The Crinoline

Perhaps more than any other design it is the crinoline that is inextricably associated with Worth. However, it was not a design that the couturier initially favoured. The Empress Eugenie, who was Worth’s most famous, prestigious and loyal client, adored it. And, what she wore other women emulated.

From 1856 the term crinoline was used to describe the new, lightweight, flexible cage structure, initially made from whalebone and eventually from sprung steel, which replaced cumbersome, layered and heavy horse hair (crin) petticoats. It was rumoured that after suffering a miscarriage, and keen to conceal her new pregnancy, the Empress implored Worth to adopt the crinoline. In his hands, the style became the height of chic.

Worth’s crinoline gowns have been immortalised by the portraits of the Empress, and her ladies-in-waiting, painted by artists such as Franz Xaver Winterhalter. The crinoline remained dome-shaped until 1859, when Worth introduced a more ovoid design. Between 1862 and 1867 Worth reduced the size of the crinoline and in 1868 he designed dresses that were flat at the front, with the fullness swept round to the back: these gowns were supported at the rear by the new half crinoline or crinolette that Worth retained until 1873.

In 2010 the revived house of WORTH presented their first collection in Paris. Designer Giovanni Bedin presented modern, body-conscious, evening gowns inspired by the sculpted silhouette of the crinoline.