Most of the time I have no clue what triggers these recessive memories I write about, but I’m usually glad when it happens. As I teeter-totter between feeling 36 one day and 96 the next, I will take all the sweet and fun memories I can get. Last week, I remembered something I hadn’t thought about in years - and that was my pink, green and yellow three-layer petticoat!
The petticoat was an essential item for a girl in the 1950s, whether you were six or 16. Where petticoats were concerned, less was not more. You could even call them an indicator of a family’s wealth. A color-coordinated petticoat for every skirt or dress suggested affluence, or at the very least, that the girl’s mother could sew!
Just about every girl I knew had the basic white, and pink and blue were common, but a hint of red petticoat peaking from under that skirt was sassy.
The crinoline petticoat’s sole purpose in life was to make your skirt as full as possible but that might necessitate wearing multiple petticoats to achieve the desired effect. That presented another opportunity to flaunt your cache. But exactly how did a girl go about showing off all those layers? While today’s 16-year-old might hike her mini to show her thigh-high tattoo, her grandmother had a reveal of her own. With her girlfriends gathered around her on the playground, Gran demurely but with a little smugness thrown in, gently drew up the hem of her skirt to reveal splashes of color - and then she counted them so there was no mistaking how many she was wearing!
And then there was me. If you read my Christmas column, you may recall that my dolls didn’t come from Sears Toyland but instead, Weingarten’s Home Center. I was lucky to have the two petticoats that I did have. Of course, I had the all-purpose white, but my secret weapon was my three-layer petticoat. The layers were connected at the waist so when I twirled, they separated to give the illusion of layer upon layer upon layer of petticoats. Those pastel layers were the ticket to a reveal of my own and I loved every minute of it.
There was nothing more feminine than a petticoat and Hollywood and television capitalized on it. Movies such as The Guns of Fort Petticoat (1957), Operation Petticoat (1959) and TV’s Petticoat Junction (1963) attracted male and female audiences who came expecting to see another “battle of the sexes.”
Joining the bench seat and drive-in movies, petticoats have become another symbol of a bygone era but when it comes to fashion, they say if you wait long enough ...
Connie Clements is a freelance reporter and award-winning columnist, who returned to her passion for writing after retirement from the workforce and motherhood, although one is never fully retired from motherhood. She writes feature news article on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.