Studio: Making Crinolines

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This is a crinoline that I made originally to wear under my 1950’s dresses, a bit of padding to puff them out. It looks like a tutu – but it’s not a tutu in the true sense of how it might be worn in ballet, it’s closer to the crinolines worn around the ‘New Look’ era, or even as something worn underneath Vivienne Westwood’s 1980’s ‘mini-crini’. Crinolines, traditionally, have a lot more structure to them than this, incorporating hoops in the design to give shape and form to the piece as a whole, although the name ‘crinoline’ persisted well into the 1950’s and 1960’s, even though by that time there were no hoops, and it was closer to what you might call a flouncy nylon net petticoat.

In case you might be wondering why it’s called a crinoline – The name ‘crinoline’, according to Steele’s ‘Encyclopaedia of Clothing and Fashion’, “…is often described as a combination of the Latin word crinis (“hair”) and/or the French word crin (“horsehair”); with the Latin word linum (“thread” or “flax,” which was used to make linen), describing the materials used in the original textile.”

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I made this crinoline from scratch, working with what I had around the house (largely because at the time, I couldn’t afford to go out and buy one), and it turned out better than I expected. Making this also taught me an interesting lesson about what we can do when we put our minds to something – I felt at the start that I didn’t have the right materials, until I resolved to get resourceful and see what I could find.

It turned into a challenge to myself, to see if I could bring my idea to life. I needed elastic, so I pulled it out of a worn out pair of my old silk pyjama pants. The net tulle came from the underskirt of a long-since discarded dress (not sure why I kept the tulle but I’m glad I did!), and the waistband was a piece of cotton I found in my scrap bag.

Strange things happen when you share your creativity with others – I brought my crinoline along as a suggestion for a costume I wore for Mockingbird Theatre’s production of ‘Quills’, and it ended up at the statement piece of my outfit, my character running around in it every night for the full two-week run!

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