VERA (Started in 2014)

Memories and commentary about growing up in the fifties

Tony B.: "I wrote to The Pond a year or so ago about my girlfriend Jill, whose full skirted dress caught fire at a party in 1960; she did not suffer any great injury due to the large amount of beer that was poured onto her burning skirt and petticoats . She spent two days in hospital with minor burns to her legs.
"The reason I write again - due to the wonders of Facebook we have met after all these years . During our renewed friendship , she brought up the subject of the flaming frock and how we put it out with beer.  She was grateful and says we saved from serious injury, or worse.  Whilst she spent a day or so in the burns unit of the Birmingham Accident Hospital, she was surrounded by young girls who had suffered a similar experience. There was a girl who was brushing her hair using the mirror over the fire place and the front of her 'Sandra Dee' dress and petticoats went up in flames.  She would never be the same again . The medical staff hated the fashion of the day:  one minute you look like Grace Kelly the next minute you're Joan of Arc.  I must admit I never thought of the lovely dresses and skirts of The Era could do so much harm .  But we did have a constant reminder of Jill's accident in our house: the wall mounted electric fire her skirt came into contact with always smelt of burned nylon when it was turned on; my dad eventually replaced the offending bar.  A bit of research on social history:  the size of the burns unit was reduced to a small six bed unit in the mid- Sixties, after the almost overnight demise of the full skirt in favour of the miniskirt
(interesting - never really thought of Twiggy as a life saver!). "

Vera responds to Tony B.'s post:
(Guess this was a Brit thing...)

"Perhaps in England we were more safety orientated. I remember we girls were reminded several times in school about open fires. One was not to stand near an open fire, or electric bar heater and use hair spray. We were also to be extremely careful when dressed en bouffant about our petticoats catching fire. I even remember  a demonstration in the  science lab (even the boys were invited to watch this!), when a frilly net can can petticoat was placed in one of the lab sinks, and  a lit match was put to the edge of the lace; the petticoat quickly burst into flames. (Shame about the petticoat, such a pretty one!).  But the demonstration most certainly made an impression!"


Tony B.: "Yes, Vera, there were demonstrations and government safety films about the dangers of fire back in the early 60s; the one you describe certainly would have 
caught the attention. I saw a demo on a woman's afternoon TV show: They got a very full and voluminous evening gown and put it on a dummy.  They then brushed it against
 a candle for a fraction of a second and whoosh up it went - the wearer would not have stood a chance .  A fabric firm called Heathcoat  produced a fire retardant nylon 
 and they 'cleaned up ' in the top of the range stuff; a singer named Alma Cogan demonstrated its flameproof qualities with matches and a candle whilst she was wearing
 a ball gown  (brave girl).  I don't know if the UK was any more a dangerous place to live than anywhere else, but we did like our open fireplaces.".


"I am new to the site, which I found very interesting.  As  a woman who grew up in the 1950s, I was particularly interested by the memories of dating ,
 contributed by
Allison, and thought I would contribute a couple of memories of mine.

"I agree with her that the petticoats made today are no match with the lovely feminine creations we wore in the 1950s. The ribbon and lace were guaranteed to have their magical effect on the guys. I always wore a full skirt and petticoat when I went on a date, as I think we girls knew that the petticoat did 'half the job'. Although I owned at least half a dozen petticoats in 1958, I had two favourites  which I always wore on a date, because I knew the guys loved them. One was a single layer of pale blue gathered tulle (more delicate than net). The bottom tier was highly gathered with a 'sweep' of 75 yards, with a pretty white lace trim around the hem. The effect was amazing in a car, as Allison mentioned, when your date discovered the gear shift hidden under a sea of frills! I seem to remember  I was always polite, and would move the petticoats for my bemused date!

