"Layer Upon Layer"



There are quite a few videos posted on YouTube, etc. of [retro] fifties era fashions (recreated), especially from Germany. While they are great to watch, somehow they don't really capture the true feeling of the magic era.  Firstly, the petticoats do not match the intricate designs of the true 1950's creations. Secondly, one sees the models walking and flaunting the petticoats, something no young girl would have done in the 1950s. Those of us old enough to remember the magic era, recall that the whole charm and thrill would be a sudden glimpse of yards of frilly net and lace when a girl sat, or a sudden gust of wind revealing the delicious frilly confection a girl was wearing beneath that bouffant skirt. The exception to this rule would be the dance floor, but again, no girl would do a 'cancan', just give us  guys the fleeting glimpse as she spun and twirled her skirt and petticoat out horizontally.  Do others agree with me?

Suggested by Joe A.

30 Nov 13            Crinolyn

[Yesterday's] post reminded me that that is what my sister called hers: bouffant slips. They were NOT as huge as the square dance petticoats of today.  I remember wash day and the old wringer washer.  Mom used to use a porcelain-lined baby bath tub filled with a starched concoction, and my sister's petticoats were the first to take a dip in there after the rinse tub. Then the white shirts.
    A resurgence, yes, a small one, or one geared around small people as well.  Case in point, the pettiskirt craze.

29 Nov 13           Chris S.

I was also lucky enough to live through this time but, in retrospect, I didn't appreciate just how lucky I was!  Petticoats were often referred to as 'bouffant' slips to distinguish them from normal straight slips or petticoats - either full length or waist length.  Ornamentation was the norm.  Lace and ribbons.  There  has been what appears to have been a coordinated push in the past ten years by the garment industry to bring this style back into fashion.  This has been through the large number of shows where petticoats feature.  Who knows how much influence The Pond has had on this popular return?

ED: We suppose NONE of us realized how lucky we were!  As for the contemporary "resurgence," it is nice, but certainly they are not as elaborate (almost artistic).

28 Nov 13          'Fortiesman'

'Crinoline', in English, refers only to the multiple petticoats worn under costume gowns - from the Victorian and earlier periods.  In the 1950s and 60s women referred to 'petticoats' or 'slips' - both terms were freely used.  I asked a girlfriend back in (I think) 1958 what she hoped to get for Christmas.  Her answer: a 'sticky-out petticoat'.  She referred, of course, to the then-fashionable stiffened waist slips.  In fact, our friendship was only a temporary affair and I never found out if she got one.  She did, though, tell me that she would wear it under a new dress 'to make it all flare out' and she hoped she would be able to wear it later in the year under her school summer dress.  There was some doubt about that because, apparently, the school tried to stop the girls from wearing the big net petticoats, but she thought the stiffened one she hoped to get would be allowed.   
    "I learned from another source that the multi-layered net petticoats were regarded as too bulky for school use, but the stiffened nylon (paper nylon) ones did a similar job but could be flattened down more easily, and so were easier to manage in the confines of the school classroom and corridor."

ED: In English, "crinoline" is indeed a reference to horsehair and cage devices of the Victorian era; however, in the US, it came to also be the term used for a stiff petticoat.  In the UK, "crinoline" was never used to describe such.  "Sticky out" is kind of cute.

28 Nov 13         Bo Persson

I believe this with showing the petticoats is something imported from square dance, where it is as it should?  Here in the UK, ladies showing their petticoat were told 'Charlie is dead.'  It was so embarrassing to show the petticoat, the message was coded. My grandmother always asked my grandfather to have a check before they went out.  It was not a petticoat, but a slip.

27 Nov 13        Eleanore

As Crinolyn has stated, it was definitely a 'no no' to show petticoats - I always remember my mother asking me to check the hem of her skirt or dress every time before leaving the house, to make sure that the hem  was hiding her underclothes and that no petticoat lace was apparent. 

"I was only five when she started to ask me to check.  For a time I told her the truth, with subsequent adjustments made so that decorum was achieved; however I found the whole idea of glimpses of lace petticoat so enchanting that, after a time, I would tell her that nothing was showing when in fact there was a glimpse of lace hem peeking below the hemline.  I would then walk behind my mother while she was shopping, inhaling the delights of seeing glimpses of lace petticoat as she walked, or when her hem bounced, or when a breeze lifted her skirt.  I never tired of watching for the next expos and sadly would do so today but for the lack of petticoat hems to be seen. Oh well!!!

27 Nov 13       Geoff in Australia

G'day to all, I agree with all the comments re the display of petticoats.  In the fifties and sixties the general rule was to have the skirt two inches longer that the petticoat/s.  Just last week I saw the two opposites:  One a young girl — teenager, early twenties — wearing a red floral dress with about two to three inches of black net showing below the hem.  The other was magic.  She stood out in the crowd — a red dress well 'pouffed out' and the occasional flash of white net as the skirt kicked up just enough. I should have dragged out my camera, but I was not quick enough to think of it.
     "One of my visions from the sixties was travelling home on a tram, sitting in the lower 'drop centre' and looking in to the saloon to watch a young girl sitting with very stiff petticoat/s in that they sat up and my view was right up the leg, past the stocking tops, to the garter strap disappearing in to the net. Here they were always referred to as petticoats. Ahh! Memories.

26 Nov 13     Crinolyn

"Looking at this photo, it seems that there is a father and four daughters in school uniforms. They appear to be carrying lunches and books, maybe waiting for a school bus? It is supposed to be from 1963.

"True, they did NOT show petticoats. One phrase of the time; 'Pinky's out of jail' meant your slip is showing!  OR: 'Snowing down south' = you are showing your petticoat below your skirt (most slips/petticoats were white at the time). OR: 'Charlie's dead.'  OR: 'It's raining in Paris.' Bottom line is that it was a no-no."

25 Nov 13      Denise

Seems like one of the big charms of petticoats in 'The Era' was knowing they were there, but having to work to get a peek.  Yep, the girls tried hard not to put
their undies on display and we guys tried just as hard for a special treat: a little glimpse of white.
    "I don't ever remember hearing the word petticoat or crinoline back in the 1950s.  I recall my sister and cousin sometimes talking about their 'big slips' or 'stiff slips,' or 'cancans,'  but never petticoats or crinolines.
    "Two of my fondest memories were when girls wore paper nylon petticoats and you could hear them rustle with every move they made.  The other was Sunday afternoon drives with the family sitting in the back seat with my older sister.  Her skirt and slips would spill over on to my lap.  Oh, how I hated that!

ED: We personally heard the term 'crinoline' used a lot, more than 'petticoat,' along with the other terms mentioned above now and then.  In Britain, our understanding is that the term 'crinoline' was never used.  Correct us if we are wrong.

24 Nov 13     Marilyn

I totally agree.  Girls in the fifties went to considerable trouble to make sure the crinoline or petticoat was not visible.  It was a source of embarrassment if
the hem of the crinoline slipped below the hem of the skirt, requiring a rush to a washroom to make a repair.  Safety pins and straight pins were used to anchor the undergarment so that it remained hidden.  Yes, the joy came at school when there was a sudden, accidental flash of a frothy crinoline as a girl attempted to sit modestly at her desk, but had difficulty controlling the abundant pouf.  I must confess that during The Era I was always on the alert at school for a beautiful circle skirt being nicely extended by bouffant crinolines, the more the better.  I recall always remaining well behind such a girl on the stairs so that I could catch a delightful up-skirt of such a swirling scene that would electrify me.  And, in the words of one famous actor, it 'made my day'.

24 Nov 13     Ralph M.

Era petticoat rules:

1: The petticoat must never be longer than the skirt. The same length or up to 1" shorter is okay.

2: The petticoat must never be darker than the skirt. White works with everything, black only works with a black skirt.
    Best combinations: Black skirt with red petticoat, blue skirt with yellow petticoat.

    "Something I've never seen at Halloween:  An orange top, black skirt, orange petticoat." 

23 Nov 13      Editor

This is pretty obvious to those of us who lived though The Era. but perhaps not to those who are younger.  Such inauthentic, inappropriate displays of petticoats are supposedly meant to titillate, when , as you say, the magic was in a glimpse of their unintended display.  Furthermore, many times such retro fashions are shown with the petticoat sticking out from the bottom of the skirt (below the skirt), something one would NEVER do during The Era.


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