In the western world, skirts are usually considered women's clothing. However, there are exceptions. The kilt is a traditional men's garment in Scotland and Ireland, and some fashion designers, such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, have shown men's skirts.
At its simplest, a skirt can be a draped garment made out of a single piece of material (such as pareos), but most skirts are fitted to the body at the waist and fuller below, with the fullness introduced by means of dart, gores, pleats, or panels. Modern skirts are usually made of light to mid-weight fabrics, such as denim, jersey, worsted, or poplin. Skirts of thin or clingy fabrics are often worn with slips to make the material of the skirt drape better and for modesty.
Some medieval upper-class women wore skirts over three metres in diameter at the bottom. At the other extreme, the miniskirts of the 1960s were minimal garments that may have barely covered the underwear when seated.
A straw-woven skirt dating to 3,900 B.C. was discovered in Armenia at the Areni-1 cave complex. Skirts have been worn by men and women from many cultures, such as the lungi, kanga and sarong worn in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and the kilt worn in Scotland and Ireland.
The earliest known culture to have females wear clothing resembling miniskirts were the Duan Qun Miao, which literally meant "short skirt Miao" in Chinese. This was in reference to the short miniskirts "that barely cover the buttocks" worn by women of the tribe, and which were "probably shocking" to observers in medieval and early modern times.
Skirts in the 19th century
During the nineteenth century the cut of women's dresses in western culture varied more widely than in any other century. Waistlines started just below the bust (the Empire silhouette) and gradually sank to the natural waist. Skirts started fairly narrow and increased dramatically to the hoopskirt and crinoline-supported styles of the 1860s; then fullness was draped and drawn to the back by means of bustles.
- See also History of Western fashion: 1795-1820, 1820s, 1830s, 1840s, 1850s, 1860s, 1870s, 1880s, 1890s
- Victorian fashion, Artistic Dress movement, Victorian dress reform.
Skirts in the 20th and 21st centuries
Beginning around 1915, hemlines for daytime dresses left the floor for good. For the next fifty years fashionable skirts became short (1920s), then long (1930s), then shorter (the War Years with their restrictions on fabric), then long (the "New Look"), then shortest of all from 1967 to 1970, when skirts became as short as possible while avoiding exposure of underwear, which was considered taboo.
Since the 1970s and the rise of pants/trousers for women as an option for all but the most formal of occasions, not one skirt length has dominated fashion for long, with short and ankle-length styles often appearing side-by-side in fashion magazines and catalogs.
- Straight skirt or Pencil skirt, a tailored skirt hanging straight from the hips and fitted from the waist to the hips by means of darts or a yoke; may have a vent for ease of walking
- Full skirt, a skirt with fullness gathered into the waistband
- Short skirt, a skirt with hemline above the knee.
- Bell-shaped skirt, flared noticeably from the waist but then, unlike a church bell, cylindrical for much of its length.
- A-line skirt, a skirt with a slight flare, roughly in the shape of a capital letter A
- Pleated skirt, a skirt with fullness reduced to fit the waist by means of regular pleats ('plaits') or folds, which can be stitched flat to hip-level or free-hanging
- Circle skirt, a skirt cut in sections to make one or more circles with a hole for the waist, so the skirt is very full but hangs smoothly from the waist without darts, pleats, or gathers
- Hobble skirt, long and tight skirt with a narrow enough hem to significantly impede the wearer's stride
Fads and fashions
- Ballerina skirt, a full-length formal skirt popular in the 1950s.
- Broomstick skirt, a light-weight ankle length skirt with many crumpled pleats formed by compressing and twisting the garment while wet, such as around a broomstick. (1980s and on)
- Bubble dress/skirt, a voluminous skirt whose hem is tucked back under to create a “bubble effect” at the bottom. Popular in the 1950s, 1980s and from the mid-2000s to currently.
- Cargo skirt, a plain utilitarian skirt with belt loops and numerous large pockets, based on the military style of Cargo pants and popularised in the 1990s.
- Dirndl skirt, a skirt in the style of a dirndl, made of a straight length of fabric gathered at the waist
- Jean skirt, a trouser skirt made of denim, often designed like 5-pocket jeans, but found in a large variety of styles.
- Leather skirt, a skirt made of leather
- Kilt-skirt, a wrap-around skirt with overlapping aprons in front and pleated around the back. Though traditionally designed as women's wear, it is fashioned to mimic somewhat closely the general appearance of a (man's) kilt, including the usage of a plaid pattern more or less closely resembling those of recognized tartan patterns of Scotland.
- Maxiskirt, an ankle length-skirt (1970s, but has made a comeback in the 2000s)
- Midi skirt, mid-calf length. See: 1970s in fashion.
