How to Make
Create the Mood

1859 ball gown
under construction

crinoline cage

A prototype crinoline cage was made from wedding dress steels (metal covered with white plastic) with curtain rufflete tape for the verticals.

version 1 had the same silhouette front and back. I did not like the bulge at front stomach which shows up even more when the petticoat is put on top.

Laces in the centre front mean that when it is unlaced the crinoline drops straight to the floor.

version 2
The horizontal plastic-covered hoops were replaced by crinoline steels in version 2.
Whilst these are heavier they will not collapse as you move around. (video - see the purple dress at 0 - 1.00)

There is much discussion on the web about the size of a crinoline cage. The size and shape changed over time. It also depends upon how tall you are and whether it will mainly be used outdoors, (see contemporary cartoons), and how long your partners arms are!

Crinoline steels are snapped at the correct length and the ends strightened out with pliers. Then they are covered with tape - I used blue insulation tape as this is easily visible during construction.


The larger number of vertical tapes the more stable the cage will be. One end of the tapes was pinned to a waistband the correct length to start.

All positions were marked along the curtain rufflette tape before crinoline steels are slotted through.



Metal clips held the two in place and when I had run out I used clothes pegs to hold tapes in place whilst the PVA glue was drying.


Each cross-over was individually sewn together, back and front.

Once the basic cage was complete all the tapes were changed to white.



The positions of the steels are now modified so that the centre front is flatter.

The centre back and side tapes were labelled at the waistline to help when slotting the crinoline steels.



When you sit on the edge of a chair the crinoline settles down evenly around you.

If you sit back the hoops are distorted.

distorted hoops
to be continued
rear pads

rear pad

This pad prevents the crinoline from swaying sideways as one walks.

I drew around a large hat box to get a large diameter paper circle.


I placed this paper circle on the back of the crinoline and gradually cut pieces

off until the correct shape was achieved.

cut x2 in fabric and x2 in ballet net, and x2 in iron-on glue



Whilst the glue was hot the two parts were put together to make one stiff quilted stabilising pad

Quilted to increase solidity. Usual way is to machine-sew semi-circles 1 or so cm apart. As this is the21st century I decided to sew an abstract pattern based upon spirals and curved shapes as it makes no difference to effectiveness of the finished piece.

This pad was then sewn to the tapes.

add photo of pad completed

underneath pad
This half crescent pad is worn underneath the crinoline, at the back. This stops excessive forward/back sway as one walks.

It is stuffed with polyester cushion stuffing and is fat enough to touch the crinoline cage. Two tape ties were sewn on at the tips of the crescent and are tied around the waist at the front.

bottom frill

The frill is a bag that stops the bottom hoops swaying excessively as one walks and also stops one's feet getting tangled in the hoops.

Some cotton frilled fabric was lined with white cotton to form the bag, then machine-sewn together.


The two layers were draped around the crinoline cage and pinned on the outside above the lowest hoop and then at the top to every vertical tape; finally pinned at intervals between tapes.

Another fitting was held to check that the length was correct.

pinning, outside

On the inside the fabric was pinned up at each vertical tape and then at intervals inbetween.

pinning, inside

Having pinned the bagged frill to the crinoline cage inside and out, it was machined above the bottom hoop.

The top was then turned over and sewn above the 4th hoop.


The shape of the crinoline cage gives the typical silhouette for the late 1850's and early 1860's.





tiered skirt

The 3-tiered skirt was made from sari fabric that had printed borders which give a similar effect to prints used in the late1850's.

Since it is made from polyester it washes well and hardly needs ironing.
[no petticoats underneath in pics ]

As you sit down the skirt puffs up because it has trapped air underneath.

Gradually the fabric settles gently down around your legs.

Due to the shape of the crinoline the skirt is 1 inch shorter at the front than the back: after a fitting it was lifted/taken in at the waistline so that the frills are all even.
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last updated 10 October, 2012