Crinoline was not just a fashion garment but it was perceived as as a signifier of social identity in the 19th century.
It was a stiffened or hooped petticoat worn to make a long skirt stand out.
Not only the high class ladies but soon after the garment rolled out, even the maids started wearing crinolines much much to the higher-class ladies’ disapproval, of course.
George Routledge published an etiquette manual in 1875, where he raised questions of servants in crinoline and the related social concerns.
Routledge described, as the girls knelt to scrub the doorsteps,how their hoops rose to expose their lower bodies, inspiring street harassment from errand boys and other male passers-by. Oh yes, at that time also it was the fault of the dress and not the men, same misogyny.
Routledge firmly opined that servants ought to save their fashionable garments for their leisure periods, and dress appropriately for their work. However, this was challenged by some servants who saw attempts to control their dress as equivalent to controlling their liberty, and refused to work for employers who tried to forbid crinolines.
Alexander Maxwell has summarised crinoline mockery as expressing the male authors’ insecurity and fears that women, whose crinolines took up “enough space for five,” would eventually “conquer” mankind.
Julia Thomas, observing the extent of Punch’s anti-crinoline sentiment and mockery, noted that the magazine’s attacks, rather than crushing the fashion, exacerbated and even invented the phenomenon of “crinolinemania.”
Arthur Munby observed that in the “barbarous locality” of Wigan, the sight of a female colliery worker wearing trousers was “not half as odd as a woman wearing a crinoline,” exposing his own upper-class attitudes.
In Australia, poorer rural women were photographed posing outside their slab huts, wearing their best dresses with crinolines.
The French sociologist and economist Frédéric le Play carried out surveys of French working-class families’ wardrobes from 1850–75, in which he found that two women had crinolines in their wardrobe, both wives of skilled workers.
One, the fashion-conscious wife of a glove-maker, owned two crinolines and eleven dresses, although for everyday she wore wooden shoes and printed aprons.
In America, the mid-19th century crinoline has become popularly associated with the image of the Southern Belle, a young woman from the American Deep South’s upper socioeconomic, slave-owning classes.
However, as in Europe and elsewhere, the crinoline was far from exclusively worn by wealthy white women.
Both black and white women in America of all classes and social standings wore hooped skirts, including First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and her African-American dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley, who created many of Todd Lincoln’s own extravagant crinolines.