Saturday, June 30, 2012

On Cage Crinolines and "Sagging" Memes

Last night this image popped up on Pinterest with the following caption:
  • "In 1858, crinolines had to be hung outside public transportation to get aboard"
Really? Think about it for a moment. I'll wait.

A fully dressed woman is going to reach up her skirt (or in through the opening), rummage about under two or three petticoats, unhook her cage, and drop it in the street? Really?

And what happens when she gets to her destination? This would be the nineteenth-century equivalent of putting your bra on after you were fully dressed. It can be done, perhaps, but with no degree of dignity. Look again at the image above and imagine her taking off and putting on a cage while wearing that outfit.

I did a quick Pinterest search and at least three people had already shared the image, with the caption taken from a Tumblr post.

What we really have here is a joke image, perhaps part of this series on getting dressed.

How do we know these images are intentionally humorous? First, look how crudely made the cage is; it's clearly a purpose-made prop. Newspapers had plenty of similar jokes in cartoon form because the crinoline was a relatively new fashion. Compare these images to all of today's memes about sagging pants. 

I've seen plenty of original cages and not a one of them is this big. Finally, one of the reasons that cages were so popular is that they collapsed relatively easily. Yes, it would be a squeeze on a carriage, but no more than wearing a bazillion petticoats, which is what was done before the cage.

The average person won't know any of this, however, without looking at a bazillion images of cages and developing a sense of context.

1 comment:

Reds said...

I attended a mid-19th century costume presentation at a Victoria festival in Virginia a few years ago that was given by a PhD in Historic Clothing. She used these satire images in her PowerPoint presentation and seriously thought they were real. She told the audience about the crinolines outside of the omnibus and that women needed ladies maids with sticks to lower their dresses over the large hoops.

I went up to her after the presentation and tried, as nicely as possible, to tell her that those images were from a comedic stereoview collection that was mimicking satire cartoons about women's fashion in Punch magazine. (I have most of the stereoviews in my collection.) She told me flat out that she was a PhD and that she studied this at length....that these images were, IN FACT, real.

Blows my mind that someone can study this subject and not know that these are comedic images and not what actually happened at the time. But I guess because they are antique photographs, people automatically assume they are fact.

YES, it's true, our ancestors did have a sense of humor....