An icon from the 1950s, the poodle skirt — with its felt fabric and wide circumference — elicits images of clean-cut teens hanging out at sock hops and malt-shop diners. While seemingly the fashion equivalent to baseball, mom and apple pie, in reality, the poodle skirt wasn’t as popular as modern pop culture often leads people to believe.
Creating the Poodle Skirt
The poodle skirt was the invention of a woman who couldn’t sew. In 1947, Juli Lynne Charlot made a Christmas skirt from felt; cutting two circles into one large piece, she eliminated the need for skirt seams. To make it festive for the holiday, she added Christmas tree appliques. Happy with the result, Charlot made three similar skirts, which she sold to a Beverly Hills boutique. After the holiday season passed, the shop requested skirts with poodles — a symbol of French fashion and snobbery — and the poodle skirt was born.
Expanding the Line
As Charlot created more skirts, she decorated them with different types of appliques, but the term poodle skirt stuck. Poodle skirts in the ’50s also featured various flowers, small animals and whimsical designs that told stories. Although prices varied, many poodle skirts were sold with high price tags, making them a high-end item not every teen could afford. According to “Girl Culture: An Encyclopedia,” candid photos from 1950s’ yearbooks show few girls actually wearing poodle skirts.
References and ResourcesToledo Blade: Girl Who Couldn't Sew Booms Into Business with Circle Skirt
The Vintage Traveler: Interview with Juli Lynne Charlot
Girl Culture: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 1; Claudia Mitchell and Jacqueline Reed-Walsh