Florence Nightingale was one of the first women to do away with the bulky crinoline, and was universally looked upon as eccentric for it. In her Notes on Nursing, the legendary nurse remarked, Fortunate it is if their skirts do not catch fire and if the nurse does not give herself up a sacrifice together with her patient, to be burnt in her own petticoats. I wish the Registrar General would tell us the exact number of deaths by burning occasioned by this absurd and hideous custom. It wasn’t as if there weren’t alternatives to those dangerous, uncomfortable styles. In 1850, Amanda Bloomer created the ultra-practical (but ultra-ugly) tunic and pantaloon Bloomer costume, but it only drew ridicule and seemed to prove the inherent ugliness of comfort. The outfit, introduced by feminists as a protest against hoops and the burdensome weight of undergarments, consisted of a full jacket with baggy Turkish-style pants, gathered by elastic bands at the ankle, under a voluminous skirt falling slightly below the knee. It flopped. Women everywhere continued to suffer the restrictive hoop skirts for the sake of taste and style. In the latter part of the nineteenth century the crinoline gave way to the bustle. Also called the crinolette or pannier, the small cage supported the back of the skirt without requiring the full hoop. Many fashion historians credit Charles Frederick Worth, the English tailor in Paris who founded the first haute couture house, the House of Worth, with introducing the bustle in 1868, but variations had actually come and gone since the fourteenth century, being called everything from a bum roll to a cork rump to a pouf. The bustle trickled down from the elite to middle-class women, who began making their own at home from pads, springs, ruffles, wires, or curved boning. Women’s magazines of the time touted the skirt enhancer as a must-have item. A snippet from Peterson’s in September 1873 revealed that the best bustle should be long and narrow, and consist of twelve steel springs encased in muslin and kept in place with elastic bands. A. T. Stewart, who opened one of America’s first department stores, imported and sold a Parisian pannier gown for $250, although it was suggested that black silk copies could be made for $125, according to New York Fashion.
Fashion style of the 50’s Photo Gallery
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