Whilst writing new lingerie descriptions I noticed there seems to be some general confusion online about what constitutes a petticoat, a slip or a chemise. They are all undergarments designed to be worn under a dress or skirt but some for shaping, some for warmth, discretion or protection for the skin and clothing. To clarify, here is a breakdown…
A petticoat (also known as an underskirt) hangs from the waist and is specifically designed to be worn under a skirt or a dress for warmth or to give the skirt or dress a desired silhouette.
From circa 1940s the term ‘crinoline’ also came to refer to any petticoat or skirt undergarment that created fullness, such as those full multi-layered nylon tulle and taffeta, or gathered and flounced nylon petticoats of the 1950s.
A slip is a close fitting woman’s undergarment which hangs from the shoulders, usually with narrow straps to the fashionable hem length and are typically worn over more intimate lingerie. Although similar, a half slip hangs from the waist and may also be called a waist slip.
A slip is worn under a dress or skirt to help it hang smoothly, for warmth, to protect the skin from coarse fabrics such as wool or to protect clothing from perspiration and body oils. Slips are also worn for modesty under sheer clothing.
Slips are usually made of a smooth and slippery fabric such as silk, satin, polyester, tricot or nylon and are usually decorated with lace at the edges and hem. A half slip may be worn with a matching camisole as an alternative to a full slip.
Classically the term chemise (or shift) refers to a simple smock-like garment worn next to the skin to protect clothing from sweat and body oils. In modern usage, a chemise is a woman’s undergarment that resembles a loose-fitting sleeveless shirt or dress but is usually more delicate and worn under outer clothing. Not to be confused with a Babydoll (a child-like short, sometimes sleeveless, loose fitting nightgown or negligee).