Queen star Brian May says Victorian fashion garment the crinoline is 'sexy'


Queen guitarist Brian May has said the crinoline, the Victorian era's premier fashion garment, is "sexy".

Speaking at the south London launch for his latest book Crinoline: Fashion's Most Magnificent Disaster, written with Denis Pellerin, the musician pointed to the status it gave its wearers.

"When a woman walked into a room with this crinoline around her, people had to take notice, they had to give her space. It was hard for people even to touch her when these things got really big so you can imagine the incredible effect that this had on women and the way they felt," he said.

"I've seen it recently because Denis has been doing this research and he's been accruing lots of crinolines, and you see a lady put a crinoline dress on and it changes her - you can see her deportment change and she feels different about herself and she swishes around, it's a very sexy thing. For Victorians, it was even more sexy."

Brian May at the launch for his book Crinoline: Fashion's Most Magnificent Disaster in south London

Crinoline: Fashion's Most Magnificent Disaster is a visually striking 3D exploration of one of fashion's most recognised garments.

Featuring contributions from leading fashion designers Dame Vivienne Westwood and Dame Zandra Rhodes, it has been published to coincide with the Undressed: 350 Years Of Underwear exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A Museum).

Asked how he felt to have the endorsement of such renowned fashion figures, the 68-year-old hailed their "great enthusiasm".

"I was thrilled that it happened, that Vivienne Westwood and Zandra wanted to contribute," he said.

Dame Vivienne Westwood

"I guess I thought that maybe what we were doing was very small and they wouldn't be bothered, but they plunged in with great enthusiasm, as did the V&A."

He added: "I'm very thankful that the V&A has collaborated with us. What it's proved to us, more than anything, is that crinoline is alive. We now have some young designers who have also come in contributing to this exhibition with their new designs.

"The book, I hope, will just give people wonder. I hope they will go, 'Wow! That's amazing, that's beautiful'."

Brian May with his wife Anita Dobson at the launch for his book Crinoline: Fashion's Most Magnificent Disaster

Photo historian Denis revealed their research also led them to the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition in London. "Once Brian was won over, and he saw it was a good idea, everything was very easy," the Frenchman said.

"We were also lucky to be allowed to photograph one of Alexander McQueen's crinolines in the exhibition at the V&A last year so everything fell into place."

London-born Brian said he does not consider himself "a fashionable person".

Crinoline: Fashion's Most Magnificent Disaster cover

"I kind of react against fashion because I regarded it as conformity and I don't like conformity," he said. "I like individualism. But to look back on how fashion has influenced people sociologically is a fascinating thing and this is what I've discovered on this journey."

Brian is passionate about stereo photography, a Victorian fad in which two flat images are fused in a special viewer to produce a scene in 3D.

Each copy of Crinoline: Fashion's Most Magnificent Disaster, which is out now, is accompanied by his patent 3D viewer called the OWL. It allows readers to see the Victorian-era illustrations included in the book in another dimension.

"I don't know who we were thinking of when we started to write the book," Brian admitted when asked if it was aimed at a particular market.

"It was a journey of discovery. For me, the initial passion was the stereoscopy part because all these wonderful images of crinolines are in glorious 3D and you can enjoy them. Gradually, I realised the importance of what we were looking at."

For more information about Crinoline: Fashion's Most Magnificent Disaster by Brian May and Denis Pellerin, visit the website.

Undressed: A Brief History Of Underwear opens at the V&A on Saturday