only crinoline firm who had won a "Prize medal for crinolines at the International Exhibition, class 27". It continues :

"Do not be deceived into purchasing other than Thomson's Patent Crown Crinolines, the best, cheapest and only patented. The Skeleton Petticoats of Messrs. Thomson are superior to all others. Fashionable dressmakers value no other and refuse to make a dress on any other model…a great improvement is made by the Spiral Shape, which supports the Cage, adapts itself to the figure, and makes it sit well. The small Skeletons for children are very light, and not quite so wide…Thomson's skirts have their Trade Mark, viz., a 'Crown'. Sold everywhere."

Descriptive line

Linen cage crinoline, Thomson Empress, England, ca. 1865-1868

Labels and date

CAGE CRINOLINE
Red cotton braid covering spring steel hoops
Stamped with 'Thomson's Empress A'
Manufactured by W.S. & E.H. Thomson
British, 1865-1868

The sway of the cage crinoline revealed glimpses of ankles and petticoat hems, and red became a highly fashionable colour for undergarments. A glimpse of stocking or an ankle was quite a revelation for onlookers, after the layers of petticoats and skirts of previous years ! Sermons dwelt on the moral dangers…..

The variety of different crinoline styles on the market was huge. Most of them were made of spring steel because it was flexible. In Sheffield, enough crinoline wire was produced each week to make over half a million crinolines.

The number of hoops ranged from nine to eighteen according to the formality of the dress. Although they were light, they were still cumbersome and restrictive. Many compared them to steel birdcages. Devices were invented to make sitting down easy. Sometimes even hinges were added to the hoops to facilitate entry through doorways and going up stairs!

Bequeathed Mr E.W. Minot
T. 51-1980 []

Materials

Steel; Cotton; Braid

Techniques

Hand-stitched

Categories

Fashion; Clothing; Underwear; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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