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More than just a slip, petticoats have been worn by women for hundreds of years. They create fullness under a dress or formal gown. Asian petticoats provide modesty under sarees.

What kind of petticoat should you wear under a saree?

The skirt worn under a saree (also spelled sari) differs from the other types of this undergarment. Its purpose is not to add fullness to a dress, but rather to provide modesty for the wearer. A saree is a piece of fabric several yards long. Even when worn carefully, if the folds of a saree part the wrong way, the woman wearing it is exposed. Therefore, a simple skirt is worn underneath in a shade that matches the saree. These underskirts frequently have a drawstring waist.

What is the use of a petticoat?

Apart from the underskirt worn with a saree, the main use of a petticoat is to make a skirt or dress look full. Also known as crinolines, they use layers of a stiff fabric like tulle or net to add volume without a lot of weight or bulk. They are typically worn underneath wedding and bridal party gowns with full skirts. Women who participate in historical re-enactments wear these skirts under gowns to achieve an authentic period look. Full white pettiskirts are part of the costume for women who square dance. They are worn under ruffled dresses as part of that specific Western style. Vintage looks from the fifties and rockabilly dress styles require these underskirts to achieve the proper shape for the style.

What is a petticoat made out of?

The ideal fabric for these fluffy underskirts is designed to create fullness is stiff but lightweight. White is the most common color, but all shades are available. Fabrics frequently used include:

  • Cotton lawn: Historical re-enactors use this fabric due to its authenticity. Laundry starch is used to provide stiffness.
  • Net: Nylon netting fabric is created specifically for use in underskirts to give maximum flounce and fullness.
  • Tulle: This fabric is very sheer. Although it is also created from nylon, tulle is more finely woven than net.
  • Organza: A stiffly woven silk fabric, organza is used to create quality bridal pettiskirts.

What is a hoop skirt?

A hoop skirt is an undergarment for women that adds volume not by layers of fabric, but by inserting coiled metal wire into channels on a slip. When worn under a dress, this creates a bell-like shape without using a lot of fabric or creating a lot of weight. They work well under wedding gowns or authentic period dress. Historically they were made of white crinoline and relied on whalebone or reeds for stiffness instead of the metal used today.