An article by Tessy Staylace (copyright 1997)
In memory of June Allyson (who knew how to manage them the best!)
There are basically two types of skirts, and, in wearing them day in and day out, women must constantly be aware of the them, especially when pursuing certain activities.
Straight skirts, especially if of a longer length, are probably the most restrictive. Bending down, negotiating stairways, and sitting number among the many of those times when a woman is VERY aware, whether she likes it or not, that she is wearing a skirt,
It is mostly impossible for a lady to bend down at the waist to pick up something, as the tightness about her thighs and restricted ability to spread those thighs necessitates her keeping them tightly together and bending at the knees. With high heels on, this can take much practice, as balance is precarious. In this case, the skirt actually forces the action: There is very little else she can do in order to accomplish her task! Of course, the more "pegged" (accentuating the tightness about the lower part) a straight skirt is, the more difficulty she will encounter.
Heels also tend to hinder her ability to climb stairs. Combine a tight, straight skirt with high heels and, sometimes, the task may be impossible. Most ladies accomplish this by ascending the stairs in a "sideways" fashion. This technique works for descending stairs as well, a time which can prove to be very dangerous, since a large chance exists that she may trip up on those heels! An ankle-length straight skirt makes the situation even more precarious. While most of these tend to have slits (vents), some slits are not very long, and do not really make the job of climbing stairs easy. One wonders how ladies in the hobble skirt era managed stairs (they were probably carried!).
"Sideways" seems to be the key word when wearing a straight (and tight) skirt. Even sitting down requires this technique, especially if a couch is low and even more if she is wearing heels.
So one can see that heels really are an important part of the skirt management discussion, particularly since women usually wear them with straight skirts. As a result, it is imperative that all skirt management practice be done wearing at least 3" (and preferably 4") heels. Without them, all is for naught.
If the straight skirt is very short, modesty becomes a consideration. When short skirts are tight, they tend to ride up with body movement. Therefore, it is imperative that a lady continually pull the skirt down, in order to keep her crotch covered. Stretching up is another activity that should be avoided when wearing any short skirt. Awareness is something ladies always must practice when wearing such garments. Then, that provides for an aura of femininity in the manner in which she walks, sits and otherwise negotiates her way through the day. The helplessness and hindrance engendered by straight skirts certainly adds to her attractiveness.
One last note: Although many do not wear slips with tight skirts, some choose to. It is important to match the slip with the slit in the skirt, so as to be congruent. A man will appreciate the time a lady spends making this effort, and certainly the sloppy look of a non-slitted slip blanking out the slit in a skirt presents a very careless look.
Full skirts (bouffants) present a whole other set of considerations. Nothing is so feminine, and nothing else has the potential for indignity. Here, too, a lady must keep on constant guard.
Sitting is the largest consideration: There are essentially two ways a lady may accomplish this. One way is to smooth her skirts under her buttocks as she descends into sitting position. At the same time, she must be certain that the front part of her skirt is not billowing upwards so much as to compromise her modesty. All the while, if the skirt length is longer, she must make sure that the back part does not sweep the floor and muss her skirt and petticoats! This is very difficult if carrying anything in ones arms (such as children) and can cause much consternation on the part of said female. The term "petticoat face" is used to describe the look on a ladys face when attempting to navigate such a procedure. When she fails, we may coin the term "red petticoat face!" (See the 1954 New York Times Magazine article on the subject, printed here in its entirety.)
The other way is for the lady to allow the back fullness to come up behind her, generally reducing the upswell on the front part of the skirt. The result is that there is nothing but panties between the lady and the seat. Could be a chilling (or unsanitary) prospect. It is, however, a delightful sight when the lady is sitting on the ground with her skirts about her! Of course, in such instance, her skirts must be perfectly arranged, special, attention given to the petticoats underneath!
During all of this, the petticoats and crinolines underneath tend to get mussed and wrinkled. A classy lady takes time out to inspect her underskirts at every possible moment, for the proper peeking out from under requires they be neat and seemly. The best way is for girlfriends to mutually inspect the two sets. Of course, the more layers, the more inspection and maintenance will be required. This allows careful arrangement of the layers, so that one is not hung up on another; and, of course, any ornamentation and frillies (ribbons and bows) applied on the slips must also be kept from creasing.
Another consideration is care in keeping your heels untangled from the petticoats, especially if the petticoats are made of net or other fragile material.. This is most important when the skirt length is longer, as then it tends to happen more often, especially when sitting. A ripped petticoat is a poor sight to see!
In order to help prevent that from happening (and to protect their modesty), many ladies in the Fifties wore a straight slip underneath their bouffant lovelies. If this is done, skirt management obviously becomes even more essential, the combination demanding double consideration. See the old "Lawrence Welk" shows--this arrangement was consistently used by his dancers. (Probably made dancing more difficult)
Floor and ankle-length full skirts present another set of problems. Aside from the consideration of touching others with your skirts (improper), there is the safety situation. Tripping over ones skirts can cause injury, to say nothing of embarrassment. Of course, touching another with your skirts can be provocative as well, and lead to nicer things. Skirt-flirting is an art, short OR long and, as such, is a fit topic for another article. There is, however, very little more feminine then the grace of an accomplished long-skirt wearer.
Some such skirts are draped over hoops. Hoops can be amusing, even to the wearer, but they require a specific technique in order that the whole rig doesnt fly up in the air upon sitting down. This is accomplished by assuring that the rear part is pulled up and back before sitting. Stairs require that long skirts, including hoops, be pulled up in front so the possibility of tripping is negated. Coming down stairs requires at least one hand on the railing and the other holding up the front part of the skirt. We assume that anyone behind you would be careful not to step on the backside of the skirt. In the case of a hoop, try to pull it up far enough so that you can see your trajectory, if not your feet. Of course, the width of a hoopskirt and its rigidity can cause damage to items sitting on furniture, to say nothing of little children and dogs (which may take offense and begin crying or barking, respectively).
Hoops should be worn with either pantaloons, pettipants or petticoats underneath, again to protect modesty, especially when dancing.
Some long skirts, particularly wedding gowns, incorporate trains. Like the tractor-trailer driver and his trailer, a lady must be aware that it is behind her at all times, short OR long. Magnificent, sweeping turns are required, but the ladys hand must be free in order to pull the whole train up off the floor in many instances. It is a treacherous time, wearing a train, during which a lady is dependent upon the care and concern of all around her. Perhaps that is why brides have trains, in order to emphasis their helplessness and dependency.
Remember that petticoats and crinolines are at their best when providing a provocative atmosphere. Arrangement of such at appropriate times can prove to be very erotic, and the rustle of taffeta and other petticoats is a sound not easily ignored. Wear more than one, so they can slide against each other, supplying a variety of interesting sounds.
While all these suggestions may be heeded, nothing woks as well as practice. So get into your heels, don that favorite pretty dress and get to work! Youll feel the better for it!
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