Women’s underwear served two purposes in the 18th century. The hoops were also made of linen and stiffened with whalebone or cane. They shaped the petticoat of the gown to the appropriate silhouette. At various times in the 18th century this profile varied from round, to square and flat, to fan-shaped.
This dress, c 1860, was designed by the first and very famous fashion house, the House of Worth, Founded by an Englishman and former draper, Worth managed to charm the French Empress Eugenie and convinced her to wear his designs.