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A Petticoat is an item of clothing, generally for Women, sometimes used in the context of Cross Dressing, specifically it was created as an undergarment, made to be worn under a skirt or a dress.

Through history, (sixteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries), the Petticoat referred to a separate skirt worn with a gown, bedgown, bodice or jacket, these Petticoats are not, strictly speaking, underwear as they were made to be seen.

Although In both historical and modern contexts, the petticoat would refer to a skirt-like undergarment worn for generally for warmth or to give the skirt/dress a desired shape. An alternative name for the Petticoat would be "waist slip", "underskirt", or slip.

Petticoat is the standard name in English for any underskirt worn as part of non-Western clothing, most significantly, the Lehenga with the Sari.


Petticoats as an undergarments were common by 1585, this was by women who wanted to have the currently fashionable shape from their clothing. The petticoat, if sufficiently full or stiff, would hold the overskirt out in a domed shape, that was thought of as fashionable at that time, and give the impression of a smaller waist than the wearer actually had. It would also complement the desired large bust.

Elaborately decorated petticoats were also worn under open-fronted gowns and looped overskirts from the mid 1500's. On to the Eighteenth century, and Petticoats of wool or silk were often quilted for additional warmth, they were also worn with matching short gowns/jackets, they were sometimes fashioned to look like a man's jacket with military style details and trimmings. These ankle-length petticoats remained mostly a rural fashion, especially in the UK, with this carrying on into the nineteenth century, and are also part of Welsh national dress.

Elaborate, petticoats, created from lace and worn with elegant silk dresses, became common during the eighteenth century in much of Europe and America, sometimes supported by whalebone frames, often these would be worn with intricate Corsetry, and other clothing, originally intended as underwear. This all carried on into the nineteenth century.

In the early nineteenth century, the fashion in dresses became narrower and simpler with much less lingerie. Soon after this, as the Waltz became popular in the 1820s, full-skirted gowns with petticoats were revived in Europe and the United States.

Onto the mid nineteenth century, petticoats were worn over hoops, which were placed over other underwear, including a corset cover, a corset. The popular novel "Gone with the Wind" provides considerable, detailed descriptions of these fashions. One scene in the 1939 Film adaptation of "Gone with the Wind", featuring the actress Vivien Leigh gives a good idea of the layers of petticoats and underwear that were worn in the 1860s. The sheer weight of the clothing, along with the tightness of the corsets, sometimes caused women to faint. The voluminous, layered Victorian style petticoats were fashionable during the eras when "full-bodied" was associated with health, wealth, and belonging to a higher class in the social structure, while "skinny" was associated with sickness, poverty, and belonging to a lower class.

The use of multiple petticoats continued to be popular until the 1870s, when the bustle was introduced, resulting in a return of narrower skirts. Some full-skirted gowns with petticoats were revived in the 1890s into the early twentieth century, but most women continued to wear relatively narrow skirts.

Modern petticoats

For the first two decades of the twentieth century, multiple petticoats fell out of fashion; narrow, sometimes tight, skirts became more common. Then, in the late 1920s, chiffon dresses with several sheer petticoats became fashionable. With the Great Depression in the 1930s, narrow skirts returned and petticoats again were unpopular until the end of the decade when they were revived for some evening, prom, and wedding gowns. World War II, with its rationing and general shortage of materials, brought an end to petticoats.

Petticoats were revived by Christian Dior in his full-skirted look of 1947 and tiered, ruffled, stiffened petticoats remained extremely popular during the 1950s, especially with teenage girls. Most of the petticoats were netlike crinoline, sometimes made of horsehair. Many department stores started to carry an extensive variety of styles and colors of petticoats until the early 1960s.

Designer, "Edith Head" designed a number of gowns and dresses, that were supported by multiple layers of petticoats, for actresses such as "Grace Kelly" and "Doris Day", actress "Connie Stevens", who appeared in television series and movies, said she wore petticoats as long as possible because she had wide hips.

By the middle of the twentieth century, the full petticoat was somewhat rare, having been commonly replaced by more simple looking, underskirts, waist slip or half slips. However, petticoats were still common for proms and weddings.

Ruffled white or unbleached cotton petticoats were a brief fashion under "Prairie skirts" in the 1970s, and remained a component of Western fashion. Short, full petticoats in the 1950s style are also commonly worn by Modern Western square squaredancers.

There was a major attempt to revive separate petticoats in 1987. However, by that time, most women who wanted very full skirts for proms, parties, or weddings bought dresses or skirts with attached crinoline petticoats.

Recent Times

Lately the full, tiered petticoat has made a small comeback as part of the alternative subcultures, especially in the Gothic and Lolita styles, as well as the Rockabilly and Rock n Roll revivals that these scenes also spawned. They have also been popular with some of those who practice Cross Dressing. Various petticoats have also been used in films and musicals dealing with the 1950s, such as Grease, West Side Story, Peggy Sue Got Married, and Back to the Future, as well as some vintage Rock music festivals, especially in Germany.

Also, people who dress in period costumes will sometimes wear petticoats for a more authentic look, this can also be a feature in Cosplay. There's a huge number of websites offering a great variety of petticoats for sale, with others showing historic and modern photographs of petticoats, often worn by models.