Tap Pants and Pettipants

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I’m always on the lookout for dancing undergarment solutions. Like the effect of My Heinies, it’s always nice to see a bit of color under a twirly skirt (and that things are covered), and it’s also nice to see a bit of a slip, or in the case of my new acquisition, a little satin and/or lace with full coverage.

I picked up a pair of 1930’s tap pants at All Balboa Weekend and am in heaven. They just don’t make the lace like they used to and the overall effect with the high waist, comfortable leg opening, and the peach silk and lace combo is very elegant. I could wear them under just about any dress, but where I found them particularly useful was under very short dresses, like those that you may pick up from Forever 21 that are just at mid-thigh (or higher, if your legs are longer than mine). I have had trouble with slips and short dresses because, at some point, the dresses are just so short that the slip becomes a liability, either sticking out the bottom when you are standing or peeking out when you sit down. I couldn’t go without because any good Southern girl wouldn’t be seen in a dress that showed the outline of her legs and getting a shorter slip would be an exercise in futility. The tap pants worked like a champ. Where I generally despise shorts because they ride up when I sit down, the tap pants rode up enough to not stick out from under the dress when I sat down and were still comfortable because of the silk. There’s all this going for the tap pants, plus the twirl factor will be lovely!

I started seeking out other forms of tap pants and there are also pettipants, although pettipants may also refer to longer versions of the slip pant. I found the Wikipedia entry on pettipants quite amusing:

“When pettipants were fashionable, they were usually worn under skirts, dresses, culottes, or walking shorts for modesty or comfort. However, they are not considered a modern or popular style; currently they are most likely to be worn by square dancers or persons involved in historical reenactment. Unlike other types of underwear, pettipants will not ride up and eliminate hot-weather chafing.”

Well, then. Like the petticoat’s evolution into the slip, the pettipants have also evolved (although the square dancer and reenactment versions still exist). When you search for pettipants online, something akin to the 1930’s tap pants appears in the search results. The modern tap pants I found are a bit scantier, but there are some potential candidates for dancewear. Here’s what I’m thinking may work:

Pettipants on eBay, available in multiple sizes and basic colors – white, tan, ivory, black
More low rise, but check out the lovely lace detail. Available in blue, tan, pink, and off white.
1930’s tap pants with scallop detail
From the 1940’s, another peachy pair, with slits in the front – for high kicks?
Dead stock, vintage – on a model, so you can see about where they would fall when wearing them
This pair from the 60’s is crazy, but the bows! I could see someone creative pulling them off.
A little pink pair of pettipants
Scallops are adorable!
A bit pricier, but quite fab!
A plainer option, if lace isn’t your bag
The bargain pair on Amazon, $6 – available in white, black, tan, and sand
I do love a button detail – this pair is from What Katie Did

4 thoughts on “Tap Pants and Pettipants

  1. Oh my goodness…so amazing. If I hadn’t already exceeded my budget this month, I would be hard pressed not to buy some of these gorgeous pettipants!

  2. thanks for all the links! I’ve only just discovered ‘tap pants’ – so please excuse the silly question, but …are you supposed to wear something underneath? so when you do those high kicks, um, modesty is kept intact? (the second thing I discovered today is that some people think wearing underwear under tights is silly- I’ve never thought of tights as ‘underwear’ themselves – wow!)

    1. I would advise wearing underwear with tap pants – I treat them as though they were the “slip,” to keep fabric from bunching, as well as additional coverage. By wearing underwear you’ll also absorb the sweat, since tap pant material is not generally very sweat-absorbent.

      As for the tights as underwear, this was pretty common in my childhood when I took ballet, to wear under a leotard – otherwise, the underwear tended to creep out from under the leotard (while still under the tights) and no one wants bunchy underwear showing while you are trying to be graceful. 🙂 A lot of tights I see, not just dance tights, come with a cotton crotch piece on the inside, so I don’t think it’s out of the question. Though, I prefer to wear underwear under my tights if a leotard is not involved, generally for comfort and sweat absorption.

      1. Thanks heaps for advice (And for not saying it’s a silly thing to ask!)
        Everything you’ve said makes sense to me, especially comfort factor and all. Now to get some tap pants and try them out! 😀
        I think the tights-sans-underwear idea might have come from the ballet world… just a guess though. It does make sense with leotards!

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