The Hoop Skirt
For a lady back in the mid 19th century, the simple act of getting dressed was a bit more laborious than it is today. In the 1840’s or ‘50’s, a lady typically began getting dressed with a pair of stockings that were held up by garters; then drawers, which were two separate legs attached to a waist band. They added a chemise (a full length undergarment similar to a nightgown); then several fully starched petticoats- sometimes up to 5, 6, or 7 to create a full bell-shaped sillohuette; then the corset to give them nice posture and a very delicate silhouette; the corset cover; then finally the wrapper which basically served as a morning/bath robe. When a woman was ready to dress for the day, she’d put on the dress, collar and cuffs or a chemisette if the neckline is open. If the sleeves were open, under sleeves were worn to cover exposed arms. As the day went on, a lady of means would change clothes several times during the day. She may wear a delicate silk brocade dress that would be appropriate in the house or for visiting friends. In the evening, one might wear a dinner or evening dress likely made of silk with open shoulders exposing the delicate collarbone. One would have jewelry, a bonnet hat, and other accessories to make the outfit complete. But in the 1850’s there was something invented that revolutionized women’s fashions.
The invention that revolutionized women’s fashion in the mid 1800’s is the caged crinoline. The caged crinoline was also known as the hoop skirt because of the series of concentric hoops found in its earlier version. This was tremendously popular to women because not only did it lighten the weight of the multiple petticoats hanging from the corseted waist; but also it was much cooler because women only had to wear one petticoat underneath and one or two petticoats over the hoop skirt.
The caged crinoline became the staple for the silhouette which changed throughout the 19 th century. The crinolette appeared next. Popular in the late 1860’s or 1870, the crinolette brought the fullness of the skirt to the back of the dress. The fullness of the skirt moved up to the hips with the use of the rump or the bustle which became very popular in the early 1870’s.
The hoop skirt was so important to woman back in the 19th century that in 1862, war refugees Lizzie Hardin, her mother and sister gave up their fashionable clothing to pass unnoticed from Chattanooga to Atlanta. Once safely in Atlanta, they sought to re-establish their routines and their wardrobes. Lizzie stated, “The time was very dull; but we met some friends; and between reading and sleeping and a desperate hunt for hoops in which we were engaged; we managed to exist very comfortably. We finally had to send to Augusta for hoops; that being the nearest point where such articles of luxury could be obtained. I hailed mine with joy and determined that no pursuit however hot; should ever make me drop them (hoops)”. The hoop skirt —a very indispensable for 19 th century fashions.
Research and background provided by
Atlanta History Center - Museum of Textiles & Social History
130 West Paces Ferry Road, N.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30305
Contact: Hillary Hardwick, Public Relations Manager