January 11, 2010

On the hunt for crinolines (Where do you source yours from?)

There is perhaps no shape to have ever appeared in the annals of fashion history that I love more than a full skirt. This adoration hearkens back to my earliest childhood memories, and no doubt, must have been influenced by everything vintage films set in the past (Gone With The Wind, Meet Me in St. Louis, etc) to Victorian novels, Disney princesses to the covers of bridal magazines.

Though they are often associated with the 1950s, the history of crinolines stretches back considerably further in time. The first versions of what would go on to later become the modern crinoline began to appear in the 1830s (though hooped/stiffened skirts were not breaking fashion world news per se; the farthingale, a hoop skirt that was used during the Renaissance, shared much in common with Victorian crinolines). The earliest crinoline iterations were more like stiff petticoats, however, and were comprised of horsehair woven with linen (the name crinoline itself deriving from the French words for “horsehair” and “flax”).

Within a couple of decades though, crinolines grew wider and began to include other materials (such as steel or whale bone) in their construction. By the 1850s the cage style (hoop) crinoline was in use and helped to eliminate the need for several (often heavy and warm) layers of stiff petticoats previously used by fashionable ladies to extend the width and (visual) circumference of their skirts.

{As this charming photo of a prettily dressed young woman (named Kate Chase) shows, by the mid-nineteenth century, crinolines were imperative to achieve the desired full, wide skirt styles of the day. Wonderful antique image via Belle Epoque 1900’s Flickr stream.}

As the nineteenth century progressed crinolines continued to hold favour, and various styles and widths were created over the decades, dedicated by the dress fads of the day. By the time the Edwardian era had come to pass, elaborate undergarments (such as corsets and bustles) had all but fallen completely out of vogue and it seemed as though anything even remotely resembling a crinoline might be banished to the back burners of history forever.

Fortunately, due in no small part to the popularity of wider skirts (and the return to a very hour glass shaped female form – often achieved with stiff undergarments such as girdles and corselets) that emerged following Dior’s introduction of the “New Look” in 1947, a decidedly 21st century version of the crinoline began to appear.

In nearly all cases (save for some styles that were worn under wedding dresses and other very formal gowns) the crinolines that quickly found favour with ladies of the day were made of layers of materials such as tulle, nylon, satin, and cotton blends. They were generally free of any metal or boning and achieved their volume thanks to multiple layers and/or stiff fabrics; some were very full and wide, others more subtle (such a slip or petticoat with a slightly flared, and sometimes tiered, bottom), but all were designed to provide the wearer’s skirts with a greater degree of flared out fullness.

{Many ladylike, elegant fashions of the late 1940s through to the early 60s called for crinolines to be worn underneath, thus allowing the skirt or dress to flare out in a wide bell shape. Gorgeous vintage image via jeanpachett.com}

Though crinolines would fall out of fashion again by the time the mod era arrived, they have continued to resurface and enjoy a moment in the spotlight occasionally since the fifties (primarily during the fashion frenzied decade that was the 1980s). Today, I would venture to say, most people (who are not vintage fashion devotees) associate crinolines with the Halloween costumes, square dancing outfits and/or prom and wedding dresses.

To my mind there is something inherently and expressly feminine about a full skirt, especially if it leads up to a fitted or belted waist. Over the years I’ve owned many skirts and dresses that had various widths of fullness in the skirt. From modest a-line shirtwaist dresses to full-fledged poodle skirts that really did create a circle skirt when I sat on the floor and spread their fabric out around me. I’ve loved every single one of these garments – and certainly have no plans to stop adding further pieces with full skirts to my wardrobe in the future.

Yet, almost ironically, despite my passion for wide skirts, I’ve never owned a crinoline (or even a slightly flared slip). I pined for one endless as a child to no avail. I’ve stalked thrift stores for well over a decade in the hopes of finding one (I have, but alas they were always the wrong size or too short for my tastes), yet so far come up empty handed in that regard.

Given that I’m in my 25th year of life now, it really does seem like high time that I did something to rectify the serious lack of crinolines in my closet! But where to turn to find these enablers of ample skirt volume?

Of course sites such as etsy and eBay can be good places to start (and certainly I’ve been checking them frequently for crinoline listings lately) and can yield both modern and vintage gems. It seems though that many modern day crinolines are too short for my tastes (it is an absolute must that any crinolines I purchase hit at least below the knee – if not longer – because I almost exclusively wear skirts of a similar length).

While it would probably be a good idea to get some basic colours (black, white, red, etc), hue isn’t the most important factor for me on this hunt. Quality, length, and a reasonable price (into which I factor shipping and any import changes, as well as the sticker price of the garment itself) are the main points I’m keeping mind while shopping for a crinoline (all the while daydreaming as if I were a little girl again about finally being able to give my skirts and dresses that added flare and beauty they’ve always dreamed of).

