6 easy ways to style Circle Skirts | Retro UK Vintage Clothing

15th July 2020

6 easy ways to style a circle skirt

Circle skirts are a great addition to any vintage wardrobe. In particular, they are incredibly versatile. A good circle skirt will have pockets to keep all of your necessities & has the power to completely change how you feel. If you’re looking to bring a little piece of retro or vintage clothing into your life, why not start here? When you’re building retro, or vintage clothing into your everyday style, vintage skirts are an easy way to achieve the look.

We’ll talk you through the short history of circle skirts and their rise in popularity in a moment. If you want to read a full history of this incredibly versatile item, scroll down to the bottom of the page where you’ll find more information.

Circle skirts, poodle skirts, swing skirts, full skirts, you pick the name which works for you. As an iconic item of clothing, they definitely capture the imagination and circle skirts are the epitome of 50s style. After the austerity of the Second World War, where rationing of the amount of fabric and item of clothing can use impacted fashions. The freedom to use as much fabric as you wished, combined with the rise of the American Teenager, the fun, playful and youthful feel of full circle skirts held appeal.

Circle skirts can be playful & flirty. They can be worn in a range of ways. Here’s our guide to 6 ways to mix this vintage style into your wardrobe to create a truly authentic vintage look.

Cute, preppy, and innocent

Think Sandy from Grease, keeping it square like Allison Vernon in Cry Baby or dreamy romance a la Mary Sue in Pleasantville. First, add extra volume to your skirt with a fluffy petite coat or if you’re looking for more structure and a real.

Wear with, pastels, neat sweaters, pretty blouses, pearls, simple saddle shoes, daps or pumps, a pretty scarf or bow in your hair.

Sass & Shake

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We’re walking ChaCha DiGregorio from Grease. Bring that sass & shake it! We’re feeling layering up petit coats but with brighter bolder colours for more attitude. Sweep your way across the room & dancefloor wo-man spread your way with a circle skirt bigger than the room.

Wear with, heels, off shoulder sun tops or halter tops, big hair, necklaces or neck scarves to draw attention to your décolletage. Possibly a shrug, shawl or scarf, most likely a hipflask with whiskey stolen from your parents drinks cabinet.

Casual and Easy

Just perfect for a casual day visit the farmers market, having a coffee date or a picnic on the beach. We’re thinking Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, more of a sophisticated look than the dreamy preppy square look. For example, Dita Von Tease is a master of this, mixing effortless blouses or jersey tops, with bold prints & simple ballet pumps.

Wear with, simple but immaculate makeup, a tote shopping back full of vegetables from the local farmers market.

That Marylin Monroe Dress

From the 7 Year Itch… Do we need to say much more? Release your inner bombshell.

Bobby Soxer

Next, bring in some checks, a shirt (possibly mans) Bobby Socks & Saddle shoes or loafers & you have this circle skirt look nailed. Thought of at the time as the teenybopper of the late 40’s and 50s. This is a particularly American look. Judy in Rebel Without A Cause called a ‘dirty tramp’ by her father because of her racy style (which looks so demure to us now). This style also has a reference to the British Teddy Girl style, of long full skirts, shirts & a jacket or blazer. Either option has saddle shoes or loafers with socks for full-on authenticity. Mix in items found on the high street (oversized shirt or blouse), charity shop (tartan skirt) and authentic retro and vintage clothing brands (shoes).

Rock’n’roller/ Rockabilly

Here for those of you who love an authentic look. The rock’n’roll style a full 50s circle skirt with matching shirt & his & hers outfits covered in musical notes, vintage cars, Americana Diner motifs and flamingo’s might feels a little more like fancy dress. It is, however, a style which is loved by many a jiver at a rock’n’roll weekender and is firmly planted in the Teddy Boy & Girl, Rock’n’roll community.  For istance, many repro brands of retro vintage clothing will do similar styles to this & it can be fun to play matching with your sweetheart. We’ve picked a selection of ways we love this style worn. Get the look – cat’s eye sunglasses, matching skirt & shirt & if possible matching partner outfit.

Circle Skirt History

During the 1930s and 1940s, there was a romantic and nostalgic line of fashion. This saw couture and high-end designers start to bring a corseted waist and full skirt back. The previous and counter 20s and 30s look had been longer draped lines with a nod to classical architecture (think columns). Nipped in waists and full skirts for high society had not been the style du jour for quite a while.

Along came the Second World War and with its restrictions on fabric allowances per garment. Depending on what the garment was, there were clear guidelines for the meterage/yardage of fabric allowed to be used, the number of buttons, size of collars & cuffs along with other details.

Once these were lifted post-war, the fashions for circle skirts, longer skirt lengths & insane amounts of fabric being used worked their way down from high fashion, think Dior’s New Look released 1947, to low fashion. At the time, new styles took much longer to filter from the couture houses of France & Paris to the average home. Working their way from high fashion showrooms, to syndicated patterns for at-home seamstresses. For the most part, high fashion would take around 3 years to reach the ‘average’ home. It’s no surprise then, that we consider full circle skirts to be a vintage staple & a key element to a vintage wardrobe.

These looks filtered down to the American Teenager, young adults with spare time after school, access to cars and income with no bills to pay. As the speed of fashion began to increase, these teens had events to go to & wanted to look the part. Hollywood played it’s part too. Not only by showing the high fashions of the time, and at time creating the fashion looks, but also playing to youth with films aimed at them.

It may sound cliché but films like Rebel Without A Cause, Jailhouse Rock and Rock Around The Clock, helped spread the music, style, look and attitude which influenced a new generation.

Further Reading about Circle Skirts & Places to Visit

Lady JoJo’s Boutique – https://ladyjojosboutique.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/christian-diors-new-look-of-the-1940s-and-1950s/

Vintage Dancer – https://vintagedancer.com/category/1950s/

Bath Fashion Museum – https://www.fashionmuseum.co.uk/discover

V & A London – https://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/fashion