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!