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The Case for the Petticoat

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Petticoats—the undergarments that add shape to a woman’s skirt or dress—have been around for at least five hundred years. They’re currently out of mainstream fashion, but a petticoat is a wonderful addition to an woman’s wardrobe that adds a touch of elegance and fun.

  • Petticoats are modest. Wear a petticoat under a thin skirt the way you would a slip. The weight and bulk of a petticoat is also a great way to keep your skirt down in windy weather.
  • Petticoats are unique. Petticoats have been out of the mainstream since the 1960s—except in bridal fashion. Stand out from the crowd with a distinctive vintage look.
  • Petticoats are flattering. Petticoats were fashionable for many centuries because they make the wearers’ waists look trim. They also add a touch of thoughtfulness to even casual outfits.
  • Petticoats are a good investment. Adding a petticoat and a fun ribbon around the waist makes even thrift-store dresses look chic. The one-time purchase of a petticoat has saved me a lot of money by expanding wardrobe choices from recycled clothes.
  • Petticoats are fun! There isn’t anything quite like the feeling of swishing petticoats under your favorite skirt or dress. It just makes everything during the day a little more exciting.

If you’d like to purchase a petticoat of your own, you should keep a few things in mind:

  • Use a petticoat to get the fun, vintage look of these summer dresses from 1958.

    Assess your wardrobe. Consider what dresses or skirts you already own that would look nice with a petticoat. It probably isn’t worth buying a petticoat for only one dress or skirt.

  • Choose the right length. Petticoats should be about the same length as your skirts. An elastic waistband adds a few inches of wiggle room, but you’ll need a knee-length, calf-length, or ankle-length petticoat, depending on the length of the skirts with which you’ll be wearing it.
  • Stick with natural materials. Look for petticoats made with silk, cotton or, in the winter, flannel fabrics. Tulle or mesh fabric will chafe your legs, so you’ll also want to wear a thin, silk slip underneath. Comfort is key!
  • Invest in quality. Costume petticoats are easy to find, but they look and feel cheap and won’t stand up to repeated wear. If you want to commit to adding a petticoat to your wardrobe, make sure it is a garment that will last.

My petticoats come from Etsy vendors KMK Designs and Cherry Pie Vintage

5 responses »

  1. I love this post, I’ve recently been thinking about expanding my wardrobe into more flattering and feminine looks… Being a college student, it’s so easy to throw in a pair of jeans and a hoody – but you are absolutely right, there is nothing like swishing skirts to make you feel more elegant, flirtatious and fun.

    This post brought this quote by Tasha Tudor to mind: “Why do women want to dress like men when they’re fortunate enough to be women? Why lose femininity, which is one of our greatest charms? We get more accomplished by being charming than we would be flaunting around in pants and smoking. I’m very fond of men. I think they are wonderful creatures. I love them dearly. But I don’t want to look like one. When women gave up their long skirts, they made a grave error…”

    • My family had a picnic on a college campus yesterday afternoon. We talked about how we’d forgotten how aggressively casual the college wardrobe is. I have to say, I wish I’d discovered long skirts in college. They are so much more comfortable than sweats and look a whole lot better.

      I love that quote! Is it from Tasha Tudor the children’s book illustrator?

      • Ha! Aggressively casual accurately defines the majority of fashions on my college campus. I will have to look into some longer skirts, ease my way into the more feminine fashions. And yes – that would be the same Tasha Tudor.

  2. Motherlessdaughter

    So can a petticoat be worn with any style of skirt? Or only certain styles like pleated ones?

    • Petticoats work best with pleated or circle skirts. You could always experiment with other styles, but I feel pretty confident that they will never look good with an empire waisted dress or an A-line.


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