“The crinoline idea had been with me for quite some time before I developed it into a collection. I wanted to save experimenting with the crinoline for a rainy day, so to speak…. The first time I ever saw a crinoline was in the ballet Petruschka and I was immediately drawn to it. The mini crinoline encourages you to walk with a certain swing and it swiggles, which I also like.” – Dame Vivienne WestwoodThe crinoline, that embodiment of twee Victorian fashion, was actually not well loved at the time. Women found them difficult and unwieldy in the crowded city as people were constantly buffeting them, which made them the perfect target for pickpockets. The swell mob were a group of young street criminals who made a point of dressing well and invested in tickets for key events so they could rub shoulders with the wealthier classes. They specialised in picking ladies’ pockets, which, although deep, were well away from the body so the theft would remain undetected. "As the shapes of crinoline garments grew more and more extreme, artists were inspired to capture the absurdities and misfortunes of the wearers through stereo photos, as well as in cartoons and drawings. Just as Crinoline came into fashion, the stereoscope – the equivalent of TV and Film for the Victorians – became a huge craze." – The London Stereoscopic Company. In a seemingly bizarre turn of events Brian May (of Queen) has, along with Denis Pellerin published a 3D, stereoscopic inspired book on the history and influence of the crinoline.
This is in part an extract from Beth Smith's article in the Intrigue issue of Selvedge.Header image from Brian May & Denis Pellerin’s stereo collection