"The other petticoat I always wore on a 'hot' date because it seemed to drive the guys wild!  It wasn't as full, (ONLY!) a sweep of forty yards, but it was made of highly gathered, stiff pleated nylon net. The net was a delicious pale pink, and around the hem was a very narrow cream lace trim.  I remember there was also a band of lace at each tier. I don't know what was so special about this petticoat (besides being very pretty), but the effect on my date when I would sweep down besides him on the couch, covering his lap and hands with swirls of frilly nylon net, was  amazing!  My skirt would often be gathered up against the back of the couch, and they seemed to love the sight of the swirls of frilly pink net visible beneath. They always commented on how  pretty my underwear was when I wore this petticoat, and I remember one of my 'braver' dates discussing how the petticoat was made, while he gathered the swirls of frilly nylon net in his hand and 'examined' it in minute detail!"



"I think it was 1958, and I had a date with a boy I was keen on, but he hadn't seemed too interested on the first date. I suggested we go on a picnic, and I knew of a cliff top spot  near where I lived on the south coast of England.  I knew this was a rather windy spot, so I thought  that wearing a full skirt with the frilly pink net cancan petticoat would be 'useful'.

"He arrived to pick me up, and  as he got in to his car, I noticed his eyes immediately took a long look  at the  glimpse of frilly pink net peeking out from the edge of the skirt, We arrived at the picnic site, and as we ate  our picnic, I was aware of his gaze constantly drifting to my petticoat, the countless swirls of frilly net now clearly on view to him as I sat opposite.

"After the meal we walked to see the view from the cliff top, and as we approached the edge, as I hoped, the strong wind started to play "havoc", causing my skirt to  billow up, and yards and yards of frilly pink net  to go fluttering in the strong breeze. My date  was, to say the least, delighted, and commented that 'It was lucky I was wearing such pretty underwear in case anyone else was around' (There wasn't).

"I do remember that after that date, he became rather eager, and we dated quite a few times, until he moved to the north, and we lost touch."


"As I mentioned earlier, I owned seven or eight different petticoats in the late 1950s. Besides my 'secret weapon', the pink frilly net cancan petticoat, (The British term "cancan petticoat" was far more appealing than the American "crinoline"), I also had  several others of varying fullness.

"A couple of times a year I would go with my best friend to treat ourselves to a new petticoat. There was a large ladies clothing store in the major town near where I lived, and they had an extensive lingerie department at the back of the store.

"Besides petticoats, they also sold straight slips, exquisitely pretty ones that were lavished with lace. The petticoats were  displayed on two long racks, that were by necessity, in the centre of the room, as they were  mostly very full. One rack had the style which was very popular in the late 50's, single layers of nylon net or tulle, with three or four tiers of increasingly gathered fullness, that would give the bottom 'sweep"' its huge diameter. (A couple of the petticoats they sold claimed to have a sweep of 100 yards!). These all had a lace trim round the edge, so the effect was exceedingly frilly. These petticoats were the best for dancing in because of their highly gathered design; they would swirl out horizontally when you did a spin, to display a mass of frills, a sight guaranteed to set any young man's heart racing. They did tend to suffer from rips in the net when a heel got caught in it!


"The other rack I remember sold petticoats that were much less full, but also extremely bouffant, because they consisted of four or five layers of very stiff nylon net that held the skirt out by its stiffness. These petticoats were also very pretty, the top layer often beautifully decorated with rows of lace, satin ribbon, bows, and with wide bands of exceptionally pretty lace round the hem. They were made in every colour you could think of. These petticoats were great for work, as they displayed their charm when the girl sat, the stiffness of the few layers of net keeping the skirt bouffant even as she  was seated. They weren't so good for dancing because, even though the girls skirt would swirl out, the petticoats couldn't."



