Petticoat is a type of underwear that was originally a men’s shirt that reached the hip. It was in the Middle Ages that it was transformed into women’s clothing. Soon it was replaced by the underwear shirt. Its use, as a bottom skirt, fastened by ribbons and fabric strips, began in 1585 when the desired silhouette was that of a thin waist, large breasts and a vaulted skirt.

From the middle of the 16th century, petticoats were also used as part of the clothing that could be seen. Being used with dresses with open skirts in the front, leaving it in sight.

The 18th century petticoats were used to warm women, being made of wool or silk and used with dresses that matched them and were shorter than those used until then. After this type of petticoat went out of style, it continued to be used in rural fields, where they were better used since there was a lot of walking on land, and with petticoats and skirts of shorter dresses, they were less dirty.

Also in the 18th century, more elaborate petticoats began to be used, which were made with whale bones.

At the beginning of the 19th century, dresses were narrower and simpler, as were their petticoats. It was in 1820, with the success of the waltzes, that petticoats came back into fashion and dress skirts became full and well decorated again.

In the Victorian era when the feminine body considered beautiful was that of the fullest woman, the weight caused by the petticoats and the tightening of the corset caused faintness since they were so tight and heavy.

The use of petticoat decreased again when the bustle (substitute for crinoline) was introduced. They only returned to fashion when Dior presented the “New Look”, a more modern version of the tight-waisted silhouette with busts in evidence.

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Bibliography: Callan, Georgina O’Hara; Enciclopédia da moda de 1840 à década de 90 / Georgina O’Hara Callan ; verbetes brasileiros Cynthia Garcia : tradução Glória Maria de Mello Carvalho, Maria Ignez França – São Paulo : Companhia das Letras, 2007.

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