The 18th century author of Origin of the Whale Bone Petticoat believed the fashions were created simply based on female pride, greed and vanity.
To clearly illustrate the ridiculous that was fashion of that time period, he re-accounts the story of Belinda, whom I can only assume the character of Madame de Plonge was loosely based on!
In his story, the beautiful and much sought after Belinda is stricken with the clap after a romp with a lover, and the disease causes her to waddle through the hallways of Versailles in discomfort. The lady, whom had planned dates with several suitors over the following few evenings, went to her doctor seeking a remedy.
Her doctor prescribed a course of treatment that would get her back to normal in a weeks time. This of course was far too long, as the men she was anticipating arrived within the week. (Line up boys!) So the doctor came up with an alternative plan.
Order your mantua makers to attend
Tailors, et caetera, for I intend
Deep within circling ambuscade to hide your straddling gate
Madam I’ll built you like a pyramid!
By this device you’ll walk without much pain
And shine triumphant in Versailles again
If you but wear it all the bubbl’d nation
Will soon admire and bring it into fashion
Whale bone petticoats had their rise
To hide a filthy strumpet’s foul disease
And now fair ladies view well your monstrous dress and recollect
Think on the whore that was the architect.
Do you love this or what! The panniers and hoops all created to hide disease, and faults in women. Who knew! If you are interested in reading more on 18th century styles I suggest you check out
The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America by Kate Haulman. Every chapter is full of interesting bits from the time period on fashion’s development in the city and in the country, for ladies and gentlemen, and fops too.