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Choosing Your 1860s Era Crinoline Size

Mid 19th century satirical fashion cartoon depicting the ridiculously over sized crinoline

When it comes to the crinolines of the 1860s, bigger is not always better. Contrary to popular belief, the crinolines worn by women of this period were not as wide as folklore (or Scarlett O'Hara) wants us to believe. While the largest period crinoline I have found documented measures a whopping 225" in circumference, the majority of 1860s era extant cages only measure between 90-105" in circumference.

(From left to right)
Crinoline c. 1860, 1862-1863 Era Crinoline, Royal Worcester Corset Company, Mid 19th century crinoline
images courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art

There is photographic documentation amongst the upper class and European nobility's preference for the larger cage crinoline during the 1860s. However, numerous 1860s era photographs support the idea that the average middle class European and American woman of this period chose to include the the more modest sized crinoline in her wardrobe (see extant images below).

(Images c. 1860s/courtesy The Lady's Resource )
To determine what size crinoline you need for your 1860s era middle class impression, I have devised a simple algebraic equation. The average waist size in the 1860s was around 26". Let's use the smaller extant crinoline circumference for our equation. Take your waist measurement and plug it into the following equation:


Here's how it works: Let's say you have a 32" waist. Plug 32 in the equation where it says Waist. Now do the math: 90x32=2880. Divide 2880 by 26. The answer is 110.76. So that means you would need a 111" circumference crinoline (or there-abouts).

Mid 19th century elliptical crinoline
(image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

19th century fashion icon, Empress Eugenie of France, c. 1865
sporting the larger elliptical shaped crinoline
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These pages are for educational purposes only.  All text copyright Susan Jarrett.  No unauthorized use without permission.
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Page revised January 2013