"I often used to wonder back then what was so exciting about petticoats. We girls certainly loved to wear them, often standing in front of the mirror as we dressed,  enchanted by the lovely femininity of the net, ribbon and lace (a far cry from today's 'retro creations') that  we knew would be caressing our legs for the rest of the day. I actually used to enjoy the scratchy feel of the net  against my legs, because it constantly reminded me of the lovely petticoat I had beneath the skirt!
"When I left school at seventeen, I got a secretarial job with an advertising firm. In those days (1960), no girl would dream of wearing pants or jeans to work, but always a skirt. If I wore a straight skirt, it was always with a slip beneath. In those days I had very good legs, and  the sudden glimpse of a lovely lacey hem when legs were crossed also had a magical effect. I fail do understand why many women don't wear slips today.
"'Dictation" was a common activity in those days, when the secretary would be called to her superior's office, to take down in 'shorthand' the draft of a letter. My boss was in his 40's, a charming man who would always compliment me on my appearance. In those days we girls enjoyed the compliments and mild flirting of the older men in the office, and did not feel threatened or harassed in any way. More often than not, I wore a fuller skirt  with a petticoat beneath, generally the 'work' type, which had three or four layers of very stiff nylon net, beautifully decorated with lace and ribbon.
"I would enter the office and sit opposite him, he waiting for me to cross my legs, so he would peek over the top of his glasses and smile approvingly at the sudden glimpse of petticoats. This became a jokey ritual between us, and neither of us felt uncomfortable if he commented on how very pretty a particular petticoat was. I do remember he once commented on why do they bother to make slips and petticoats so pretty if they were meant not to be seen?"

ED: Feminine mystic.  Women liked to know they were wearing prettiness underneath - and the girls liked to tease a bit <g>.  Men like(d) to see them tease, too!


"A little while back, I was with an old school friend, and we were reminiscing about our teenage days. I mentioned the contributions I had made to the Pettipond site. Strangely  enough, she  remembers our summer camp days, and she  remembered quite well the fairground visit. 

"She recalled I was wearing a frilly pink petticoat, and she was wearing  a black and white polka dot skirt, over a very full lace-trimmed white net petticoat.  We had both decided that wearing a full and frilly petticoat would be quite 'entertaining' at the fair, especially as there were a few boys we wished to impress.  I recall the ride on the "big dipper", and the boy I was sitting with complaining how the frilly pink net of my petticoat, that had gone fluttering wildly as the car descended had 'blocked his view. (From what I remember, the only view he seemed interested in was the  frills!).' 

"There was also the 'Rotor', where we were pressed against a fast revolving wall, and our skirts and petticoats were in 'suspended animation'.  The great attraction of the 'Big Wheel' (Ferris Wheel), she always insisted, was the view of the girls legs and petticoats that the onlooking boys had as the wheel descended, the 'parachute' effect causing our  skirt and petticoats to float up gently. ( A few boys were always just standing and watching, never riding!)  She also reminded me that she went on a large trampoline, everyone enjoying the sea of bouncing frills!"


For more fifties memories, see PondGirl Allison's "Bouffant Girl" comments (She also mentions The Rotor)


"Thinking back to my youth in the 1950s the other day, I was trying to think what was the special attraction of petticoats. As a girl, we loved the vast variety of designs available then. We would go to the store and spend an hour or two drooling over the lovely confections of ribbon , lace, and net. So many lovely designs then, as compared to today's 'Plain Jane' retro copies. There was a special feeling, even though many of the net petticoats were a little scratchy to wear, knowing that we had something so pretty and feminine on beneath our skirts. But, perhaps you readers can explain, what did you guys find so  special about petticoats?  I think I mentioned once how one of my dates was at my house. I was wearing my favourite frilly pink net petticoat, and as I sat beside him his eyes were constantly on the swirls of frilly net that were visible beneath my skirt that was bunched up over the back of the couch. Eventually he commented on how very pretty the petticoat was, and then began to ask me how many layers etc. there were.  As I was explaining that that petticoat in fact only had one layer, but it was several tiers of highly gathered stiff net. He was gathering the swirls of frilly net in his hands and examining it with great interest!  I could see he was enchanted by  the swirling frills, and I asked him what guys found so attractive about petticoats.  He replied that he didn't really know, but there was just something so heart stopping about getting a sudden glimpse of frills and net.  Perhaps some of you petticoat fans can provide us with your feelings?"

