#ForgottenWords – #AnswerOfTheDay – “Crinolines”

Okay, so far, I’m loving this idea of Forgotten Words, and it looks like some of you are having fun with it, too. Being a firm believer in the benefits of FUN, I plan to do a few more of these now and then, for sure. But now … it’s time for an answer to today’s forgotten word: Crinoline.

Let’s start with a quick glance at one of the most popular styles of the 1950s and early 1960s: Dresses with extremely full skirts that needed a bit of help to stay full and twirly, like these. 

Enter the crinoline, defined thusly:

“A crinoline (pronounced CRIN-o-lin) is a “stiff or structured petticoat designed to hold out a woman’s skirt, popular at various times since the mid-19th century. Originally, crinoline described a stiff fabric made of horsehair and cotton or linen which was used to make underskirts or a sewn-in dress lining.”

Not surprisingly, it’s hard to find a good picture
of a really full-skirted crinoline today, but here is one example. 

In earlier times, crinolines were usually floor length
to support much longer gowns and dresses.

However, more often, these longer gowns
were supported by hoop skirts, such as this one.

Hoop skirts also made an appearance in the 50s too, but they were very “swingy” and tended to flip up in the air. This made them awkward to wear with shorter dresses, and most chose one … or two … or even three crinolines, one on top of the other, to result in the fullest skirts possible.

When I was in junior high and high school, full skirts with multiple crinolines under them were the rage. You either used as many as it took layered over each other to make your skirt stand out about five feet wide (and thus making sitting at a classroom desk a real challenge), or you wore what we called “straight” skirts, instead. (Sometimes called “pencil skirts.”)

Here’s another example of a shorter crinoline designed for the full skirts of the 1950s, though mine were starched to stand out much farther all the way around.

As  you might imagine, washday was a real treat. (NOT!) My mother would launder my crinolines and then dip them in a tub of heavy starch and spread them out flat over two or three clotheslines outside. They would dry in a huge, flat disc that would only bend when a full skirt was draped over it.  What a production! And blinkin’ uncomfortable to spend the day in, too. (Not to mention that no one could get closer to you than 4 feet or so, even when the crinolines began to droop.)

Here is a more recent interpretation of a short skirt (much shorter than we wore them in the 50s) with attached crinolines trimmed in red. While my dresses and skirts were  at least a foot longer than these, well below my knees, this one is about the right width for what we wore. (See why sitting at a desk was tricky?)

And now those of you too young to remember have seen what a crinoline is, and what stylish young ladies of the 1950s wore more often than just about anything else. Jeans or slacks were against dress code at most schools, so skirts it was, and usually, the fuller, the better, thanks to those starched crinolines we wore beneath! 

Hope you had fun with this “forgotten word,” and I’ll be back with more over time. Thanks for playing along!

65 thoughts on “#ForgottenWords – #AnswerOfTheDay – “Crinolines”

    • Oh, they were all kinds of scratchy if you didn’t wear a slip of some sort beneath them. Uncomfortable in every way. It’s kind of amazing they stayed popular as long as they did, and I sure don’t miss them! (But then, it’s been years since I’ve had a dress or skirt on, anyway. I got rid of those and my high heels a long time ago. 😀 )

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Quite familiar with crinolines, however not with any of the fascinating “care” facts you shared “ow, ow, ow!” I can’t imagine how scratchy the starch was on the calves – for any part unprotected by the slip.
    Great post!😁

    Liked by 2 people

    • Count yourself lucky you never had to wear them, Gwen. Not the most comfy of clothing. BUT. It was fun to look all flouncy and twirly! Glad you think this is a good idea for a series. Will try to find more fun words for ya! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you like this feature, Darlene, and YOU are the only one to get it right on the nose! (It helps if it’s something you have personal experience with, doesn’t it?) I wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing a full skirt without my crinolines, that’s for sure. Comfy or not! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for the education, Marcia. Looks like I was right on track with my guess. Yay! I don’t think I everyhad a skirt like those you’ve described, but they look like fun…erm, except for maybe when you needed to sit down.

    Great post!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. The skirts look impressive but blimey, they must have been very uncomfortable and itchy from all that starch! Wash days sounds intense and I have to smile at the natural‘self-distancing’ caused by the wide skirt! As a child of the 70s and 80s I was more of a tomboy at home in jeans and a jumper, occasionally (reluctantly) wearing a dress when heading out for family meals, parties etc.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Each decade seems to bring in its own fashions and styles, doesn’t it? In the 50s, women didn’t wear jeans or slacks to public places very often, and they were against the dress code for school wear. The 60s brought in a completely different look with bell bottom jeans, Nehru jackets, mini-skirts (sans crinolines), love beads, etc. And the 70s sent most of those away, too. 😀 And yep … crinolines weren’t comfortable, but if you wore a slip beneath them, they weren’t too terribly scratchy. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

      • So true and it’s fascinating to see how fashion changes and tells us a lot about society. The 20s fashion and history is interesting and love those flapper dresses! As for trousers at school I remember the excitement in the mid 80s when girls were finally allowed to wear black trousers as part of the uniform!

