Gertie’s Ultimate Guide to Foundation Garments – Petticoats, Slips, & Panties

Gertie from Charm Patterns with her petticoats showing.

“What’s the secret to the perfect 1950’s silhouette?”

The 1950’s was all about defined waists, perky busts, and curvy hips. To get your outfit to look like our Charm photos or have a traditional vintage silhouette, you’ll want to invest in the right bra, shapewear, and a few fluffy petticoats.

(Check out Part One of my Ultimate Guide to Foundation Garments, which covers bras, waist cinchers, and all of the shapewear you need for the upper half of your body).

I’ve experimented and explored many different options, to find comfortable foundation garments that fit my lifestyle, and I suggest you do the same. 

Some of my favorite brands

All of the recommendations below come from brands I’ve tried and loved, as well as from recommendations from Charm patrons and members of our Preen Queens Facebook Group. Not every brand or maker will carry all sizes, so you’ll have to shop around to find the ones that fit your unique shape and preferences.

What Katie Did is a women-owned UK-based brand for high-quality vintage reproduction lingerie and shapewear. They ship worldwide and offer many different types of bras, girdles, panties, stockings, and more.

Rago Shapewear is a company that’s been selling classic shapewear for decades. They don’t make vintage reproductions; they’ve been making and selling the same styles since the 1950s.

Secrets in Lace offers many different styles of vintage-inspired bras, shapewear, stockings, and lingerie sets. They also have a curvy range that goes up to 42DDD.  

Malco Modes sells a wonderful array of high-quality petticoats. I have dozens!

The Sweetheart Slip sewing pattern from Charm Patterns, worn underneath your dress or petticoats.

Petticoats and Crinolines

Petticoats are an absolute must if you want that beautiful fit-and-flare effect. If you enjoy wearing full skirts, you’ll want a collection of petticoats to cover different lengths, fullness options, and colors. Choose a petticoat size based on the length you want. The waist is usually very adjustable. 

For everyday wear, you’ll want a soft chiffon petticoat with a moderate amount of fullness. For photos and special events, choose a stiffer tulle petticoat for more drama. For photos, go as big as you dare! 

My Simplicity pattern S9293 (formerly Butterick B6530) is a sewing pattern for a petticoat out of tulle and lace. While you can make your own, it’s very time-consuming to gather all of those ruffles! 

For everyday wear and our Charm photoshoots, I buy my petticoats from Malco Modes and Hell Bunny.

The Zooey Petticoat from Malco Modes in soft chiffon is my every-day petticoat. I love the tea-length tulle net Malco Modes Melanie Petticoat for dramatic fullness (and often layer two when I want to really go big).

I’ve put together a YouTube video all about foundation garments that goes into detail in how I choose a length and size for my petticoats. You might find it helpful!

High-waisted Panties, French Knickers, and Tap Pants

When you’re wearing a long-line bra or waist cincher, you want to make sure your panties sit at your natural waist so you don’t have a gap of flesh showing in between.

For full skirts, you can wear French knickers, tap pants, or pettipants like the very comfortable Velrose Snip-it Pettipants that allow you to cut them to different lengths. There are also lovely vintage and vintage-inspired sewing patterns for French knickers available, which are a dream when sewn in silk charmeuse.  

For pencil skirts or fitted pants, you’ll want to wear high-waisted “granny panties” or shapewear. Spanx makes some modern options, although I prefer the variety of no-control and light-control panties from What Katie Did and Rago Shapewear. For high-control panties with waist cinching, I think the What Katie Did L2077 Kate Panty Girdle is a very pretty choice.

Sewing your own underwear is very easy. The Munroe Panties sewing pattern by Orange Lingerie has a very vintage look.

Girdles

A girdle is an old-fashioned garment that shapes your hips. A traditional girdle looks like bike shorts, starting at your natural waist and ending below the thigh. An open-bottom girdle is more like a mini-skirt. You can get old-school styles from Rago Shapewear and What Katie Did.

My favorite girdle is the Rago 6226 High Waist Leg Shaper. It’s not pretty, but it is comfortable and does it’s job well!

The Glamour L3019 Open Bottom Girdle from What Katie Did comes with garter clips and is designed to be worn with stockings.

For a more modern interpretation, Spanx makes the Thinstincts 2.0 Open-Bust Mid-Thigh Bodysuit – a terrible name for a wonderfully comfortable girdle-like product.

Garters and Stockings

Garters and stockings are a fun addition to your lingerie collection! Many shapewear garments will include clips for garters, but when shopping for a garter belt, be sure to look for ones that have at least six sturdy clips. Although they’re often beautiful, the garter belts meant for the bedroom won’t last through a full day of wear. 

What Katie Did’s Beth Girdlette L6073 is an open-bottom girdle with garter clips. It looks more like a garter belt than shapewear, with the bonus of giving you a sleek look. What Katie Did also offers a wide variety of stockings (including back-seamed ones) in many colors, sizes, and skintones.

Secrets in Lace sells garter belts and has a wide selection of stockings, including many versions with fully-fashioned heels and back seams.

Snag Tights offers multiple styles of thigh-high stockings in a wide size range.

Half-Slip

Vintage clothing was very rarely lined, and it was expected you’d always wear a slip underneath your skirts and dresses. A half-slip starts at your natural waist and usually ends at least an inch above your preferred garment hemline.

My dream slips are made from bias-cut silk with Chantilly lace at the hem. The Sweetheart Slip sewing pattern (shown above in yellow) is available to Charm Patreon patrons

Full Slip

Slips are perfect for wearing under dresses to keep your skirt from catching on stockings and prevent static cling. A full slip will hang from your shoulders and end at least an inch above your preferred hemline. They are often made of light-weight wovens like cotton, nylon, and silk.

If you’d like to sew your own, I have a full slip sewing pattern with Simplicity S9285 (formerly Butterick B6031), meant for lightweight knits. 

Bras, Waist Cinchers, Corsets and More!

Check out Part One of my Ultimate Guide to Foundation Garments for my recommendations for foundation garments for the upper half of your body.