June 01, 2021 2 Comments on How the Poodle Skirt came to be
There are few garments that conjure up American nostalgia quite like a poodle skirt. This skirt became synonymous with the 1950’s carefree lifestyle of the post war years and a dance floor icon that exemplified the energy of new cultural phenomenon called Rock n’ Roll.
Our 256 At the Hop pattern is a time-capsule of 1950’s women’s fashion that embodied the spirit of a new generation. This nicely curated collection of classic garments comes with all the extra details needed to add as much 1950's nostalgia as you like. The pattern includes not only the iconic Poodle Skirt, but a classic short sleeve blouse pattern, and knitting instructions for a cropped cardigan. To complete the look, coordinating winter holiday and poodle dog appliqués and knitting designs are provided to embellish the skirt and sweater. The seasonal holiday and poodle motifs are in keeping with the original history of the first poodle skirts designs as you will learn.
Women’s Fashion was put on the back burner due to the war years starting in 1939 and lasting thru 1945. Once the WWII was over and the country began to prosper, a new cultural energy and ethos began to stir. The whole country was ready for better times, as well as something exciting and new. In 1947 such an exciting change came to women's fashion. The New Look by Christian Dior was unveiled, introducing a skirt with a full and flowing shape and a nipped waist. This new look was in sharp contrast to the practical clothing of the war years and women embraced this new symbol of high-style with enthusiasm. The fact that it was easy to make only added to the craze among women across all spectrum of society.
Christian Dior's iconic New Look.
During the winter holiday season of the same year, a young budding actress named Julie Lynn Charlot had an invitation to a Christmas party and nothing to wear. Julie was newly married and broke, but her mother owned a factory that used felt. Needing a holiday outfit Julie decided to draft her own skirt pattern (like Mr. Dior’s) and used the easy-to-work-with felt she had on hand. Sewing was not a skill Julie was good at, so she cut a big circle with a hole in the middle for her waist, which eliminated the need for seams. On this first party skirt, Julie included seasonal holiday appliqués just for the fun of it. The new couple not only enjoyed the Christmas party on a budget that year, but Julie’s skirt drew quite a lot of attention.
A Christmas Holiday Skirt designed by Julie Lynn Charlot.
Before long, Julie was selling her felt holiday skirts in Beverly Hills boutiques, where they flew off the racks. It did not take long before non-holiday themed embellishments were requested and the trend took off like skirts on fire! You never know when making something for yourself could turn you into a fashion designer?
Julie also established the skirts iconic fabric of choice. Felt may have been what Julie had on hand, but it was a perfect choice, once again making the skirt easy for anyone to sew. To add to this charming story, Julie was not stingy with her designs and worked with a pattern company to make her designs accessible to women world wide. She helped to create a whole generation of women who delighted in creating skirts with fun scenes and stories using easy to apply appliqué techniques.As it so happened, the first Westminster Dog Show that year, had created a rage for all things dogs. As a result, Julie was commissioned to make a skirt depicting a story of three appliquéd dachshunds.
Julie in her own Dachshund Dog design skirt.
Due to the high profile dog show and their fancy haircuts, poodles became a symbol of refinement and high class. As fate would have it, the appliquéing of poodles on skirts was beyond huge. Before long, just about anything became a possible embellishments for these wide circle skirts. Grown women adorned their skirts with the Eiffel Tower, Martini glasses, flower pots, and seasonal themes. Teenage girls embellished their skirts with trendy images like records, catchy phrases, hot rod cars and anything that inspired.
Ladies of the 1950's modeling different themed circle skirts.
Horse Race skirt design by Julie Lynn Charlot.
Dance Floor skirt design by Julie Lynn Charlot.
Designer Bettie Morrie even appliquéd a backgammon board on her skirt, which she used for an impromptu game when it arose.
After the difficult years of the war, women were in need of not only glamour but the country was overdue for some much needed fun. Mr. Dior's flowing skirt design was not only fun to move and dance in, but it was the perfect canvas for displaying one's individual expression. It would be Julie's idea of adding appliquéd embellishments that would transform the skirt into a popular conversation piece. Even walking down the street became more interesting and fun for everyone!
Of course, each garment in the pattern in the Folkwear's 256 At The Hop pattern is a classic, easily made for everyday wearing no matter the season. Use this pattern to make a costume, historical reenactment, a theater production, a sports or hobby themed skirt, or as a canvas when inspiration strikes.
Halloween made more fun!
This is truly an American story of how a fashion icon was created out of one mans awareness of how to fulfill a desire for glamour and the necessity of one young woman to dress herself for a party. So, it just goes to show how once a momentum gets started, anything can happen! It is amazing how a simple skirt bound a generation of women and created wonderful memories in the process.
Find your own inspiration using the this pattern and please share what you make, whether a masterpiece or a lovely everyday look.
Be sure to stay tuned to what we were inspired to make using the 256 At the Hop skirt pattern in the next blog (coming this week!).
June 01, 2021
The article on the “poodle skirt” doesn’t mention the fabulous net petticoats required to make the skirt stand out. I remember my circle skirt from 1956very well. It was store bought (probably J.C. Penney) black taffeta cut in 3 concentric circles attached with decorative stitching. Thank you for the fun article.
May 12, 2023
June 05, 2021
Yes indeed Jean, I remember the net petticoats too. I had a red felt circular skirt with ‘rick rack’ trimming (not sure if you have the same thing in the US but a braid like a wavy line) made by my Mum. Sure the net must have been very scratchy though! Interesting to read the skirt’s origins.