The dress collection at the Victorian and Albert museum is a representation of the fashion worn the wealthy in the 19th century. The clothing also showcases the high level of workmanship. This also meant the clothes were very expensive to make and were considered to be high fashion. The middle classes could afford to wear such high class items. However the style of these clothes spread to other classes. People from the middle class could only afford to have high fashion items copied by local dressmakers and tailors (V & A, 2015:1).
Working class people could only afford to have second hand clothes. This meant having old clothes altered to look more fashionable. Women's skirts ballooned between 1840 and 1860. Skirts were supported by several petticoats one being a stiffened silk and horsehair fabric known as crinoline. Pliable steel hoop frames were invented in 1856 and they became known as the cage crinoline. It was very heavy and irritating to wear a full length coat with a crinoline skirt so mantles, shawls or short jackets were more convenient for outdoor wear (V & A, 2015:1).