As such I’ve started scouring the web rather intensely in the hopes of finding sellers who offer longer length crinolines and have uncovered a few sites, such as Unique Vintage, Pettiskirt Style, Sterling and Pearls, and Memphis Vintage.

{Colour chart of the lovely 27 to 29 inch (depending on waist size) nylon net crinolines carried by Pettiskirt Style for $44.00 (US) each.}

It great to know that these online shops exist and I may end up purchasing a crinoline from one or more (provided they ship to Canada) of them, but before I do, I wanted to ask you, my deeply knowledgeable readers, where you like to buy your (new and/or vintage) crinolines from?

I value your impute so much and would love to hear all your thoughts on crinolines and where to buy them.

Many thanks in advance, everyone!


  1. I am always amazed how quickly things go in and out of style. i am glad there are ways to track these kinds of things down when we need them.
    Blessings, andrea

  2. I posted a few links a while back for standard length crinnis.

    here: http://living-vintage.blogspot.com/2009/07/what-i-wore-crinni.html


  3. Wow...I wish I dressed like this. I cannot believe how small that woman's waist is in the picture with the red belt! What a great post Jessica. I haven't been around much lately. So sorry. I will be catching up soon honey. Kori xoxo

  4. I'm in the same boat, I wear dresses that SHOULD have crinolines underneath (I just wear normal slips) nearly every day but I don't own a crinoline either. I always look for them at thrift stores but they are always way too small for me (my waist sadly is not tiny). I'll probably break down and buy a contemporary version soon-- that mint seafoam green one above is amazing! One source I can think of is a place that specializes in Square Dancing outfits... I bet they'd carry some for sure!

  5. Hi Jessica!

    What beautiful crinolines - how elegant & classic; those were the days!
    Was so pleased to find yr comment just now at the end of a previous post! If I'd found it sooner, I'd have included yr site in one of the links in the current post! Another time, of course.

    I'm so pleased you're well & had a good Xmas. All my very best wishes to you & yr husbamnd for 2010 too!

    Look forward to *seeing* you again soon,

    xxLOL LOLA:)

  6. Awesome job of research Jessica! I had two crinolines under my wedding gown, because I refused to wear a hoop. And all those pretty colored ones above remind me of Confessions of a shopaholic (her brides maid dress)

  7. This is so interesting! I've been keeping my eye out for a knee-length one lately. I wore one with a corset when I was a D├ębutante ten years ago, but its so long and I really am reticent to cut it. Thanks for showing the options for buying one, I just might look into it. I think a crinoline would bring new life to some of my vintage dresses.

  8. Oooh la la! Love them! Thank you for sharing your research, sweet lady! I want one of those crinolines! And, thank you bunches for stopping by GirlWhimsy over the last few days - your comments were a joy to my heart! I've missed your healing words, my dear, so your comments were a much needed treat!


  9. Wow, a real learning experience about Crinoline. I love to learn new things...so thank you so much. You chose lovely photos too.

  10. I love the photo of the woman in the white and red dress. I bought a crinoline from Camden Market a few years ago, but it was so scratchy i stopped wearing it. I then bought one from Vivien of Holloway, and i don't think i'd buy one from anywhere else! It falls below the knee, it's lovely and full and oh-so soft, perfect! Good luck with your search! xx

  11. My dear Jessica, I can probably get one for you from my wholesaler...what length, color and waist measurement are you? It would be my pleasure to keep an eye out for what you are looking for, and luckily I am in the GTA!

    Feel free to let me know :-)

    Ever since I was a little girl, oodles of fabric for a skirt and a crinoline to match were always part of playing dress-up, as well as Halloween costumes. But I have enjoyed wearing vintage dresses again with the attached layers of tulle - the swoosh and swish and rustle of the fabric is divine.


  12. I'm on the lookout too! But $44 is too steep for me... I'll keep my eye out when I shop second-hand stores...

  13. I adore crinoline. Sometimes when your petite (like myself) the right crinoline can be very hard to find. Puffy, but not so big it looks like you have a large bottom. Have come to the conclusion I might have to make my own :)

    Best wishes finding the crinoline of your dreams :)

  14. I'm on the market for one for months now but still couldn't decide whether I should a long or short... Thanks so much for this post.

    Also I haven't been out to sales lately cause it's too cold out and not much estate sales going on but I still look for your pins whenever I'm out & about shopping!

    love always,

    Fabiola "Fab"

  15. I wish I had some fabulous source to share with you, but alas, I don't. Good look with your hunt, though. :) I just love full skirts with a fitted waist myself - it's a look that is so flattering.