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        • I think it was my senior year before the rules were modified at my school. You could wear “nice” slacks, but NO jeans! Ha! Little did they know what was in store over the next few decades! 😀

          Liked by 1 person

    • Imagine wearing crinolines to school every day, and cramming yourself into the little classroom desks! Urk! I had several dresses very similar to the first image above, and crinolines made them stick out at least 4 feet all the way around! HOLY MOLY! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a bit of a sewing background, so “crinoline” is familiar to me. I’ve made both pencil skirts and full skirts, and my own crinolines, too. If you buy a crinoline nowadays, affordable ones are itchy synthetic. But if you make one, you can put a soft-something layer beneath then attach gathered layers of nylon or poly netting to the soft-something. They wash well and dry in a flash.

    My last full skirt was in the form of a mother-of-the-bride dress for my daughter’s wedding. Afterwards, I trimmed the tea-length dress to a more modern knee-length that I can wear as just a swingy dress without the crinoline.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good for you, Priscilla! I used to sew back in the day, and made all my kids’ clothes for some time, too. But not any more. My sewing machine has been gathering dust for a long time. But even when I sewed, I never made dresses. I really haven’t worn one in many years. No occasion demanded one, and if given a choice, I prefer slacks, jeans, or shorts. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I always assumed that crinolines were of the hooped frame variety and so this has been an education! As a child, all my fairy story books had princesses who wore skirts like upturned pudding bowls and I remember drawing pictures where they stuck out so far you’d have needed to shout to be heard by anyone standing as close as they could to you. When I was 11, the fashion here was for the multi-layered experience. Some of the new nylon-based fabrics didn’t ‘take’ starch and so it was common for the fashion-conscious to use sugar solution to give them the required stiffness. I’m a little sad that I missed the trend… 😀 ❤ 😀

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    • I can’t even imagine using sugar in Florida. You’d be eaten alive by ants before you got ten feet out the front door!!! And take it from me, Trish … while it’s fun to look back at what it was like here in the 50s, I would NOT want to repeat any of it.

      Yep, hoop skirts and crinolines are two different things, and wearing them requires two different sets of skills to maneuver them here or there. If I ever find any pf my photos from those days, I’ll share them for a laugh.

      Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you enjoyed this, Harmony, and really glad you think it could be a fun series to continue. I’m looking forward to it, too.

      And yep, if you weren’t there to see it with your own eyes, it’s even more astonishing to imagine. I don’t know how we did it! (Or why???) 😀 😀 😀 Hugs back atcha!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Aw, I wish you’d seen the original post, asking folks if they remembered them. It was fun reading all the replies, before I finally posted the answer. I’m going to be running a Forgotten Words series of quizzes, then following that post with an answer a day or so later. I think it’ll be fun. This one was, for sure! Glad you stopped by, Jan, and nice to know someone else remembers crinolines! 😀


    • In the 1950s, every girl’s wardrobe included several for “full skirt days.” They were so difficult to maneuver in, especially during classes at school. I’m glad they disappeared in the 60s, too. 😀


  6. I wouldn’t have been a fan of hoops or crinolines – not much of a skirt/dress person. The first thing I thought of with this post was the series Happy Days, lol. Mrs. Cunningham’s dresses were always full.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good example of the way it was, Teri! I loved how they looked at the time, and girls were not even allowed to wear pants of any kind at most schools, so we had to wear dresses and/or skirts anyway. BUT. Having said that, it was a royal pain to starch all those crinolines and then try to navigate the classroom and fit into the little wooden desks! I don’t know how we did it! 😀 Today, I don’t even own a dress! I’m a knit pants, jeans, or shorts person all the way! Comfort Rules! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Spotlight – 16th January 2023 – #Forgottenwords Marcia Meara, #Booktitles Pamela Wight, #Reviews Diana Peach, #2022reads D.L. Finn, #Salad New Vintage Kitchen, #Frost John Howell. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

    • Good to know you remember this particular forgotten word, Judith! And drying over an umbrella was genius! 😁However, using sugar to starch it would definitely not work in Florida. Ants would eat the entire petticoat in an hour!! Eeeeeep! (Starch isn’t nearly as tasty, thankfully.)

      I’m looking forward to doing more of these posts in the weeks ahead, though it probably will be more of a monthly post than a weekly one. Thanks for stopping by, late or not, Judith. Always good to see you! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m​ like the white rabbit again some great answers/memories.. I vaguely remember my favourite auntie wearing these skirts with a cinched in waist that was belted and a blouse.. I used to think she looked​ so pretty… I was a Biba/ Mary Quant girl as a teenager.. Great idea for a fun post, Marcia x


    • Glad you enjoyed it, Carol. And yep! We had what we called “waist cinchers,” which were wide elastic “belt-bands” that would squeeze our waists down so small it’s a wonder we could even breathe! A frilly blouse tucked in and you were a fashion plate, for sure, though we also wore full-skirted dresses over those voluminous petticoats, too. (We’re so lucky they went the way of the Dodo bird and became extinct in fashion.) 😀

      I’ll be sharing more forgotten words here and there as I come upon them (or remember some of them), and I hope you’ll enjoy the posts. Thanks for checking this one out! 😀 ❤

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