Tag Archives: controversial clothing

Not Like Grandma’s Pantalettes: 1914

pantalettes dress


In the June Woman’s Home Companion Grace Margaret Gould, fashion editor of that periodical, writes an article entitled “Skirts Flare Out–Behold the Pantalette?” in which she comments on the pantalette of today and yesterday and other new French fashion frivolities. Following is an extract:

“Yes. Grandmamma did weave pantalettes and now Granddaughter has her modern critical eye upon them.

“Premet of Paris, who has so quickly forged ahead into fashionable favor, says, ‘Pantalettes are not only to be worn but shown.’

“But let me tell you that the new French pantalettes in this uppest-to-date are as far removed from the pantalettes of the remote and romantic days of long ago as champagne from cambric tea.

“Grandmamma certainly in her giddiest days would never have recognized these filmy, etherealized creations.

“Hers were of the prudent and substantial sort, fulfilling to the letter the now lost mission of clothes to be a covering, and they were only to be exposed on the most scheduled of clothes-lines.

“To describe the pantalettes that Premet shows–those which belong to the glaring Now–is to tell quite a different story.

“The Paris dress openings in their display of spring and summer gowns showed many novelties, but Premet’s costumes brought forth the most gasps and ‘Ohs!’ Such filmy, frilly perky pantalettes, and peeping out with no suggestion of timidity from actual hoop skirts!

“Then there were other pantalettes, direct descendants of the modern tango garter, created just for the dance. In fact, the return of the pantalette to Paris is not so much the revival of an old quaint fashion as it is a dress outcome of the dance craze. From the tango garter it is only a light and airy step to the tango pantalette and the next step after–and this is a stride–is the mannish trouser to be worn with the tailored suit.

“And right here let me say that the new tailored skirt, slit at the sides, and worn with trousers of the same fabric, is a strong swing toward decency.

Lead [SD] Daily Call 14 May 1914: p. 6

pantalettes 1915

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  The “decency” of the pantalette when dancing is a constant theme in the fashion papers. This description refers to the figure above:

These little pantalettes are so quaintly pretty in their daintiness that they do not in any way shock our sensibilities. They are greatly to be recommended to be worn when dancing, for the wearer can move with greater ease than if hampered with a clinging skirt that falls to the ankles. In Fig. 1 I am showing here an entirely different silhouette from the frilled model with which pantalettes are usually associated. The gown is In rose taffeta. The fullness of the silk on the skirt is quaintly drawn In with a garland of pink roses. From beneath the taffeta falls a superposed flounce of exquisite lace, a gray net foundation woven with silver threads, under the lace and falling a few inches below, Is an underskirt of rose colored chiffon then come the little pantalettes; these are made of the finest of cream lace, encircled around the ankles with a wreath of tiny pink rosebuds.

The Ogden [UT] Standard 21 April 1914: p. 8

A new term arose to describe the fashionable and frilly garments:

lace pantalettes

The Day Book [Chicago IL] 8 July 1915: p. 18

The “Garter-Petticoats”

I have been amused to see that in some of the London newspapers they are giving the polite name of “garter-petticoats” to the new lace pantalettes which have recently been introduced into the world of fashion in Paris. “Garter-petticoat” sounds quite simple and correct, much less eccentric than the garment it describes. This is a very quaint fashion but it is one which has already become popular in smart circles. The new lace pantalettes are a modified edition of the voluminous trousers made of flimsy material worn by Turkish women. Some months ago this curious fashion first appeared, but then it was almost exclusively applied to evening costumes. Now, however, the long pantalettes made of fine lace and chiffon are worn in conjunction with visiting dresses and even in some extreme cases, with tailored suits.

These strange garments are banded in at the ankles and it is considered chic to have them distinctly visible under the hem of a tight skirt. Since I have already done a good deal of fault finding in this article I must now content myself by saying that personally I do not consider these long lace pantalettes suitable for street wear. It has been said that they are intended to give the effect of a lace petticoat and they are arranged as trousers merely to do away with unnecessary material under a tight skirt. As a comment on this explanation I ask to be allowed to use a single, rather rude, word:  “Bosh!”

In the full length sketch which I am sending to The Post this week I have indicated rather successful chiffon pantalettes which were made to match the costume with which they were worn. The model which I have sketched [seen at the head of the post] shows one of the new flounced skirts, the flounces being shaped and graduated in width. The color scheme exploited in this dress was very satisfactory.

The materials were supple taffeta and printed gauze The taffeta was in a rich shade of navy blue and the gauze In a subtle tone of petunia with dark blue roses scattered over its surface The silk corsage was particularly well arranged.  Cut on generous lines it fell in graceful folds over the bust and bloused over the waist band which was composed of navy blue mirror velvet This band was fastened in front with a beautiful enamel ornament which had been specially made for this costume.  This ornament repeated all the tones of blue and petunia shown in this dress.

The Washington [DC] Post 10 May 1914: p. 6

One would gather from the previous article that the London fashion world found the word “pantalettes” too jarring to the sensibilities of fashion reactionaries, not to mention the host of Bishops, who denounced bloomers, bicycles, and the tango from the pulpit, and that, in response, some anonymous Fleet-street copy-writer coined the appellation “garter-petticoat,” which, to be perfectly frank, is scarcely better. However, Mrs Daffodil must refute this monstrous calumny against British anti-pantalettegists: the term is first found in the United States press in 1901, in connection with narrower skirts, and then again, linked with hobble skirts, in 1910.

Under the very narrow gown, banded in at the ankles, the ordinary petticoat slips up and becomes bunched awkwardly about the limbs, interfering with the already restricted walk and making an ugly bulge in the scant skirt. The dressmakers have put their wits to work on the petticoat question for these new extremely narrow skirts, and have at last evolved the garter-petticoat—that is, double petticoat, for there are two long, narrow “petticoats” which—one might as well be truthful—are really shapeless trouser legs of silk or satin each attached to a ribbon-trimmed garter. The two garters are connected by a six-inch length of ribbon, so the feet may never be placed far enough apart to reveal the bifurcation of this new narrow “petticoat.”

Buffalo [NY] Evening News 4 November 1910: p. 16

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.