Fresh off the success of my bustle for Steamcon II, I decided I’d try stepping it up a notch and make myself an Elliptical Hoop like the ones used to support skirts from a short transitional period between around 1865 through 1870. It’s a weird period where you can literally see the fullness of the traditional circular crinoline cages on the 1850’s and 1860’s (think United States Civil War era ladies fashion) moving further and further back to eventually become the bustles popular through 1870’s through 1890.
Above is a fashion plate from 1860 showing the circular hoop silhouettes which were popular from the 1850’s through ~1865.
This fashion plate from 1868 shows the elliptical hoop skirt silhouette with fullness moving to the back of the skirt and skirt designs transitioning away from radial symmetry. Is anyone else totally in love with the asymmetrical design used on the white and blue dress on the far left? I’m smitten. 🙂
By 1869 you can really see the transition – there’s still more fullness to the sides of the skirts than there is with a lot of later bustle dresses, but the bustle has definitely established itself and caught on.
So are you curious to see what might’ve been supporting those skirts? 🙂
I say “might” because the more I research the more I find different hoop and bustle designs – they really weren’t standardized at ALL, but I’ve seen a few elliptical hoops that look very similar to this, and it’s such a lovely photo, isn’t it? 🙂 It looks to me like a very early elliptical hoop, since it seems to emphasize the push backwards, but without any of the bustling you see later on in the fashion plates. However, it’s entirely possible that the wearer could have added additional bustle pads above the hoop to create the additional fullness. Victorians were pretty resourceful. 😉
Long story short, I’m pretty damn smitten by elliptical hoop style dresses, so I set about to looking for a pattern to make my own. Again I turned to Truly Victorian (this whole blog is starting to feel like a huge advertisement for TV, lol – but hey, they make GREAT patterns!), and ordered their 1865 Elliptical Cage Crinoline pattern and three 12 yard rolls of hoop wire. It’s using a different design then the elliptical hoop shown above, and uses ties placed at the rear to create the elliptical bustle shape. It also uses fewer stays (hoop wires?) than the historical example. I believe modern hoop wire has more strength than historical wire, but it may just be to save material costs? I think more wires may be the way to go though if I ever make another hoop skirt – it’s easier to hide the wires under petticoats if you don’t have huge gaps between each wire.
I also ordered the pattern for the 1865 Elliptical Skirt since I knew eventually I’d want to make skirts and petticoats to cover the hoops. 🙂
The above photo from Truly Victorian shows what their finished hoop skirt looks like when completed.
And here is my finished Elliptical Hoop with muslin Elliptical Skirt petticoat (and totally asynchronous striped top – lol) :
Be warned! This hoop took a LOT of hand sewing for me! I wasn’t able to fit the skirt with wires under my sewing machine, so I had to hand sew each individual point where the hoop meets up with the stabilizing ribbon. I’m sure there must be an easier way to do this, maybe if I’d waited to add the hoop wire into the bone casings until after I’d sewn the casings to the stabilizing ribbons? But there’s a step where you need to have the hoop wires in the casings before you sew the casings to the ribbon in order to check balance and correct joining placements. So blah. I don’t know. Maybe the trick is to not keep your sewing machine in a tiny corner on your desk next to your computer where there’s no room for giant hoop skirts. 🙂
But I digress. Back to the skirt!
This skirt is almost too big to fit in my hallway. 🙂 Almost.
Obviously I still need to hem the petticoat, and I think I may add some rows of ruffle to further disguise the hoop wire underneath, but I keep putting it off with the thought that eventually I might buy my sewing machine a ruffling foot, and then wouldn’t I feel foolish for hand ruffling a whole skirt? 😉 It’s faultless logic, really.
I haven’t really decided what to do with this hoop skirt yet, but that might be a topic for another post. 🙂