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Publication: Crinoline. Fashion's most magnificent disaster

A compelling, visually striking 3-D exploration of one of fashion’s most disastrous yet most celebrated garments, the Crinoline, featuring contributions from Vivienne Westwood and Zandra Rhodes – has been published to coincide with the V&A’s highly anticipated exhibition, Undressed: 350 Years of Underwear.

Crinoline: Fashion’s Most Magnificent Disaster, by Brian May & Denis Pellerin, is published in hardback (with a slipcase and 3-D front cover, accompanied by Brian May’s patent 3-D viewer, the Owl) at £50, and available to buy from all good bookstores and online at:

A very special and wonderful book with enlightened research unveiling fascinating facts such as crinolines being considered an extremely dangerous form of clothing at one time. Great examples of 3-D pictures totally in keeping with its historical importance, complete with 3-D viewer.” Dame Zandra Rhodes

Crinolines and Stereoscopic photographs were twin sensations of the mid 19th century. We, the authors of this book, decided it was fitting that they should be reunited in the 21st century, and their intimate association recognised at last. This book explores the history of crinoline ‘in depth’. It’s also an attempt to fathom the unique appeal of this dangerous fashion, which, surprisingly, is alive and well in the present day, and its place in popular culture.” Brian May & Denis Pellerin

The voluminous crinoline underskirt was immensely popular between the years of 1856 to 1867, but was by its very nature severely impractical: a strong gust of wind would blow the dress up exposing the woman’s legs and undergarments; worse still, the crinolines were cumbersome, caused accidents and proved to be a serious fire hazard. As the shapes of crinoline garments grew more and more extreme, artists were inspired to capture the absurdities and misfortunes of the wearers through stereo photos, as well as in cartoons and drawings. Just as Crinoline came into fashion, the stereoscope – the equivalent of TV and Film for the Victorians – became a huge craze. Stereo photographers capitalized on the ridiculous spectacle of the women in crinolines, giving impoverished Victorian husbands some consolation in laughter. Although the hoops and inflatable frames disappeared, this wonderful humorous imagery produced during the Crinoline decade has lasted intact over the centuries – and is rediscovered in this book.

The London Stereoscopic company, reborn in the 21st Century, explores 'fashion’s most magnificent disaster' in the form of a delightful, lavish coffee table book, containing high quality reproductions of the original stereo images from the period. Brian May and Denis Pellerin have spent decades collecting and digitally restoring the stereo cards that are published here. Viewing the result through the supplied OWL stereoscope, readers will thrill to the magical three-dimensional realism of these scenes, just as the Victorians did.

Crinoline – the book – begins with the emergence of the steel petticoat and the initial onset of the 'Crinoline Age', and then takes the reader on a fascinating visual journey, including a wealth of colourful 3-D imagery, to the historical moment when women began to protest against the 'cage' and it was eventually phased out. However, contemporary designers such as the late Alexander McQueen, Zandra Rhodes and Vivienne Westwood have reintroduced the crinoline to the catwalk, bringing the dramatic garment of the 19th century all the way into the 21st century with a modern twist.

Dame Vivienne Westwood says: "The crinoline idea had been with me for quite some time before I developed it into a collection. I wanted to save experimenting with the crinoline for a rainy day, so to speak…. The first time I ever saw a crinoline was in the ballet Petruschka and I was immediately drawn to it. The mini crinoline encourages you to walk with a certain swing and it swiggles, which I also like.”

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