Something that we get requests for quite often at our stores are Poodle Skirts. For those of you who do not know what a Poodle Skirt is, they were a very popular and specifically cut skirt from the late 40′s and 50′s. They commonly had embroidered appliques on them like the picture below.
Now that you know what they are and what they look like, where the heck did they come from?? I did a bit of researching and this is what I was able to dig up.
It is believed that actress turned designer Juli Lynne Charlot is the original designer of this piece. As an actress, she had a specific style that she wanted to wear. Not knowing how to sew, she hired a professional seamstress to give her creations a breathe of life. As the war came to a close, Charlot married film editor, Philip Charlot. She then gave up performing to become a post-war wife. Here’s where things take off for the future designer.
In 1947, the world of fashion took a turn. World War 2 fabric restrictions were lifted, hemlines dropped, and skirts became fuller.
Around this time, Philip lost his job. Charlot being so young, she wanted to have her hands in fashion and on these new styles. Lack of funding prevented this from happening though. She was only 25 when she was invited to a holiday party in Los Angeles. She wanted to create something special for the event and with no money, she decided to make her own ensemble for the event. She later stated that, “If I had known how to sew, or had the money to purchase better materials, I would have never made the circle skirt.”
Fortunately for her though, her mother owned a factory that used felt and she was able to obtain some fabric that way. She states that, “I cut the circle out of felt, which allowed me to cut a complete circle skirt without having any seams. I added some whimsical Christmas motif appliqués and the result was so attractive that I received many compliments at the party.”
About a week later she made two duplicates of her circle skirt and took them to a Beverly Hills boutique just prior to Christmas. The owner excitedly put them on display and they were sold immediately. The store owner was in touch with Charlot soon after to place another order. It was from there that Juli Lynne Charlot California began. With what little money she saved up, she was able to make mass amounts of the circle skirts in her own factory. Not being very good at math, she was barely able to afford payroll. A dress manufacturer from New York came in one day and saw Charlot in tears from the over whelming amount of bills that were close to submerging her business. He decided then and there to invest some money into the factory. Charlot then hired a secretary to do all the mathmatical work she was incapable of doing, which helped tremendously.
The business blossomed and had a large variety or different styled skirts. There were beautiful floral patterns such as huge felt roses, realistic yellow daffodils, water lilies complete with a discreet frog and various whimsical story patterns were attached to the skirts using an appliqué process. After Christmas the Los Angeles boutique requested a non-holiday design. It was quite fashionable at the time for women to be accompanied by dogs on leashes and thus Charlot decided to make a dog-themed skirt.
As always, her designs told a story and the dog skirt was no different. Charlot came up with the idea of three Dachshunds: two females and a male. The first dog was a flirty girl, the second was a girl with her nose stuck in the air, and the third was the male who was trying to get to the flirty girl. But all the leashes became intertwined so the male dog could only get to the stuck up female.
The boutique loved the skirt and they sold well, and in early 1948, Charlot designed a similar one with poodles, which proved to become widely successful than the dachshunds. And thus the iconic poodle skirt was born. From there on out, Charlot became a very well known designer. She even ended up creating matching bustiers, stoles (shawls), boleros (shrugs), halternecks and sweaters, and there were hats and handbags decorated to match the clothes.
I hope you all enjoyed this learning experience, because I sure did! Feel free to leave a comment with any additional info you may have or any questions!
Thanks for reading!
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