Poodle skirts in the 1950s were a brief trend that has been an iconic 50s costume ever since. Girls and teens started the trend by wearing felt circle skirts with an applique of a pink poodle on a silver leash. Other poodle skirt themes included cute animals, funny sayings, cars, cartoon characters, and martini glasses. Poodle skirts were paired with blouses or knit tops, cardigan sweaters, bobby socks and saddle shoes. The poodle skirt outfit was ready to wear to the nearest sock hop dance party. Scroll to the bottom of the page or click here to jump to the history of poodle skirts.
Today you can buy poodle skirt costumes in a variety of colors at every budget level. You can also DIY a poodle skirt from cheap craft supplies, or sew a poodle skirt using a pattern. We searched the web and found all of these poodle skirts, poodle skirt costume sets, poodle skirt sewing patterns, shoes, and accessories for you. Browse and compare all your choices right here.
Poodle Skirt Costume:
- Button down blouse or knit sweater top. Striped and polka dot tops are also popular
- Poodle Skirt – A felt circle skirt with a poodle or another animal/novelty applique.
- Wide Belt (optional) – Elastic cinch or bow belt.
- White socks (Bobby Socks) – plain or with a poodle applique.
- Saddle shoes, loafers, or ballet flat shoes.
- Chiffon scarf, tied around the neck or hair in a ponytail.
- Cat Eye Glasses – Black with rhinestones.
- Jewelry – Pearl necklace, bracelet, and earrings.
- Gloves (optional) – Wrist length white gloves.
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Poodle Skirt History
If you ask anyone who lived through the 50s if they wore a poodle skirt or knew someone who did, chances are they would say no. Poodle skirts were a very brief fad that was only well known in larger cities, and although designed for women it was mostly adopted by young girls and children. Poodle skirts were made of a thick but lightweight felt which made them easy to wear over hoop skirts or petticoats for added fullness. They didn’t need ironing, were cheap and easy to make, and were fun to personalize.
A poodle on a leash was appliqued to the skirt at the hem. Anything that was French, pink, and cute was in vogue in the 50s. Adding a pink poodle with a silver leash was the ultimate chic decoration, however it wasn’t the only design. Cute appliques of animals, flowers and vines, butterflies, seasonal themes, toys, and catchy phrases like “See you later alligator” decorated most kids poodle skirts. One of the original 50s skirts featured three poodles with leashes attached to the skirt band. Other popular dogs were Scotty dogs, dachshunds, and beagles. The designs were quite and covered most of the skirt, though most poodle skirt costumes today only have a small poodle in one corner.
Adults avoided these cute themes but did decorate their skirts with rick rack, zig-zags, stars, and floral appliques or embroidery. Some skirts that were sold added a little decoration to the pocket such as the initials of her name. The photo below shows a felt skirt with an Eiffel Tower, telephone, and a mouse with a Martini Glass. Note the length of the women’s poodle skirt compared to girls’. Girls’ skirts were knee-length while women’s skirt hung down to the mid-calf, called tea length. Most poodle skirt costumes today are only sold in knee length.
’50s poodle skirts were usually paired with a white button-down blouse with a round peter pan collar. They could also have pointed collars and come in pastel colors, red, black, and pink too. Some poodle skirt outfits were worn with striped knit tops, sleeveless button-down blouses, short sleeve knit sweaters or cardigans, and long sleeve knit tops or sweaters. The twin set, a short sleeve knit top with matching knit cardigan sweater, is another iconic pairing with 50s poodle skirts. Go here to learn more about and shop for ’50s tops.
Most girls and young women preferred the plain knit top or sweater because they looked best with a chiffon neck scarf. When tied to one side of the neck, they were the perfect 50s fashion accessory! Most neck scarves were a solid color that matched the skirt or a belt. If the scarf wasn’t worn around the neck it could be tied around the hair like a headband or around a high ponytail. View some options for neck scarfs, headbands and hair accessories here.
Although jewelry wasn’t worn on a daily basis, when dressing up for a school dance some girls wore their mother’s white pearl necklace (single or double strand in a short length) with a matching pearl bracelet and button pearl earrings. Pearls always made a girl turn into a woman. For less gown up jewelry a charm bracelet, pop-it beads, or an animal brooch were all welcome additions. Go here to learn more about 50s jewelry.
White wrist length gloves were also worn for dress-up occasions. Women wore them daily when going out, but teens only wore them to church or a party. It is rare to see vintage pictures of teens in poodles skirt wearing gloves but I do love them as an accessory. Shop gloves.
Speaking of accessories, poodle skirts looked best with a wide cinch belt, matte leather belt or shiny vinyl belt that matched the skirt. The belt both nipped in the waist and held down blouses that were prone to riding up. Knit tops and sweaters that were worn over skirt bands did not need belts. Belts that contrasted with the skirt color could also be worn but were less common. When coordinated with other accessories such as a neck scarf, gloves, and a necklace, white or black belts look very stylish. Shop 1950s belts here.
Cat eye glasses are another 50s accessory worn by women, whether they needed glasses or not. Black frames with pointy cat shape eyes with some sparkling rhinestone in the corners are the most classic. Frames came in all sorts of plastic colors, sometimes with corner decorations. Sunglasses, too, took on the cat eye shape. Shop 1950s eyewear.
Petticoats, crinolines and hoop skirts gave the poodle skirt a lot of poof. Hoop skirts were made of a single layer of crinoline with a metal or plastic hoop strung through a casing a few inches above the hem. Hoop skirts were tricky to wear. They were prone to flipping up in the wind, hard to sit in, and annoying to dance in since you were often hitting other dancers with your skirt. For these reasons, I don’t recommend wearing a hoop skirt.
Typically, women to wear one or several layers of crinolines instead. Vintage petticoats were made of soft nylon, but cheap crinolines today are usually made of scratchy tulle netting. Either spend a bit more (about $60) on a soft crinoline or wear bike/yoga shorts between you and the petticoat. Be sure to pick the right length for your poodle skirt. In the 50s it was indecent to have your petticoat showing. “Miss, it’s snowing down south” meant you need to hike up your petticoat. Today the trend is to see a fun color petticoat popping out below your poodle skirt. The choice is yours. Shop 50s crinolines and petticoats.
The final element of a poodle skirt outfit is the socks and shoes. White bobby socks folded down, sometimes with embroidered poodles on the outside, are classic girls’ and teen’s socks. Women wore them too with casual outfits, but mostly they wore backseam stockings with skirts.
Girls and teens wore sparkling clean saddle shoes, usually in black and white but other colors were available such as red, pink, blue, and green. Besides saddle oxfords, teens also wore slip-on loafers, black ballet flats, white canvas Keds sneakers, and sometimes heels.
Authentic 1950s saddle shoes came in black, white or red rubber soles. The highest quality saddle shoes are from Royal Vintage. Bass also makes good saddle shoes but they frequently sell out and/or are not available in black and white. Other costume brands sell cheap saddle shoes made of vinyl or plastic. Those are OK for a one time costume. Shop here for saddle shoe options.
Learn more about 1950s teenage girls clothing history.
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