Sugar Plum Fairy: "Vera asks why we "boys" were so interested in all those frills. That I cannot explain. However, I began to notice, with great interest, a playmate of mine who was a ballet dancer and wore her her Swan Lake tutu to class one day for show and tell. I was so fascinated by the costume to the point I wish I was wearing it. The thought sent shivers up my spine. Since that time, I had always been envious of any girl who wore frillies, especially if I captured a glimpse of her undies as well. 

It all came to a peak when I was left alone at home (I was sick and could not attend school) at age 12ish and I ventured into my mom's closet and pulled out her black taffeta cocktail dress, complete with red crinoline for fullness. When I put it on, I was hooked for life. From then on, the sight of any girl wearing crinolines brings back those feelings, although more distracting than when I was younger. Those feelings exist to this day."

We add here our own response:

Tessy: "You know, over the years, I have thought long and hard as to why petticoats intrigue me.  It IS a fetish, I suppose, but perhaps it also has much to do with my admiration of females in general.  Both might be due to some childhood circumstance, but I have never been able  put a finger on it, other than the fact that I grew up with them around me, and little boys develop sexuality based upon surroundings and parental treatment.
"BTW, when I first started Pettipond, I offered a line of petticoats which were reminiscent of those sold in those halcyon years.  Thought visitors would be eager to buy them.  However, not enough did, I believe mainly because I had to charge a high price ($150 or so) due to the expensive amount I had to pay to great them made.  I have one absolutely BEAUTIFUL one left, to remind me of that hopeful time."

'Jane': "Like other guys, I cannot say what initially attracted me to petticoats. It began when I was seven or eight years old and I immediately knew I was going to wear them. I believed that everyone should have been able to wear dresses and petticoats and, when I couldn’t, I became extremely jealous of girls. This almost boiled over into resentment, but I overcame that emotion. Finding petticoats irresistible, I also fixed on stockings and garters without knowing why. I did confide in a girl from next door and she didn’t laugh or reveal my secret. All this time I never had a strong wish to be a girl,
as I loved boy pursuits as well, but my love of female clothes also expanded. I now can fully dress each day after work and I feel so comfortable in my favourite clothes. I still cannot fully explain why I do so, I still wish to remain male, but I am glad I can experience such a contrast in clothing. I also still believe that clothes do not belong to one gender."


"Visiting the site yesterday, I was looking at some of the 'Reflections' and was amused to read David M's memories."
I also remember my  last year at school. Our class teacher was Welsh, Miss Jones, and very pretty, and she also regularly wore full skirted dresses with full nylon petticoats beneath. Many of us
girls did note the rapt attention of some of the boys when she sat sat at her desk, swirls of lace trimmed tulle and net peeking visibly beneath her skirt. In fact when we had 'P.E.' (gym class), she would change into her kit in the girls changing room, and we would sometimes wonder what those boys would feel if they could see her walking round the changing room in her frilly  petticoat as she admonished us to hurry up, etc.
Regarding the 'Petticoat Treatment', I don't remember any of my friends or me 'torturing(?)' a boy by burying his face under a mound of frilly petticoats, but partially 'burying' a boy under my petticoats was something I did on a few occasions.  This would often happen on a picnic, which I regularly enjoyed with a date.  My  date would be lying on the grass, and as I sat beside him I made sure that I would spread my skirt so that a generous amount of frills would cover his legs and chest. Needless to say, they loved this, and they would often 'play' with the frills and net that was covering them. At a dance, we would also regularly sit on our boyfriends' laps, making sure we 'lifted' the back of our bouffant skirt before sitting, so our dates' face was often half hidden behind a 'barrier' of  nylon net and frills.
That was how we 'flirted' in those wonderful days!




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