Fashion style of the 20’s
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In 1856 (coincidentally, the same year the first-ever remains of our friend the Neanderthal were discovered in Germany), the cage crinoline was first introduced. Made from a series of round or elliptical metal hoops strung together and covered with cotton, the restrictive cagealthough it may not sound like an instrument of convenience by today’s standardswas cheered by women because it meant they could rid themselves of those heavy, starched petticoats they’d been wearing for years. The metal contraption kept a woman’s skirt belled out so as not to touch her legs and reveal any impious outlines of the flesh, and it also created the illusion of an hourglass figurethe oft-painful goal to which nearly every woman aspired at the time. It was an early example of how fashion could charm us into being uncomfortable for the sake of style. The cage crinoline’s popularity took off, and not just among upper-class women. In later years, it would be recognized by many historians as the first fashion article to be mass produced. According to The History of Underclothes, in 1859 a steel factory produced wire for half a million crinolines each week. Cages could be bought relatively cheaply, for about 50 to $2, according to Peterson’s magazine. Thus the style was not restricted to the eliteworking-class women and girls also wore the conical skirts but with fewer frou-frou touches. To separate themselves from the grubby masses, upper-class women poured on the pretension. In Victorian society, comfort was d class ; discomfort symbolized wealth and status. The impracticality of an outfit conveyed a strong message about a woman: she didn’t work, and she didn’t need to work. Cage crinolines for privileged women expanded to ridiculous proportions: the hoops, some measuring up to eighteen feet in circumference, made it nearly impossible for the wearer to fit through a doorway, let alone sit down or walk without assistance. She required additional seating room at parties to accommodate her skirt, and needed to practice extreme caution when passing by candles and fire grates, since the skirt might easily brush up against a flame and create an embarrassing, if not deadly, predicament. An August 1864 article in The Alexandra magazine stated, €œSince hoops came into fashion, cases of injury and death from the burning of clothes have been more common and much attention has been lately directed to them. In one documented case from 1863, twenty-five hundred people died at a church in Chile when the crinoline of one devotee caught fire after coming in contact with a candle.