A dynamic theory for compressible smectic C (SmC) liquid crystals is postulated following previous work by Leslie et al (1991 Mol. Cryst. Liq. Cryst. 198 443–54), Nakagawa (1996 J. Phys. Soc. Japan 65 100–6; 2004 J. Non-Newtonian Fluid Mech. 119 123–9) and de Gennes and Prost (1993 The Physics of Liquid Crystals 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press)). This theory is then implemented with a constructed bulk elastic energy and asymmetric stress tensor to describe a system of planar layered SmC liquid crystals undergoing various modes of undulation. We show that previous work on smectic A (SmA) liquid crystals by de Gennes and Prost (1993 The Physics of Liquid Crystals 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press)) can be expanded for SmC and consolidated. Novel and confirming estimates for SmC material parameter values are produced by considering the dependence of the system on these parameters.