Petticoats Head for Extinction
In Today's Immodest Era;
Transparent Looks for Fall wsj.com
Bridget Brennan has a drawer full of slips that "are celebrating at least a decade of being stuffed in the back of the same drawer." Ms. Brennan, the 42-year-old founder of Female Factor Corp., a Chicago consulting firm, says the slip has become irrelevant to her life.
When did we give the slip the slip? Once de rigueur, slips have disappeared from our culture to such an extent that when I put in a call to designer Nanette Lepore about them, she told an assistant, "I have never worn a slip in my life."
The slip -- once an all-purpose weapon against visible panty lines and sheer, clingy dresses -- has lost its usefulness for several reasons. One is technological. Thong panties and shape-squeezing Spanx undergarments dispense with unsightly panty lines. But the real truth, I believe, is that the end of slips coincides with a diminished sense of modesty. Our social mores no longer conform to a world where nice girls wear skirts that don't cling.
"It seems that slips sort of went the same way that virginity went," says Karen Nelson, a 57-year-old expat American who recently moved to Uruguay. "What a slip says about its wearer today is 'fuddy duddy.'"
Instead of hiding what's underneath, young women today play with making the underlayers visible -- camisoles under sheer silk blouses, leggings under see-through skirts, layered, feather-thin T-shirts. A lot of sheer and even transparent looks will show up on the fashion runways this fall.
It can take effort to buy a slip these days. Most department stores still carry a selection of slips and half-slips, but a recent search around Los Angeles revealed meager choices of slips at Neiman Marcus and Saks. Bloomingdale's at the Beverly Center had none. Spanx makes a belly-hugging slip -- most easily found online. Lisa Kline, owner of the four well-known Lisa Kline boutiques, says her stores, known for catering to celebrities, carries boy-cut panties and other lingerie -- but no slips. "Slips don't sell," Ms. Kline says firmly.
Slips were still expected in 1980, when the silhouette of a lady's legs, backlit by the sun, was a gasp-worthy offense, like the now-famous photo of 19-year-old Diana Spencer. (In a way, the look was an early hint of the future fashion-forward Princess Di.)
At a time when undergarments weren't meant to show, a slip could be sultry. Back in 1958, when Elizabeth Taylor lolled about in a full-coverage slip in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," the look was simultaneously sexy and degenerate. Of course, some women didn't leave the house without gloves at the time. A decade later, Mrs. Robinson's slip and garters in the key seduction scene in "The Graduate" suggested the conflict between her proper image and her adulterous nature.
Then came the bra-burning '70s, Princess Di's 1980 snapshot and John Galliano's early '90s fashion show in Paris, when he sent a series of black slips down the runway as dresses. People became more accustomed to peek-a-boo clothes. It came as a relief to many young women that they needn't fret if their bra straps showed.
Today, the slip has morphed into a symbol of purity. Angelina Jolie wore a sturdy bra and half-slip in the 2005 film "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" -- in a scene depicting the fastidiously uncarnal nature of her life with Mr. Smith.
David Wolfe, creative director for Doneger Group fashion consultants in New York, says this isn't the first time in history that women have forsaken underwear. He points to the French Empire period, when some upper-class women doffed their voluminous hoop skirts and flounced about in sheer linen shifts. At the time, their culture was blossoming anew after the French Revolution.
We are still living through the revolution that altered social norms. Judging by the number of women on Seventh Avenue in New York's garment district "walking around in diaphanous dresses with only a thong underneath," Mr. Wolfe laments, "propriety is a word that just has no meaning today."
Nevertheless, occasions do arise that seem to demand a more modest look. Janelle McMurdie, a 29-year-old financial-services employee in San Diego, sought out her first slip this summer after feeling exposed in a see-through skirt at a bridal shower. Slips "reek of a bygone era of extreme modesty, almost Victorian," she says, but she went looking for one nevertheless. "I finally had to ask my mom where I could buy one, and what type I should get."
