The Victorians have given us a distorted view of a number of things. When we talk about corsets, many readers imagine the Scarlett O'Hara torture device. When we talk about hoops, they're probably picturing the mid-Victorian-era big dome hoops, which strike me as the antithesis of sexy. But 18th C hoops, and the sort my heroine Zoe of Don't Tempt Me would have worn to a Regency- era Royal Drawing Room are something else altogether. At Colonial Williamsburg, we were struck by the view from behind--and the emphasis hoops give to the booty.
Above is an 18thC hoop petticoat in the CW milliner's shop. As you can see, it's not a giant steel cage. They have a nice flex, and give a sexy undulation to a woman's walk. Susan first gave me a sense of their seductive possibilities, when she suggested I take a look at DANGEROUS LIAISONS--not the Laclos novel but a book published in connection with an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It must have felt funny to our Regency misses, to wear the style their grandmothers wore, and of course many resented it, as teenage girls today would resent having to wear the fashions their mothers or grandmothers wore in high school. But I have to believe that some of those young women, like Zoe, grasped how alluring they could be.