The cage crinoline, also known as the hoop skirt, was invented in the late 1850’s to relieve women from having to wearlayers of petticoats to make her skirt stand out. Though it greatly reduced the weight of women’s clothing, it did have its
drawbacks. It was a tricky contraption to maneuver and ladies had to take small steps to keep their “bell” from swinging out of control. If one lost her balance, sat too quickly, or was caught by a sudden gust of wind, her skirt was bound to fly up much to the embarrassment of the wearer. To maintain ones modesty when caught unawares, pantlettes were invented. Until this point in history, women hadn’t worn underpants. Originally, pantlettes were two separate legs that tied on to the waist. This design no doubt made trips to the outhouse much less complicated. The cage crinoline allowed women’s skirts to grow wider than ever. The 1860’s saw dresses up to six feet across. These enormous crinolines made it difficult to keep track of where the edges of ones skirts were. Toppled vases and broken teacups were a common mishap, however, these were only minor annoyances. Factory girls, risked getting caught in machinery where they might be mutilated or crushed to death. The airiness of these crinolines combined with the highly flammable dress fabrics of the time resulted in many women being burnt to death. Despite these risks, most women continued to wear crinolines for the sake of fashion.