Thursday, June 11, 2015

Paniers, Farthingales, and Hoop skirts, Oh My….

   Lord Andrew Masterson, Earl of Windenshire has had a string of bad luck with women. While his best friends are all getting leg-shackled, he can’t seem to get a lady to stay in his presence long enough to court them. Not sure what he might be doing wrong, he turns to Madame Evangeline, hoping she can help him change his luck.
   Betrothed since before her birth to Lord Masterson, Miss Miranda Beauchamp has prepared to be his countess ever since. Although the Earl of Windenshire maintains her upkeep and pays for everything she needs, she might as well not exist for all the attention he pays her. Determined to break the marriage contract, she’ll go to desperate measures to achieve her goal, even if it means losing her virginity to do so.
   Can Madame Eve show Andrew and Miranda there is more than a contract between them? Or will family secrets and years of hurt be too much for the earl and his virgin countess to overcome?

So I blogged a while back about the corset, which I think most people would acknowledge is a very, if not the most, important piece to creating the right line for any historical period. But its the layers and layers that it takes to create the whole picture that makes the silhouette.
Through the ages, the ideal image of a woman has changed drastically and with it women have taken it upon themselves to go to major extremes to look pleasing to the opposite sex. These are the silhouette-altering items that changed the lower half of the body.

So, let’s get ready to go to the ball.
Let chat about, the Hip roll, Bum roll, farthingales, Paniers, hoop skirts and bustles, all worn over the pantaloons and most under a petticoat, with a few over the petticoats.
Hip Roll
Hip rolls and Bum rolls were inexpensive ways to alter the hips, making them look larger (larger hips equated to higher fertility), popular in the Cavalier and Restoration times, and the times following the plagues. These items looked like a stuffed ‘C’ or large neck pillows. They would tie to the waist and could be worked over or under the petticoat. It was common enough that even the lower classes adopted this look. (See Three Musketeers (1993), or Restoration)

Cartwheel Farthingale
Farthingales, and later the larger cartwheel farthingales, were made popular by Queen Elizabeth the First, and became popular while her father Henry the Eighth was still alive. It was a cone-shaped stiff underskirt, small at the waist and large at the ankles. Sitting in this skirt was virtually impossible and stools were sometime placed under the skirt to allow the wearer to sit, doubtful anyone would have noticed they were sitting as the item could have stood on its own. This item sometimes required stirrups to hold it up. (see Elizabeth, the Other Boleyn Sister)
Later, the cartwheel farthingale came into fashion, giving the wearer the appearance she actually had a table under skirts. This look became popular later in Elizabeth’s reign. Most people would recognize the image of her in the white pearl gown. The farthingale would be worn over the pantaloons and under a specially crafted petticoat. (See Elizabeth, the Golden Age)
Paniers or pocket hoops, give the look that the woman’s hips are

significantly larger than they really are. This look was made popular in the early Georgian time before the French revolution. These items were usually made out of metal, but could, for lighter summer use, be made of wooden reeds. Doors and furniture had to be made wider to accommodate the hip distance and later the panniers became so large, the hinges were added to allow women to lift the side up to go through doors, then drop once inside. They did have the advantage that they allowed storage in the pocket hoops for items the woman didn’t wish to carry. (See Dangerous Liaisons or Scarlet Pimpernel)
Hoop Skirt

Hoop skirts made most famous by Scarlett O'Hara were truly death traps and only worn for a short period in time. Most likely not worn for the extent that Hollywood would have us believe and certainly not on the plantations as has become popular. Some historians believe the hoop skirt only made its appearance for a mere season, and soon the round hoop skirt started to become elliptical, moving us into the next period. (See Gone with the Wind or A Christmas Carol.)

Finally, the bustle made women’s bottoms look large, at one time making them look almost like a horse’s rump. This became very popular during the Victorian area. This metal contraption made it virtually impossible to sit back in any seat, and created or emphasized the belief that a real lady only sat on the edge of her seat. When researching the bustle, knowing the exact time can make a difference. The bustle started small then jumped to being huge before settling for many years between the first two. (See Age of Innocence or The ideal Husband)
All different times, made famous by a particular figure altering an item. Most were heavy and almost all cumbersome, but it was a price women in their times were all prepared to pay for the ability to attract a mate. 


  1. Very interesting post. I can't imagine WHY anyone would find the bum roll attractive. Thanks so much for the great information.

  2. Love the post. So informative and judging from the information there's a ton more to learn. Makes you wonder which period the men found the clothes more difficult to get off. :)

    1. Oh I might have to do some research into that one :)