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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Back in the day: Counting cancans

Whether you called them petticoats, crinolines or cancans, no fashion-forward girl would have gone to school without at least half a dozen of them underneath her circle skirt in the mid-50s. I still remember gathering mine up and trying to stuff them in the kneehole of a desk. Being a stylish elementary schoolgirl was hard work!

The standard issue, practical model that all mothers bought for their daughters looked like this one: white nylon tricot hip yoke above tiers of nylon net bound in satin.

One of my most vivid and pleasant memories of 5th grade is gathering in the girls' bathroom to "count petticoats." Call me crazy, but I think 10 or 15 giggling girls showing off yards and yards of net is more fun to reminisce about than long division.

This girl wouldn't have had a prayer of winning
with one puny petticoat!

While the actual count was important, color was a bonus. We all begged our mothers to buy our petticoats in rainbow hues, because your coolness factor climbed with every colorful layer. I had all these baby blue and pale yellow.

While I had a red felt poodle skirt, scarf and saddle shoes similar to these, the real signal that summer was almost over and the beginning of the new school year was imminent came when my mother started talking about going to the fabric store to buy "dark cottons" for my wardrobe of shirtwaist dresses.


  1. Do you remember the petticoats that had an inflatable tube around the bottom? I had one in elementary school and quickly learned not to lean up against a wall because the hoop went straight up in front.

    I love your counting petticoats story!

  2. @Midcenturymadam: I don't remember the ones with the inflatable tubes. I bet those were hilarious. I did have a regular hoop skirt one Easter, and my mom was the one who learned the lesson. I spent the whole church service with my skirt up in front, my face hidden and my panties showing. She'd get it down, then I'd squirm, and up it would go again. LOL

  3. I love this post! I always wished I lived in the 50's. When I was in college I went through a mid century phase, where I wore petticoats and circle skirts and cardigans with scarfs. I still love that style but it somehow is only acceptable when you're a fashion student. haha. But I am so envious that you got to wear it back in the 50's!! That must have been absolutely so much fun! :) Happy Halloween!!

  4. @Gina: I bet you looked darling dressed like that. They were fun days, for sure.

  5. While I wasn't around yet in the 50s, I became an admirer of crinolines and 50s styles. I am proud to say I now own a few circle skirts, poodle skirts, and petticoats that I wear for 50s theme parties and Halloween.

  6. I was just a child in the 50s.I wore a can can to church but I don't remember if I wore one to school. Then at some point we no longer wore them. When did they go out of style? When did people stop wearing them? I'd like to know how it all changed.