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early 15c., pety coote, literally "a small coat," from petty + coat (n.). Originally a padded coat worn by men under armor, applied mid-15c. to a garment worn by women and young children. By 1590s, the typical feminine garment, hence a symbol of female sex or character.
Men declare that the petticoatless female has unsexed herself and has left her modesty behind. ["Godey's Magazine," April 1896]
in modern usage, an underskirt worn by women. The petycote (probably derived from the Old French petite cote, "little coat") appeared in literature in the 15th century in reference to a kind of padded waistcoat, or undercoat, worn for warmth over the shirt by men. The petticoat developed as a piece of women's apparel-a skirt worn under an overgown-at the end of the Middle Ages. By the beginning of the 16th century, the overgown had an inverted V opening, and the petticoat, now visible, was brocaded or embroidered