A 1950s icon, the poodle skirt can be made at home with a flared, knee-length skirt, a wide belt and a few craft items. Create faux saddle shoes and bobby socks, add a simple-to-style hairdo, and a blouse or sweater, and you're ready to bop, twist, swing and rock the night away at a sock hop or other 1950s event. Poodle skirts also are fun costumes at Halloween for adults and children. The first commercially produced poodle skirt was designed by Juli Lynne Charlot when both poodles and wearing large, story-telling appliques on circle skirts were very cool.
The Circle Skirt
The poodle was a popular 1950s motif displayed on the circle skirt. When a dancer spins, a circle skirt flares out more than the average flared skirt, but for your costume, any flared skirt that reaches the knees or thereabouts will work fine.
If you end up looking for this type of skirt at a thrift shop, vintage or retro clothes store, or you decide to make your own circle skirt, consider one of the classic '50s colors such as powder blue, purple, red or black. Choose a color that makes a good background for the poodle.
Creating Your Poodle
Before selecting materials for your poodle, think about color: a black poodle stands out well against the background of a red, powder blue or even purple skirt. A white poodle is very pretty with powder blue. But if you want it to pop more, pair the poodle with a red or black skirt.
Things You'll Need
- Fabric ribbon, about 1/4 inch wide and about 24 inches long
- 3 inches of sequined ribbon (for collar)
- Felt the color of your poodle, about a 6-by-6-inch square
- 5 craft pompoms the same color as the poodle
- Permanent black marker
- Wide, shiny, belt, black or another color that matches costume
In a photo editor, save an illustration of a standing poodle; resize the picture to the size you want for the skirt and print.
Cut out the poodle picture, and lay it on the felt square.
Trace around the poodle, and cut it from the felt.
Using fabric glue, adhere the poodle to the left front of the skirt a few inches above the hem.
Using a pencil, draw a wavy line from the poodle's neck to the waistband of the skirt.
Using fabric glue, adhere the sequined ribbon to the poodle's neck for its fancy collar.
Again using fabric glue, adhere the longer ribbon to the line you drew for the leash. When you get to the waistband, tuck the ribbon in and glue it down.
Draw and color in the eye and nose on the side-view of the poodle with the permanent marker.
When you dress, buckle on a wide belt -- shiny black ones were often worn -- which will camouflage the place where the poodle's leash goes over the waistband. And if your circle skirt has elastic on the outside, the belt hides this too.
"Like Crazy" Accessories
Wear the type of shoes and socks that 1950 teens danced in with their poodle skirts: bobby socks and saddle shoes. Create faux saddle shoes with white tennis shoes and a black felttip marker. Blacken the part of the shoe that saddles the instep, and create a vertical black bar on the back of the heel.
Wear thin white socks, neatly cuffed. Or substitute the bobby socks with white sports socks -- you may need to fold the cuffs over until they rise neatly just above the ankle.
For an extra swell look, add faux pearls, a breezy scarf around the neck, tied to the side, a tote bag with a poodle or Paris applique, a charm bracelet and winged, rhinestone-trimmed glasses.
Long hair makes it easy to create a perfect look for your poodle skirt. Pull it up into a high ponytail, and tie a chiffon or silk scarf around the ponytail elastic. Other popular 1950s hairstyles included the page boy -- curled under, the bouffant, pixie, Italian cut and many others. Short hair often included wings at the front, and the rest in waves.
Cindy Blankenship, a California native, began reporting in 1996 for the Grants Pass Daily Courier after teaching in Hawaii where she lived 14 years. As assistant editor at the Rogue River Press, she wrote and edited several stories that earned awards from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. Her writing appears in numerous publications.