The Fluff on Petticoats

November 7, 2012
From Country Petticoats

Hello everyone! This is my first post here at Sew Retro. I’ve been lurking about, learning and watching, trying to soak up enough knowledge to take the plunge, and sew some things myself.

Not only am I new to sewing clothes, I’m also new to wearing vintage and had a few questions concerning petticoats. Maybe I’m over thinking things here, but the whole petticoat thing has got me in a fluff! I mean we’ve got the really poofy, the little bit ruffly, and the lacy then… … … there’s crinolines! (Is there a difference?) Essentially, a petticoat is a slip meant to give a dress/skirt volume right? Or is there more to it?

What is what in this mountain of floof? What should a girl look for buying or making her first petticoat? (I’m leaning more toward buying right now.) How can I get educated on these mysterious underthings and not slip up. If you could point me in the right direction I sure would appreciate it.

From Crow202 site

  1. I think of a slip as a smaller and less voluminous. The little nylon things are slips. Petticoats are longer and more skirt-like, even if they’re not multi-layered. Nineteenth-century and Edwardian ladies wore petticoats, not slips. 1920’s ladies and up wear slips, except for 1950’s ladies who went back to petticoats for awhile.

    Also, I think petticoats could originally be visible as outerwear. You know how 18th-century dresses often have split skirts or polonaises, and the underskirt is part of the overall “dress effect”? I think those underskirts are technically petticoats.

    I think a crinoline is an especially structural petticoat, including hoopskirts and the super-stiffened 1950’s variety, because the fabric for them originally included horsehair in the weave to make them really stiff.

    Also: Your cat is adorable with a capital A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E.

    1. Thanks for explaining that. I figured it was a bit more complicated than just being a slip.

      I wish that adorable cat was mine! I actually came across that photo while looking around the web for petti info. 🙂

  2. I think it really depends on the look you are going for and the dress you are wearing it under. If you are looking to buy, try to find a place you can try some on.(Vintage shops, lingerie stores, and costume places are good places to start) If you get too much pouf, your dress could look strained and stuffed. If you have too little, you might not get that lift you are looking for. It’s fun to experiment with colors, lengths, and textures. For example, I like the style in the picture you posted over the ones made with tulle because tulle gets scratchy on my legs and can look cheap. Experiment!

  3. It is my understanding that ladies layered smaller (less poufy) petticoats to get the look / volume they wanted. You might be better off buying 2-3 less fluffy petticoats and customizing the amount of volume you need depending on the dress. I prefer less volume myself; I want my skirts to ‘sway’ gracefully when I walk, not stand up on their own. :^)

  4. I would recommend buying at first and only making them when you want something you cannot buy — I make and buy my daughter’s petticoats, I buy my own. i would suggest you start out with the softer nylon/lace ones, like this: — that will provide you with the lift and sway without feeling costumey. And I agree with PepperReed, it’s easier to layer less fluffy pettis than to have a giant one you don’t use at much!

  5. Interesting post. I’m making myself a petticoat at the moment to go underneath dresses (for warmth and umff*). I’ve been doing some reserch but couldn’t decide on the era I wanted my petticoat for…I’ve just ended up with something generic….lol!

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