Fashion · Fashion Reviews

Vintage Petticoats Guide: Tips and Tricks

Petticoats are of course a vital part of your vintage/retro wardrobe- not just ‘vital’ actually, more like ‘essential’! They are what you will be building your outfits upon. With the resurgence of vintage style petticoats are more popular and sought after than they have been at any point since the 1950s! Probably. Don’t quote me on that. But how do you choose the right petticoat for your needs? For the look you’re after and for your own comfort level?

There are a huge number or variations in the market, in many styles and fabrics and of course difference prices. I’d love to say you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a really good product but… if the look you’re going for is flouncy and layered then… you really do. There are some cheaper alternatives out there however and I’m going to be sharing my wealth of knowledge with you because if there’s one person you can trust to know- it’s a girl who wears petticoats every day.

Petticoat Styles

The most common petticoats used for vintage and retro outfits are square dancing and a-line ones worn under swing skirts. A square dancing petticoat is a huge fluff to the side whilst an a-line builds to volume at the bottom. You can also get bell-shaped ones but that’s more Lolita. They create a bell shape, quite literally. For pre-1930s looks, especially Victorian and Edwardian, you’ll need a specially made petticoat.

Petticoat Fabrics
Petticoat 1- White Crinoline (Grace Karin)

The hard netting crinoline was used during the 50s. It gives a good puff but is generally uncomfortable to wear and if it isn’t the right length can leave an uneven fall.

Petticoat 2- Black Crinoline (Grace Karin)

This is the same petticoat in black. It’s from Grace Karin, who I made a brand review of, and was just £8.99. I love the excessive width but the band can be stratchy so wear long knickers.

Petticoat 3- Organza (Homemade)

Organza is a more modern choice, giving the fullness of a crinoline but is more comfortable. This one I made myself but the seams itch like hell and it catches on my tights. I always wear it with another petticoat underneath. Perfect for a flat look on top however.

Petticoat 4- Soft Netting (Collectif)

Soft netting is delightful to wear and has a lovely fluffy end but doesn’t give great volume. It is lovely when it comes to a good spin around and for day to day is marvellously comfortable. These netting petticoats can be loose at the top… or tight like this one. For a circle skirt that flows off your hips you’ll want the extra fabric of the loose top but if the dress is a little more fitted before flaring out then you need no extra fabric.

Petticoat 5- Colourful (Lady V London)

Be wary of buying bright colours as you won’t often actually wear them and petticoats take up A LOT of space.

Petticoat 6- Too Long (Beyond Retro)

Soft chiffon is the ideal. It can also be worn without a skirt or dress on top in a tutu style. It is more expensive however so if you want a multi-layered chiffon you’ll probably find that the reasonably-priced ones are this long:

Petticoat 7- Soft Chiffon (ebay)

Yep. I don’t own a single dress this short so… here I am in my knickers. It can be worn under a dress of course but if you want a nice look you’re going to have to pull it down you’re hips and then you end up with… this.

I’m tall but I’m not that tall.

Extra tip: Tulle skirts that look like this and tutus that look like this aren’t technically petticoats. They’re… skirts.

Things To Think about when buying your petticoat

• What ‘look’ do you want? Straight out to the sides and solid? Down but fluffy at the ends? Puffy and fluffy? Getting away with it? Or… ‘Ridiculous on public transport’? That last one is my favourite.

• Consider the fabric you’ll be putting on top of the petticoat. If it’s particularly heavy and thick you’re going to need a stronger foundation.
• The right length- do you want the ends to show or not? The best way to know what length of petticoat you need is to measure your garment from waist to the hem and then match that to the petticoat. If you like a pretty, fluffy bottom edge then add an inch or two but no more. Definitely do not get a petticoat shorter by more than a few centimeters- unless you can comfortably keep the top band around your hips- as you’ll get a bad ‘waterfall’ effect.
• Remember you can roll the top but if you do that then roll inwards and always keep the fabric beneath your waistline.
• What size waist band do you need? If you’re a UK size 10 or below then be wary of ‘one size fits all’ petticoats. They don’t fit all. It will slip off or peak out from under your dress, potentially very unevenly.
• Think about what you’ll be wearing underneath. Does it have a scratchy top or elastic straight onto skin?
• Price: Remember that they are an intricate and complex garment so for something that looks and feels amazing to wear it’s understandably going to cost quite a bit. You can get away with cheaper alternatives, particularly if you’re layering them but it’s difficult to manage three different waistbands!
• You can layer your petticoats!


Petticoat Tips

It’s a struggle to keep your petticoat fluffy and huge! It will of course loose some volume over time and under the weight of a dress. Here are some tips however:

  • -Be very careful when taking on and off, always remove your shoes first. Sounds obvious. Isn’t.
  • Shake your petticoat up and down, turn it inside out a few times and shake, shake, shake before you put it on.
  • Hang it inside out! Ooh, bet you didn’t think of that one. Any change will create a mass of volume, much like when you part your hair one way and then the other!
  • Don’t put your petticoats in a draw and then expect them to spring out of it again. That… that just isn’t a thing. Keep it on a hanger or, store it standing up if it’s a hard crinoline- but inside out. It will take up so much space, so much space…. But it’s worth it.
  • When you go to the toilet, fluff your skirt up in the air then grab it before it drops and hold it at the front before sitting down. Best tip I can ever give you.
  • Washing the darn things is a struggle so just don’t let it dirty. Boom. Done.
  • If you really do get it dirty then the washing machine isn’t the worst idea in the world, but do run it on delicate and don’t put anything else in there with it. If you have a tumble drier… then we need to be friends- but also fluff it up in there. Hanging it out to drip dry is just going to drag it down.
  • Eventually there will be nothing you can do to regain the fluff you once had so start layering them up!

I hope this post has been helpful, let me know in the comments if there is anything else you would like to know and I’ll try to answer everything. For more information and try-on please watch my video:

Here’s some extra links including my dream petticoat and other brands I recommend:

My dream petticoat


My favourite petticoats + brands I recommend


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