Ms. McMurdie recently polled the five women in her office: The one woman over 40 owns two slips. There is only one slip among the four under-30 women -- Ms. McMurdie's. Not yet worn, she notes, "as I have yet to wear that skirt again."
Designers are still finding inspiration in lingerie and slips. Marc Jacobs's Spring 2008 collection (right) deconstructed women's lingerie and outerwear into "unfinished" paneled dresses that revealed as much as they hid. Prada's Fall 2008 collection (left) referenced the slip by removing it, opting to show unlined dresses fashioned out of an aggressive (rather than delicate) lace.
The slip dress trend may have crested in 1995 when several A-list stars, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Moss and Madonna were photographed in versions of the slip dress.
Pictured: Sofia Coppola (left) wearing a spaghetti-strapped midnight blue silk slip dress. Model Naomi Campbell (right) in a lavender silk slip dress. Both photos were taken in January 1995.
Female musicians turned the slip dress into a rock closet staple. Cyndi Lauper (right) wore a slip dress to the 1987 MTV Video Music awards.
In the 1990s, Hole singer Courtney Love (left) wore thrift-store slips with ripped stockings, as in this January 1990 photo.
The modern take on the slip dress is minimalist. The lace and frills are gone or toned down, while the silhouette suggests a loose tunic.
Pictured: Actress Sienna Miller in a gold slip dress and leggings on March 8, 2007.
(all photos from wsj.com)
Who knows, eventually some daring women might re-adopt the slip as something to go against what's sexy now...sort of a subverted sexiness.
Maybe Marc Jacobs was on to something last season, he did this skirt with a built in "revealed" slip. It has that sort of prim but tarty appeal of Anne Bancroft and Liz Taylor that the article mentioned.
As a underwear staple, I don't see it coming back. It's just kind of impractical, isn't it?
You need to move fashion forward when there's a reason to move fashion forward - Tom Ford
Oh yes ... I'm from the generation that wore slips ... until the 70's when hippy chic was all about freedom. The demise of slips started earlier than the 80's, as stated in this article ... I remember girls getting rid of them under thier long, cotton granny skirts and just letting the light show through ... absolutely scandalous!!
I still have 2 half slips (waist down, for those of you who don't even remember them) that I use under sheer skirts that are not lined. I'm a woman of a "certain age" ... and that means that I'm just a bit too old to display the legs like Diana ... but I wish I could. My slips do have a slit up one side them so there is still a little bit of see through the skirt ... a good comprimise for me. but if you are younger ... no need ... it's totally OK to see your shape under your skirts and dresses.
They were somewhat represive to wear ... but then, on the other hand, most guys thought that a glimpse of a woman in a slip was just about the sexiest thing ever (like Liz in Cat). So the fact that they are gone as undrgarments is rather sad ... in a weird way.
I agree .. .they will still be around for layering and as a fashion statement ... they have morphed.
I wear slips and I'm only in my early 20s. But I do like the vintage-y appeal of them. I just don't like see-through clothing, either or the world knowing I decided to wear pink knickers today. *shrug*
Slips are such a simple fashion staple, they will probably never just up and "disappear" from our wardrobes. Instead, women will find different ways to wear them, just as we did in the past.
As the article mentions, women in the late 1700s and early 1800s embraced the idea of transparent dresses and thin fabrics, although they did wear several layers of undergarments to prevent too much from showing.
Still, slips never did go out of fashion - they were a necessity, something women had to wear, well into the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. When my mother was a child, she said slips were required under every dress and skirt, no matter the occasion.
I wear a half slip under everything, even with outfits that aren't transparent. For me, slips aren't meant only as a garment worn underneath sheer pieces - the main idea is to prevent the fabric of the dress/skirt from rubbing against your skin, while at the same time creating a smooth look to your outfit.
As for slips being out of style - remember the saying, "leave something to do the imagination"? Whatever happened to that?
topshop still sells these and has alot of them in there lingerine section amongest the bras etc. they have underwear to match them as well.. the full range isnt on there website but these are two i could find from topshop.com