With Halloween approaching some of you might be considering dressing up like a 1950s sock-hopper…or maybe you’ve just been wanting to learn how to rock a poodle skirt. Either way, there’s no judging here–this is a vintage blog after all.
A vintage appliqued felt poodle skirt worn with a crinoline and a cinch belt. Photo by ACHA PICS.
Of course everyone knows what a poodle skirt is, but you might not know what makes exactly makes a skirt a poodle skirt. A poodle skirt is a circle skirt, traditionally made of felt, and featuring appliques. The most popular design was the poodle, hence the name, but poodle skirts can be embellished with all different types of appliques. Traditionally, poodle skirts were made from one large piece of felt or fabric and had no seams. It is a very full skirt with a very defined waist.
The inventor of the poodle skirt pictured in the 1950s. Photo via The Vintage Traveler.
The poodle skirt was invented in 1947 by Juli Lynne Charlot, an actress and model living in California. Not knowing how to sew, having a limited budget and wanting to add something new to her wardrobe she was inspired to make a no-sew skirt made from felt she sourced from her family’s factory. She got the idea to decorate the skirt with some Christmas appliques and wore it to a holiday party. Her first attempt turned out so successfully that she got the idea to make more skirts and take them to a local boutique to sell. It was there that the iconic poodle was added. Juli Lynne Charlot went on to design skirts with a wide variety of appliques all during the poodle skirt craze.
McCall’s poodle skirt patterns. Photo by by retro-thrift.
How to Wear
In order to wear a poodle skirt and highlight its volume to the maximum effect, you simply must wear a crinoline or some other underskirt to fluff the skirt out. The poodle skirt, by its very nature, is an extremely full skirt. It’s the skirt that will flow around you when you spin in place… think the opening credits of the 50’s inspired TV show Happy Days or the movie Grease.
Ideally, the poodle skirt is also worn with flats. Ballet slippers, flat sneakers like Chuck’s or Ked’s or the traditional saddle shoes. And with bobby socks too, of course.
Wear it with a bandeau style top, or a button-up short sleeve or sleeveless blouse and tucked in. You can add a button-up cardigan over your blouse as well. Because the poodle skirt is so full, just don’t wear anything too blousy or loose on top. To be more authentic, you can throw on a wide cinch belt too.
One important styling fact of note is that the applique should be worn in the front, but always off to the side–never centered.
Wear a scarf around your neck or pull your hair up in a ponytail and wear a scarf tied around your ponytail elastic to complete the look.
Here are a couple of choices if you are looking for an authentic poodle skirt to wear.
From EdgarandAnnabel at Etsy. A light grey and pink poodle skirt.
From missfarfalla at Etsy. Hand appliqued falling leaves skirt.
From Nasty Gal. Finally, here’s how to wear an updated version of the poodle skirt.