25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Is It A Turkey Or A Girl?
I was reminded of this topic just recently by Norman Eiley and Allan Villanueva, so apparently this topic also existed in Placencia and probably all over Belize. We were talking about this dress called the “Crinolene”, which was worn by young ladies in the 1950’s.
The Crinolene is quite the opposite of a tight fit dress today. It was very wide and puffed up, so much that it reminds me of the turkey when it swells its feathers to warn off an intruder. The turkey will also puff up its feathers to attract the opposite sex, so I guess the crinolene also had that effect of attracting the males. And how exactly did the “costurera” or seamstress keep that dress puffed up. There were several ways. First there was this very stiff material called in Spanish “taffeta” and this had the effect of causing the dress to swell. The taffeta was not a decorative or luxury material, so lace or other fine materials were sewn over it. For example the bride’s dress had this lace material with taffeta under it. Another way of keeping the dress puffed out was by placing wire at the hem of the dress. This kept it circular and puffed out. The dress’s waist would be about 25 inches and the lower part at the hem would be as much as one hundred to one hundred and fifty inches. Got the idea? The dress sort of looked like an upside down cone and gave the look of elegance when the young lady walked across the stage.
Oh the crinolene was used for many special occasions. It was used for wedding dresses, of course, as well as quinceaños. It was used for a special birthday dress, or a Christmas party. If a girl wanted to look elegant, she could wear it as a Sunday dress or simply a party dress. Consider that parties were only held twice or thrice a year, so the crinolene was used for those special occasions. Miss San Pedro was always crowned with an extra wide crinolene, and all her maids did so too. To not use a crinolene was not “queenly”. Anytime a girl wanted to look elegant and attract attention, you bet she would use a crinolene.
And did the young ladies like the crinolene? Yes they did for it was a mark of elegance and beauty and distinction. How about the young men? They like to see it, like everybody else, but they did not like dancing with young ladies wearing them. The dress was so puffed out that it forced the young man to dance at a distance. Imagine wanting to dance a Spanish bolero or blues, cheek to cheek and with the young lady in your arms. Well the crinolene kept you at quite a distance that even the cheek to cheek was not possible.
Now when Norman and Allan were talking about the crinolene they were talking about a squirrel that kept eating the fruits of a certain tree. The owner put a crinolene around the trunk of the tree and that kept the squirrel off. Can you believe that? That was one hell of a superstition, but as far as fashion goes, the crinolene did hit for many years in the 1950’s. Only occasionally do we see it on some lady today.