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Adventures With Crinolines

Each year hundreds of words are added to the English language. New words with new usages add to our language. That being said, words are also dropped from use. One of those words that I am sure most young people do not know is the word crinoline.

For those of you who do not know that word I will try to explain it. A crinoline was a half slip that was worn under your skirt or dress to make it look fuller. Those of us from that era loved our crinolines and loved wearing them. They made us feel very stylish. In fact, you often wore more than one for that extra effect.

I had a very full navy-blue satin skirt that I always wore a crinoline under. Of course, it took a lot of room for me to be able to sit down. It also caused a problem with my outer wear. My coat was not large enough to fit over the top of it. I had to leave my coat open when I wore my crinoline.

At least crinolines were better than hoop skirts. I never wore one of those but I know they caused a myriad of trouble to those who did. You had to be very careful when you sat down or you were likely to have your skirt go up over your head. I remember my nephew’s date wearing one to the prom. They stopped here to show us their attire. I wondered how she was going to get around all evening. It was a struggle for her to get into the car without her dress going up in the air.

I remember one particular evening when my crinoline was definitely a drawback. After our Class Night celebration, we wanted to go bowling. There were a whole bunch of us.

I had worn a crinoline with my dress. I wore it into the alleys and set up to start bowling. I could not bowl right with that crinoline. It stuck out as I tried to make my way down the lane.

I disappeared into the ladies’ restroom and removed my crinoline. I bunched it up and took it out to the car. Now, I was ready to bowl! It was amazing what a difference that little move made. My score improved a great deal.

The same thing happened during our prom. I wore a crinoline to make my dress stand out, but ended up taking it off for the after party. It was just too cumbersome to manage. I wanted to be comfortable when we started to fix breakfast at my friend’s house. I could not cook in that crinoline.

I also had a long crinoline that went under gowns. I wore one to my college prom. That was quite a night. I had been in a car accident just a few days prior to the event. My date lived over here while I was in Fredonia. His sister thought she heard my name mentioned on the news so he ended up calling to see how I was. My maiden name was not easy to pronounce and most of the time it was murdered in the process.

Another friend also had a mishap and she was on crutches. They called us “Crash and Crutch”. At least we did not miss the big event. My date brought me blue carnations to match my black-and-blue eyes! He had to wait extra time while they dyed the flowers.

My last experience with a crinoline was my wedding day. I had a crinoline to wear under my wedding dress. It was not particularly full but it enhanced the dress. I shed that before we left on our overnight trip. When my daughter wore the dress for her wedding, she also used the crinoline. I do not remember it causing her any discomfort.

While I am on the topic, I have to include another item that has disappeared – shoulder pads. Back in the late 80s and early 90s shoulder pads were all the rage. There are many pictures of me in outfits with big shoulder pads. Although I thought they looked nice I am relieved that they are no longer in fashion. I still have some of the outfits, but I removed the shoulder pads. As for the crinolines, I was also thankful to lose them as well.

Clothes are so much more comfortable these days. Thankfully, my second wedding dress did not include a crinoline!

Yes, folks, this idea came from my reading. I saw an article about a hoop skirt and it triggered all of these memories. May it bring you happy memories.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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