Frankly, this post should probably begin and end with that photo of Elizabeth Taylor. That alone should be enough to send you straight to google to find one for yourself.
But just in case you are still skeptical, let me tell you about my love of vintage slips. I bought my first lace-trimmed fitted full-slip when I was 16. I needed it to go under a dress I’d bought which was too sheer. Now, even back in 1987, these were getting scarce. You could only find them at larger department stores, and most of them were pretty basic – i.e. ugly. The only one I liked was a classic black one by Wondermaid. At the time I was irritated because the smallest size – “small” wasn’t at all fitted on me. Of course now I’m delighted because – get this – TWENTY-SIX YEARS later I’m still wearing that slip. On a regular basis. And it still looks great. Only now I’m 3 sizes larger with the body of a mature woman, so it looks much more like La Liz.
And here’s the thing: not only has that slip suffered nearly 30 years of constant use with grace and elegance, it still makes me feel sexy. My clothes fit better over it. I don’t have to worry about sunlight or random breezes exposing anything other than a flash of 6-inch lace trim. And the kicker is that MY HUSBAND thinks it’s really sexy. There is a big difference between taking off your dress to expose bra, knickers, and pantyhose, and slipping of your dress to expose a sexy slip. Furthermore, it’s not just men who have this reaction. Every time I’ve shown my slip to a woman, she’s gasped and said how lovely it is.
Once upon a time, every woman would have had several of these. Usually she’d have one to match every dress. Some were strapless, some were short, some were long. They would be dyed to match the color of the dress, so they might be red or orange or green or purple. Some had crinolines attached to make a full skirt poof out, others were fitted and lean. I don’t know why, but for some reason they fell out of use around the same time as garter belts and girdles. Garter belts were rendered unnecessary by the invention of pantyhose. Girdles were replaced with gym memberships and clothing with lycra. I have NO idea why slips suffered the same fate as their compadres, as they were replaced with … nothing.
In fact, now that most clothing manufacturers are operating on such slim profit margins, they don’t bother with any of the old details like linings. Which, in my opinion, makes slips more necessary than ever!
Benefits of wearing a pretty slip:
- They ensure that you won’t suffer from overexposure in the face of sunlight or a flashbulb (see the horror for yourself), or the indignity of a swift breeze up your skirt.
- They provide a smooth line over your bra/knickers/hosiery, so your dress will lay better and won’t show as many lumps and bumps.
- Ones made out of nylon (as they were in the 1950s and 60s) will protect against static cling (more modern polyester ones actually make this problem worse).
- They provide a barrier between your skin and your clothes, so your clothes won’t have to be washed or dry-cleaned as often.
- They make it easier to quickly try on clothes at a shop. Many times I’ve just pulled off my old dress and put on the new one, without bothering to go to the dressing room – because I know my slip has me covered!
- They look really sexy and make you feel confident and empowered.
What’s the downside? None, really. I wash mine in the machine with my other clothes, making sure any bra hooks are done up so they don’t snag on the lace, but I NEVER, EVER PUT THEM IN THE DRYER. The heat from your dryer is kryptonite to your clothing, particularly anything with lace or stretch. Just hang it up and it will be dry in an hour. Just doing that has kept my favorite slip going for 26+ years, so I’d say it’s worth it.
About 10 years ago I decided to start collecting more slips like my beloved black one, and I was shocked by how easy they were to find, what great condition many are still in (you can still find them unworn, in their original packaging), the fabulous construction and details, and how inexpensive they are. At the time, I got most of them for about $15. Now, you might have to go up to $50 or $60 for a really spectacular example in perfect condition, but most are still under $25.
HOW DO I FIND THESE FABULOUS THINGS? I hear you shouting at your computer. Honestly, it’s as easy as typing “vintage slip” into google. I had planned to give specific sources, but there are more people out there selling them now, and who you buy from will be dependent on where you live, so I’m just going to advise.
- eBay is an excellent place to look. Type in “vintage slip” or go to vintage women’s clothing and search for “slip.” The largest stock is, of course, in the USA, but because they are small and light, overseas shipping charges from America aren’t too bad – they shouldn’t ever be over $10 for just a slip. I just checked and there are loads there to choose from!
- I’ve found a specialist seller on Etsy called DreamDate who seems to have a good selection and reasonable prices. She’s based in the UK, and has an informative blog as well (from which I snatched most of these fabulous vintage ads, heh heh!) (BONUS: she’s offering 10% off to anyone using the code DANAFORLANO at checkout!)
- Vintage fairs and markets. The last time I was at Portobello, there was a seller under the tent at the end with hundreds of them. I’ve also seen them at Camden.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW?
- Vintage slips are sized by bra size, i.e. 32, 34, 36, 38. Basically, 32 is XS, 34 is S, 36 is M, 38 is L, 40 is XL. I’m a size US8/10, UK 12/14, and I have slips from size 34 to 38. The 34′s are snug and sexy (like the photo of Liz Taylor), the 38′s are a bit loose.
- The prettiest and best-quality brands I’ve encountered are Kayser and Van Raalte, so keep an eye out for those, but Barbizon and Vanity Fair are also excellent brands with a good quality reputation.
- Look for a nylon slip from the 50′s or 60′s, and avoid the silky polyester ones from the 70′s and 80′s. The former were designed to be practical and functional. The latter were purely for fun. They won’t have the same fit, won’t be the same quality, and will probably generate enough static electricity to run your TV for a week.
- Take your time to find the right one. You’re probably better off starting with one in black, cream, or white. Don’t spend a lot of money unless you’re really sure about it. If you wear dresses as often as I do, you’ll end up buying more than one, and you’ll learn what brands you like, what size fits you best, and what styles you like. I have one exactly like the “Movie Star” ad above which I wear under dresses with fuller skirts, and a bit of the lace sometimes shows past the hem. One of my most practical (not to mention beautiful) ones is actually pale aqua with beige lace appliqued on the bust and hem.
- Watch out for repairs or alterations. Any reputable seller will mention this, and should show close-ups. I have some which have been expertly altered, but I’ve also received some which looked like the seams were stitched up by a 5-year-old with mismatched thread.
- Don’t forget to look at half-slips too! If you wear more skirts than dresses, those may end up being more practical for you. Personally, I wear my full slips under skirts as well, as they act as camisole AND slip, without any cutting elastic around the waist. But you have to decide what’s best for you.
- Don’t be frightened off if you never wear dresses. These make pretty good nightgowns, too. And you never know, I might convince you to put on a dress eventually.
- Remember to never ever put them in the dryer, and they’ll probably outlive you.
Well, that’s it. I hope I’ve convinced you. I hope you have fun finding your perfect slip, and that you love it as much as I love mine. However, I also hope you don’t all become crazed connoisseurs who buy up all the remaining good ones and drive up the prices for me! I’ll leave you with this: