One of the hardest parts of dressing in 1950s dresses is figuring out the underthings! I've been wearing vintage clothing, and mainly 1950s, for 7 years straight now so I've got plenty of experience under my belt and I'm excited to share what I've learned in my trials and errors through the years. :-)
To start off, some of the benefits of petticoats:
- No more limp skirts!- full-skirted 1950s are the most flattering when properly supported
- Extra coverage in windy situations!
- Fun to wear! Who doesn't love the excuse for a fun accessory?
And most important of all:
- Feeling like Debbie Reynolds! I don't know about you, but this picture is pretty much the epitome of my life goals as a little girl and there's something pretty satisfying about finally achieving this. ;-)
-OK, some facts before we begin. Most of my dresses have skirts that are approx. 27" long, therefore I try to pick petticoats that are about 26-27" long. Most of my skirts are 1/2-3/4 circles, so I tend towards petticoat styles that aren't extremely full.
-Pictured in the photos is a full circle skirt so you can see the differences between the styles- personally I feel that some of these pettis aren't really put to best use with a full circle; you can see examples of the pettis in action with more appropriate skirts by following the links at the end of each section.
-I have found that wearing a straight slip under all of my petticoats is the most comfortable. Even the softest petticoat still gets uncomfortable on bare legs, but most of all I like the extra layer to prevent the fullness from creeping between my legs. Petticoats have the maximum "fluff impact" if they're layered on top of a slim slip! :-)
I'll do these in order of purchase, so first off is the Hell Bunny Long Petticoat! This was my first purchased petticoat 4 years ago. Before that I was making do with home-sewn pettis that were, quite frankly, not worth the agony. Save up, buy a petticoat, and save your energy for a much more worthwhile dress!
Overview- HB petticoats are made of a "chiffon" (actually a sheer knit) nylon with three tiers and a ruffle at the hem. They have two layers. The original petticoat comes with a shiny nylon yoke with an adjustable elastic waistline. Personally, I found the yoke to be far too bulky and rather uncomfortable (I dislike elastic waists). I removed that portion and made my own fitted cotton yoke.
My experience- This was my first foray into petticoats and I was very pleased, although my enthusiasm has waned over the years... The petticoat pictured is a good, candid example of what these look like over time. I wear my petticoats essentially everyday, and these deflate at an alarming speed! As well as deflating, these petticoats also become uneven at the hem rather quickly. I've had to make alterations to both of mine over the years when sections start peeking out too much from skirt hems.
Upkeep- I wash in a large mesh laundry bag with a normal load. I do stick it in the dryer for a little bit as that will "fluff" it back up to the original level. Just air-drying adds some fluff, but not nearly as much. I'm just being brutally honest here, because to tell you the truth- the dryer kills these. The reason it fluffs up is because it's made from nylon and the nylon is melting a bit. The nylon eventually melts into giant gaping holes, so that's why my other white HB petti is never fully pictured. It looks awful. :-(
Layered Hell Bunny Petticoats
The benefit to HB pettis is how well they layer! For extra fullness, I love wearing two petticoats.
- Versatile amount of fullness- can be good for narrower skirts than a full circle
- Great option for layering
- Bulky original yoke
- Kind of scratchy
- Fullness deflates
- Can have a hard triangle shape when at its fluffiest
These are the petticoats you see the most frequently on the blog. Up until Dec 2015, they are the *only* petticoats I wore with my blog outfits! I most frequently just wear one- I typically only wear two with a very full skirt.
Here are photo examples of both:
Next up is Malco Mode's Melonie (591) crinoline. I purchased this crinoline last fall after finally reaching the point of complete disenchantment with my Hell Bunny pettis. Also, I really wanted something black to wear with my darker winter clothing.
Overview: 5 lightly-gathered tiers of stiff crinoline net, each trimmed with matching satin ribbon. Thin knit yoke with narrow elasticized waistline. Lined in stiff, sheer polyester.
