How to Avoid Lampshade Hoops in the 18th Century

It’s a thing in the Georgian period too!

I’ve recently started on my next big (physically big), early 18th century project, a Robe Volante. One of the reasons I felt confident to jump right in is because I already had a grand pannier…or so I thought. When I pulled it out of the closet, it had no hoops whatsoever in it! So I set to work re-hooping it, using a mixture of double-steel hoop wire, single flat steel hoop wire, and flat cane.*

As I shoved the hoops into the boning channels to full taughtness, I stepped back and assessed the shape. It looked good…but I remember there being an issue when I first wore this pannier. Here it is:

…LAMPSHADE HOOP. The bane of historical costumers throughout time!

How to solve this? A few ideas/hopes crossed my mind – maybe the petticoat would hold the hem out; maybe interface the petticoat and/or gown hem with organdy; maybe add an organdy ruffle to the pannier. Ultimately, though, none of these were particularly supportable with primary evidence from this period, and so the bigger question…

…”If I’m having this issue now, they must have had this issue back then too. How did they solve it?”

Back to the source material. I took a good long look at all of the panniers and hoops in Patterns of Fashion 5, several which are close in style/design to mine. Here’s what I observed:

– The only hoop that had as severe an angle from waist to hem as mine was the grand pannier worn by Louisa Ulrika (pg 130). This hoop is significantly wider than mine at the top, though, and also longer than mine, making that bottom hoop closer to the floor – less distance for the gown fabric to get sucked under there. This hoop is also made of silk rather than cotton and there is a lightly-pleated silk ruffle/guard covering the bottom hoop.

Louisa Ulrika’s court hoop – this thing is over 7 feet wide. There is a hoop in the hem which is covered/hidden by the lightly pleated flounce. 1751 – Livrustkammaren

Here’s another grand pannier, worn by Sofia Magdalena, 1772. It’s made relatively the same way with that deep flounce covering the fourth hoop, but the silhouette is noticeably different. Livrustkammaren.  

– All of the other hoops, whether sewn into skirts or not, show a much more straight-down-ish angle. There is a flare but it’s nowhere near the degree I had in mine.

Two grand panneirs from Germanisches Nationalmuseum (link) – these are *bigguns* but even with them being this large you can see the angle from top to hem isn’t as severe as my initial hooping.

– Many of the hoops in PoF5 are also a lot shorter than mine – knee-length or lower-hip-length. This means the petticoat and gown fabric hang from these points in a more uppy-downy way and aren’t held out by anything other than the body of the fabric.

Here’s an example of a quite short hoop from the V&A. It’s dated later – 1780-1789 which I’m not sure I agree with, given that hoops like this were way out of fashion by then except for court dress (and maybe this was made for that, who knows). Anyway – it’s pretty short!
This one looks to be below the knee at the bottom hoop, but isn’t floor-length. It’s only 25 inches long and 72.5 inches in circumference at the bottom hoop.  Notice the rather straight angle – it only flares out a little bit. Manchester Art Gallery, c. 1765-1775. 1953.41.4

Luckily it’s easy to adjust hoops to be smaller. I’ve taken about a foot out of the bottom hoop and reduced the second up from the bottom a bit too. You can see from this comparison how much this altered the shape:

These photos are taken from different angles but you can see the difference in silhouette.

And it looks like this did the trick with the petticoat, too. There doesn’t appear to be lampshading at the hem:

Yay! No hard ugly lampshade lines!

So! When you’re constructing your grand panniers, keep these notes to hand! It’s all in those angles!

*(Make do and mend – just using what I had to hand. In the future I will probably use all double-steel hoop wire with connectors so that the hoop can be easily deconstructed and reassembled for travelling)


  • Sweet Kitty Storyteller

    June 15, 2020 at 11:32 PM

    Wow! Who'da thunk that that slight difference in downward angle would make such a difference? Great re-construction!

  • rae

    June 16, 2020 at 2:30 AM

    I literally read the original post about this grand pannier last week, hadn't you added a boning channel to the hem that wasn't in the original pattern? Could that have been the reason for the dramatic angle? Anyway thanks for this as I actually plan to start making a pair soon! Great article!

    • Lauren Stowell

      June 16, 2020 at 6:56 PM

      you're right, I did add the boning to the hem, but the angle was still problematic even without that. I think I could take the hem hoop out completely now and it would still hold a good shape. A lot of the hoops I've been looking at are quite short.

  • The Quintessential Clothes Pen

    June 16, 2020 at 4:47 PM

    Yay for successful puzzling! I had the exact same issue with the grand pannier I made for Versailles a few years ago… and I used the exact same solution! It worked wonderfully. 🙂 That blue petticoat is a lovely color. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the project, too!


  • Goatberry

    June 28, 2020 at 5:52 AM

    I'm really fascinated by the early 18th C & am delighted to see you making a Mantua. I really MUST make a mockup, at the very least! They're so incredibly outre'!

  • Lvs2Dressup

    April 13, 2022 at 9:57 AM

    Hi Lauren,

    I had a dress and everything to go with it made for me a few years ago and have lost touch with the dressmaker. The fabric is brocade with beading and quite heavy and I had an issue with the panniers collapsing during the event I wore it for. I will be wearing it again for another event and would like to reinforce the panniers so they keep their structure. Reading your post about how you made yours using a mixture of double-steel hoop wire & single flat steel hoop wire I would like to know where to purchase these items?

    Thank you, Carol


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