Brian May And Anita Dobson Have An Old-Fashioned Date With Crinoline

Brian May has an awful lot going on besides music.

Brian May escorted his wife Anita Dobson on a thoroughly old-fashioned soiree last night, with the couple dressed in Victorian attire for a celebration of that era's most controversial, disastrous but strangely magnificent, undergarment.

Brian can never be accused of narrowing his interests. The Queen music-maker has previously released books on astronomy, the building of his own guitar the Red Special and stereoscopic Diableries - obviously - and now it's time for him to focus on underskirts, or more technically, the application of crinoline to a Victorian woman's daily attire.

<strong>Just anther evening out for the Mays</strong>
Just anther evening out for the Mays
Yves Salmon

With contributions from Vivienne Westwood and Zandra Rhodes, the book coincides with the V&A's exhibition, 'Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear' which launches tomorrow.

The book, which Brian co-authored with frequent collaborator Denis Pellerin, explores the emergence of the steel petticoat, strangely but immensely popular in the mid-19th century, despite its obvious impracticality - vulnerable to wind, fire and doorways - until women began to protest against the impractical 'cage' they were forced to inhabit.

Dame Vivienne Westwood says: “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.”

More recently, designers such as the late Alexander McQueen, Zandra Rhodes and Vivienne Westwood have reintroduced the crinoline to the catwalk, bringing this most anomalous garment into the 21st century.

<strong>Designers including the late Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Zandra Rhodes have all been inspired by crinoline for modern collections</strong>
Designers including the late Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Zandra Rhodes have all been inspired by crinoline for modern collections

It is the absurdity of it all that Brian and Denis share in their book, through a series of stereoscopic photographs taken at the time. Although the hoops and inflatable frames disappeared, the humorous imagery remains, providing a keyhole through which to peek at one of the more absurd decades in fashion history.

Which does leave you wondering - what next, Mr May?

Crinoline: Fashion’s Most Magnificent Disaster, by Brian May and Denis Pellerin, published in hardback is out now, available from bookstores and online at Brian May’s stereo Crinoline images that feature in the book can be seen in 3-D at the V&A’s exhibit, 'Undressed' which opens tomorrow.

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