My experience: I've been happy with this crinoline and I love how it gives a different shape than the HB pettis! Adds versatility to my wardrobe. :-) Also, I really love the ribbon trimming on it- so pretty! In my experience, this isn't comfortable to wear without the cotton slip. It is lined, but the lining fabric is still stiff polyester and since the lining is tiered as well, it tends to fall in between my legs. Apparently I have a vendetta against most yokes, since I'm just not super thrilled with this one. It is a very period appropriate style, but I would really love to replace it with a sturdy cotton one like I did for the HBs. It is just loose enough that it drags down sometimes and peeks out.
Upkeep: Not much to speak of so far, but this hasn't received the same amount of wear as the Hell Bunny pettis. One of the lining tiers started ripping off at the seamline so I had to reattach that. I still can't figure out why that happened, but I think it's mainly due to the lining fabric- it's prone to major, on-grain tears.
Showing off the lining layer
Malco Modes Melonie:
- Ribbon trimming on each tier- I really do love the look of this one and it's pretty much what my little girl dreams were made of!
- Fullness with no triangle shape tendencies!
- Wears well- fluffiness factor is the same as the day I bought it
- Long. Like, almost too long.
- SCRATCHY net
- Construction so-so. I've already resewn an entire lining tier that ripped off; otherwise it looks to be good quality.
Ruthad Square Dance Petticoat
I found this petti at a consignment/vintage store for such a low price that I figured it was worth the gamble! It is suuuuuuper full (naturally!) and I wasn't sure if it would work well for vintage wear, but it's proved to be a good fit for a few skirts.
Overview: Cotton yoke with wide elastic waistlline. Four tightly-gathered tiers, each made of a poly fabric with two satin stripes woven in. I'm pretty sure that each tier is twice as full as the one above it, so this gets super full super fast!
My experience: Due to the extreme shape, this really ONLY works with full circles! And it only works if it ends right at the hemline! This petti is pretty short- I typically wear it pulled down on my hips to get it to the right length. Yet again, I truly hate this yoke but that's mainly because this one is so bulky! Also, the petticoat is heavy since it's made of fabric, so this ends up dragging down. A sturdy fitted yoke would make this petticoat perfect. Oh! also, it's hot. So I don't wear this in the summer!
Upkeep: None so far. I've worn this the least, due to the limited uses. I don't anticipate any issues with washing or mending, though!
- Great option for full circle skirt
- Well-balanced. Fullness hangs evenly and cleanly (unlike Hell Bunny that gets droopy unevenly)
- The woven satin stripes and exposed gathers make this a very pretty petticoat!
- HOT. This is made from tons of fabric, so it has minimal breathability. This does make it really great for winter wear, though.
- Waistline yoke/elastic is very bulky
- Fullness only suitable for full circle or fuller
OK, this one isn't super helpful to have as a review since it is vintage and I don't even know where you'd find the supplies to replicate this! But I feel that it is helpful to have an example of how vintage pettis are definitely an option and greatly broaden the horizon of availability.
Overview: This crinoline is made from three tiers of nylon "horsehair" material- this stuff is literally the same as horsehair braid except that it is woven like fabric instead of being a stretchy bias panel. I've never seen anything like it. This crinoline can stand up on its own, but also compresses to fit under a skirt. The top yoke is lace and closes with buttons, the hem is edged with lace. I really love the details on this!
My experience: As soon as I first wore this petti, it was instantly my favorite. I'm in love! It's a great shape for almost every skirt I have and it's super comfortable. Bonus- it's completely breathable, so it's by far the most comfortable option for summer!
Upkeep: Due to being vintage, the thread was rotting along the tiers but that was an easy fix to mend since I noticed it before it was an issue! Due to the unique materials, this will keep its shape until the end of time, so there aren't any issues with laundering. ;-)
- SO breathable and cool!
- Vintage crinolines/petticoats can be very competitively priced
- Now I know how breathable pettis can be and I think all my others are hot. ;-)
- The old thread was rotting so I needed to do some mending
- Don't be afraid to layer your options!
- Variety is great when it comes to pettis! Almost every skirt looks best with a different understructure.
- Don't overlook vintage options! I found so many cool ones on a quick Etsy search that I'm actually kind of not wanting to tip you all off on this... I don't really want competition in the Petticoat Acquisition Quest!
- Yeah, actually, on second thought- don't buy vintage. Leave them all for me. (or at the very least, share photos when you get something wonderful!)
· All photos, as always, by the inimitable Kathryn! ·