  16. Thanks so much for this post! I need more crinolines in my wardrobe.
    -Andi x

  17. I saw one tonight at Anthropologie... but it wasn't very floofy and probably quite a bit pricier!

    I do hope you post up an outfit entry with your newfound crinoline once you find it!


  18. great I just found your blog
    i will be reading some more now...


  19. I Got one for my wedding dress at www.shortweddingdress.com. Unfortunately I haven't worn it since, but plan on it as soon as I get myself a dress worthy of it! I also had my mother-in-law sew a teal ribbon on it and it looks glorious!

  20. Dear Jessica,

    Thank you so very much for you kind words they really brightened my day. And you made my return after a 3 week leave so much better. It's been such a wonderful treat meeting the talented ladies this year in blogland, such as yourself. The friendships have really come to be a treasure. I hope you had a wonderful holiday and wish you a happy and healthy new year.


  21. I too am constantly on the hunt for a proper crinoline. I've bought several from ebay and none are quite right. Be aware that square dance crinolines are really wonderfully fluffy but they tend to be a bit short for below the knee skirts. This will give you a bit of a "waterfall" at the edge of your skirt where the fabric passes the crinoline and hangs straight down.

  22. Can't give advice....but now I sure do want one.

  23. Absolutely amazing! Nice to find others on the web who like to reminisce as much as I do!


  24. Wish I had one. The colours are just fab! Cool post by the way:)

  25. This crinolines are fabulous. The volume in the is beautiful with crinolines. Awesome research, sweet.

    Marina G.

  26. Oh my sister found a whole bunch at an estate sale last year. She sold them all on ebay!! and etsy. They are so pretty!

  27. Hello My dearest Jessica!! I have missed you so! it's so funny that you posted this, because I absolutely LOVE crinolines! in fact I plan on purchasing some for my daughter very soon! :)

  28. So funny! I just bought my first crinoline last month! I loved reading the history of them. I bought mine at this great little store in Nashville....Katy K's Ranch Dressing. They have every length and color imaginable! I will keep my eyes peeled for any great vintage ones when I am out and about! :)

  29. OH, those are beautiful! I want a black one :) What fun! Good luck in your hunt!!


  30. Great post Jessica! Thank you so much for the brief history of crinolines. I too have been looking for years in thrift stores for one, but to no avail. The only ones that I have seen have been in vintage stores, but they are quite expensive. If you find a site with reasonable shipping to Canada, could you please let me know.
    XO, Jennifer

  31. Joyful Friday greetings, everyone, immense thanks for your helpful ideas and suggestions as to where to look for the perfect crinoline. I've developed so great leads and will definitely do a follow-up post sometime this year with all the details of how my crinoline hunt turned out!

    Wishing you all a gorgeous, relaxing weekend!
    ♥ Jessica

  32. The two photos were just really extraordinary and it's very cool.

  33. I completely forgot about your blog last year when my daughter was graduating, it would have helped me so much as we were trying to find affordable ways to help her achieve the 40's style she loves (both my girls do).
    We were successful and Sara found a gorgeous black dress with beautiful red sequin shoes. Sara was one of 2 girls who opted for this glamorous style amongst all the girls in over the top gowns that they kept tripping over.
    My youngest daughter is graduating this year and she has chosen to go much the same route with a touch of the goth twist thrown in... no one can say my kids are not unique, lol!
    Grace has found a black 40's style hi-low type dress with some... interesting shoes... and we are looking for a gorgeous colour crinoline for underneath for pop!

    This has brought me around to you... and you are in Canada. The information you have on your blog has been amazing. Before this I have been going crazy trying to figure the best place to get what we needed.

    I know this has been long but I want to thank you, you and every person who gives their input here are valuable!

    Many blessings!!!

    1. Thank you very much for the wonderfully nice update, dear lady, it's so lovely to hear from you. I'm delighted to know that you enjoyed this post. Seeing it again reminds me of just how many crinolines I've acquired since then. My latest two, purchased with some Christmas money recently, are from the brand Hell Bunny, who produce some fantastic below the knee (on most people at least) length ones in a great, ever expanding range of colours. I got their dark pine/forest green and burgundy offerings and love them to bits. They're really full, well made and splendidly comfy. I bought my Hell Bunny crinis from the Canadian site Retro Glam, but I know that many US, UK, Australian, and (other) European sites stock them as well if you can't find the colour you're after there, as do some eBay shops. Perhaps one of their offerings would work well for Grace's grade outfit?

      Thank you again for your great comment. It warms my heart to know that I was able to help you and your children out.

      Have a marvelous Valentine's weekend!
      ♥ Jessica

  34. I purchased my first crinoline from the former newport news catalogue many years ago. I loved it, and the feminine feeling it helped to impart was fantastic.