- Miniskirt, a thigh-length skirt, and micromini, an extremely short version (1960s)
- Poodle skirt, a circle or near-circle skirt with an appliqued poodle or other decoration (1950s)
- Prairie skirt, a flared skirt with one or more flounces or tiers (1970s and on)
- Rah-rah skirt, a short, tiered, and often colourful skirt fashionable in the early-mid-1980s.
- Sarong, a square of fabric wrapped around the body and tied on one hip to make a skirt; worn as a skirt or as a cover-up over a bathing suit in tropical climates.
- Scooter skirt (or skort), a skirt that has an attached pair of shorts underneath for modesty. Alternatively, but with similar effect, a pair of shorts incorporating a skirt-like flap across the front of the body.
- Tiered skirt, made of several horizontal layers, each wider than the one above, and divided by stitching. Layers may look identical in solid-colored garments, or may differ when made of printed fabrics.
- Trouser skirt, a straight skirt with the part above the hips tailored like men's trousers, with belt loops, pockets, and fly front.
- T-skirt, made from a T-shirt, the T-skirt is generally modified to result in a pencil skirt, with invisible zippers, full length two-way separating side zippers, as well as artful fabric overlays and yokes.
Lehenga or Ghagra or Garara is a form of skirt which is long, embroidered and pleated. It is worn as the bottom portion of a Ghagra choli. It is secured at the waist and leaves the lower back and midriff bare. It is worn by females mostly in North India and Pakistan.
There are a number of male garments which fall under the category of "skirt" or "dress." These go by a variety of names and form part of the traditional dress for men from various cultures. Usage varies - the dhoti is part of everyday dress on the Indian subcontinent while the kilt is more usually restricted to occasional wear and the foustanella is used almost exclusively as costume. Robes, which are a type of dress for men, have existed in many cultures, including the Japanese kimono, the Chinese cheongsam, the Arabic thobe, and the African Senegalese kaftan. Robes are also used in some religious orders, such as the cassock in Christianity and various robes and cloaks that may be used in pagan rituals. Examples of men's skirts and skirt like garments from various cultures include:
- The kilt is a skirt of Gaelic and Celtic history, part of the Scottish national dress in particular, and is worn formally and to a lesser extent informally. Irish and Welsh kilts also exist but are not so much a part of national identity.
- The foustanella is worn by men in Greece and other parts of the Balkans. By the mid-20th Century, it was relegated to ceremonial use and as period or traditional costume.
- The gho is a knee-length robe worn by men in Bhutan. They are required to wear it every day as part of national dress in government offices, in schools and on formal occasions.
- The sarong is a piece of cloth that may be wrapped around the waist to form a skirt-like garment. Sarongs exist in various cultures under various names, including the pareo and lavalava of the Hawaiian islands and Polynesia (Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, and Fiji), the Indian dhoti and lungi, and the South Indian and Maldivian mundu.
Aside from the wearing of kilts, in the Western world skirts, dresses and similar garments are considered primarily women's clothing. Historically, however, this was not the case. The wearing of skirts by men in Western cultures is generally seen as cross-dressing although some fashion designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Givenchy have produced skirts for men.
In certain cultures it is illegal for a woman to wear trousers. Those practices even carry on to today. Though there have been strides to resist the age old tradition. In example it is now legal for women to wear skirts. “The French government has finally revoked a 200-year-old law that made it illegal for Parisian women to wear pants”. As the years went it became a progressively unenforced rule. In other countries such as South Korea it may be a new law and custom in the near future. The law coming into place is ambiguously stated saying “those who show their bare skin excessively in a public place or expose parts of the body that should remain covered, thus making others feel embarrassment or discomfort, are guilty of indecent exposure”. This may come across for the women who enjoy wearing miniskirts and it may be an issue of just how long they wear their skirts. This was all put under the guise of being for the public’s own good but critics argue that the new legislation gives law enforcement too much power
Gallery of skirt styles
- "5,900-year-old women’s skirt discovered in Armenian cave". News Armenia. September 13, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2011.
- Harrell, Stevan (1995). Cultural Encounters on China's Ethnic Frontiers. University of Washington Press. pp. 98 & 103. ISBN 0-295-97528-8.
- Social Science a Textbook in History for Class IX as per New Syllabus - FK Publications
- "Gho & Kira: The National Dress". Bhutan's Culture. RAOnline. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
- A closer look at men in skirts, CNN, November 3, 2003. Retrieved March 17, 2008.
- Oxford English Dictionary
- Brockmamn, Helen L.: The Theory of Fashion Design, Wiley, 1965.
- Picken, Mary Brooks: The Fashion Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls, 1957. (1973 edition ISBN 0-308-10052-2)
- Tozer, Jane, and Sarah Levitt: Fabric of Society: A Century of People and Their Clothes 1770-1870, Laura Ashley Ltd.,
1983; ISBN 0-9508913-0-4
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