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Women’s Underclothing: Crinoline Cages

Drawing of a woman in her long underwear wearing a crinoline cage who is being attended to a young girl also wearing a crinoline cage. The woman is staring at her reflection in a full length mirror.
Drawing showing a woman in her underwear wearing a Crinoline cage, 1850s - 1860s.

In this blog we are going to look at the underclothing worn by women in our collections. Most of our collections cover the Victorian and Edwardian period but women’s underwear has a long and varied history. In the Victorian age women would wear a whopping number of layers to create a certain shape. The corset was used to create a tiny waist, and metal cages known a ‘crinolines’ were worn to achieve voluptuous skirts. Here we are looking at the histories of corsets, bras, crinoline cages, and knickers!

In our second blog our of four on the history of woman’s underclothing we are looking at the famous crinoline cage!

Crinoline Cages

In the 1850s the crinoline cage was invented to reduce the number of petticoats being used to create the fashionable large skirts of the time. The Crinoline cage was usually made from thin strips of metal encased in cotton tape to give support to the outer layers of the skirt. At this time the larger the skirt the better.

These large skirt cages caused all sorts of trouble for the women wearing them and many accidents occurred. One incident was recorded by a friend of the Duchess of Manchester who said that the Duchess tripped over one day when out on a country walk and ‘went head over heels in full view of the attended company’ but luckily, she was wearing red tartan drawers underneath!

Large black and white drawing of the back end of a carriage bus with the door open showing two ladies in the carriage looking out of the door at a third lady lying on the floor, her crinoline cage hooked on the carriage door. The carriage driver who had opened the door for the women is seen trying not to laugh with his hand close to his fact.


This woman is shown in one of the many accidents wearing crinoline cages can cause. These large skirts were thought to have killed around 3,000 women in the late 1850s and 1860s due to fire related accidents alone.

Photograph showing a skirt like garment on a mannequin. The skirt is made of fabric to just above the knee and from there its made of metal rods joined together by cotton take, keeping the two materials together.


A Crinoline Cage from the 1870s now in the Museum of Hartlepool Collection. The Crinoline cage was thought to have been invented by famous designer Fredrick Charles Worth, but he came to hate the crinoline. Image courtesy of Hartlepool Museum Service.

Three women are shown in the fashion plate drawing. One woman stands in front her face and body in profile. She is wearing a light brown checked dress with red velvet ribbon decorations. The dress features a tightly fitted bodice, large puffy sleeves and an even larger skirt, made this big by a crinoline. The two other women are in the background and their faces are not visible. One wears a blue full gown and the other a large orange cape.


Fashion plate from the 1864, showing the support and silhouette wearing a crinoline cage had. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum and Ground.

A day dress mounted on a mannequin with a tightly fitted bodice with buttons down the front and darker panels featured in a diamond shape coming down into a point at the waist. The sleeves are long and the skirt is very large thanks to a crinoline cage.


An 1860s crinoline day dress in the collection of Preston Park Museum and Grounds. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum and Grounds.

Take a look at the first blog in their series all about Knickers and Stockings here!

In the next blog of this series we will be looking into corsets! We will examine the history of the corset and be delving into the collection of corsets kept by our museums. This blog will be released on 20/03/23.