Our discussion this past Saturday about crinolines, crinolettes, and bustles left unanswered the two most critical questions of all: first how do you get into one, and second how do you sit in one. Fortunately, there is an army of historical dress makers and re-enactors preserving this heritage ofr us. As a result these questions can be answered.
First, of all there is a famous pair of Sarony Studios photographs from 1893 in the United States Library of Congress that show or reveal a woman’s crinoline cage. Even this it must be realized is pretty late from an historical perspective. I have reproduced them here as Figure 1.
It also turns out, perhaps not so surprisingly that there are lots of instructional videos on the web that span the subject matter from how to make to how to put on and wear these dresses. Oh yes they also answer the perhaps more critical question of how to take them off. I say perhaps because you can approach that question in much the same way you answer people worried about a cat stuck in a tree. “Ever seen a cat skeleton in a tree.” Kitties have a way of getting down, although it might be inelegant.
Anyway just a few suggestions regarding videos to watch. Historical sewing has an excellent video of how to sit in a hoop-skirt, and you can go from there an make your own.
And if you want to see how a woman got dressed in the 1860’s I recommend Nevada Culture’ website. This is significant in that it demonstrates that it could be done without staff; so even if you were more strapped than Lady Cora, it could be done.