Even if the fifties were a little — or perhaps a lot — before your time, you have likely seen poodle skirts and other types of fifties fashion, at least as costumes. They are adorable garments which are made in the classic swing skirt style, narrow at the waist and full at the bottom. They are the perfect style for dancing because they swing with movement and were the preferred attire for dances called “sock hops” in the 1950s.
There are some differences between poodle skirts and typical swing skirts. Poodle skirts generally had more length, often reaching to or below the mid-calf. A crinoline was frequently added beneath the skirt to accentuate the fullness. The crinoline was adapted from the type worn beneath old-fashioned bell skirts but the more modern versions were made of layers of netting rather than being constructed of rigid materials. Petticoats can also be worn beneath them.
Poodle skirts were often paired with cardigan sweaters, and a neck scarf or a string of pearls could be added as accessories. These items complemented the ensemble along with bobby socks and saddle shoes to complete the look. Instead of a cardigan, a snug, cashmere pullover might also be worn and wide belts were often added to the waistline. The typical hairstyle worn with such outfits was a ponytail, often tied with ribbon or a scarf.
Of course, poodle skirts also had poodles, or appliqués of poodles to be more exact. The appliqués could be made from felt or a variety of other fabrics such as chenille. Some were more dimensional, using other materials for the dog’s fluffy hair and for the tail. Many also included a “leash” made of ribbon or fabric sewn on in a winding and twisting design reaching to or near the waist.
Despite the common use of the poodle on poodle skirts, other items were also used to adorn them. One example is a telephone with a winding cord replacing the winding leash. Other animals were sometimes used as well, such as kittens. Images of foods were also sewn on to skirts such as lollipops and ice cream cones or sundaes.
Many people enjoy wearing poodle skirts for costumes today and they are fairly simple to recreate. Several companies offer patterns or you can simply adapt a full skirt by adding appliqués and a crinoline.