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TypeClothing worn from the waist or hips.
The Evolution of the Skirt, Harry Julius, 1916

A skirt is the lower part of a dress or a separate outer garment that covers a person from the waist downwards. [1]


At its simplest, a skirt can be a draped garment made out of a single piece of fabric (such as pareos). However, most skirts are fitted to the body at the waist or hips and fuller below, with the fullness introduced by means of darts, 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.

In modern times, skirts are very commonly worn by women and girls. Some exceptions include the izaar, worn by many Muslim cultures, and the kilt, a traditional men's garment in Scotland, Ireland, and sometimes England. Fashion designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, Kenzo and Marc Jacobs have also shown men's skirts. Transgressing social codes, Gaultier frequently introduces the skirt into his men's wear collections as a means of injecting novelty into male attire, most famously the sarong seen on David Beckham. [2]

The hemline of skirts can vary from micro to floor-length and can vary according to cultural conceptions of modesty and aesthetics as well as the wearer's personal taste, which can be influenced by such factors as fashion and social context. Most skirts are complete garments, but some skirt-looking panels may be part of another garment such as leggings, shorts, and swimsuits.


Skirts have been worn since prehistoric times as the simplest way to cover the lower body. Figurines produced by the Vinča culture (c. 5700–4500 BC) located on the territory of present-day Serbia and neighboring Balkan nations from the start of the copper age show women in skirt-like garments. [3]

A straw-woven skirt dating to 3900 BC was discovered in Armenia at the Areni-1 cave complex. [4] Skirts were the standard attire for men and women in all ancient cultures in the Near East and Egypt. The Sumerians in Mesopotamia wore kaunakes, a type of fur skirt tied to a belt. The term "kaunakes" originally referred to a sheep's fleece, but eventually came to be applied to the garment itself. Eventually, the animal pelts were replaced by kaunakes cloth, a textile that imitated fleecy sheep skin. [5] Kaunakes cloth also served as a symbol in religious iconography, such as in the fleecy cloak of St. John the Baptist. [6] [7]

Ancient Egyptian garments were mainly made of linen. For the upper classes, they were beautifully woven and intricately pleated. [8] Around 2130 BC, during the Old Kingdom of Egypt, men wore wraparound skirts (kilts) known as the shendyt. They were made of a rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the lower body and tied in front. By the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, longer skirts, reaching from the waist to ankles and sometimes hanging from the armpits, became fashionable. During the New Kingdom of Egypt, kilts with a pleated triangular section became fashionable for men. [9] Beneath these, a shente, or triangular loincloth whose ends were fastened with cord ties, were worn. [10]

During the Bronze Age, in the Southern parts of Western and Central Europe, wraparound dress-like garments were preferred. However, in Northern Europe, people also wore skirts and blouses. [11]

In the Middle Ages, men and women preferred dress-like garments. The lower part of men's dresses were much shorter in length compared to those for women. They were wide cut and often pleated or gored so that horse riding was more comfortable. Even a knight's armor had a short metal skirt below the breastplate. It covered the straps attaching the upper legs iron cuisse to the breastplate. Technological advances in weaving in the 13th–15th century, like foot-treadle floor looms and scissors with pivoted blades and handles, improved tailoring trousers and tights. They became fashionable for men and henceforth became standard male attire whilst becoming taboo for women. [12] [13]

Skirts are still worn by men and women from many cultures, such as the lungi, lehnga, kanga and sarong worn in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and the kilt worn in Scotland and Ireland.

One of the earliest known cultures to have females wear clothing resembling miniskirts were the Duan Qun Miao (短裙苗), 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. [14]

In the Middle Ages, some upper-class women wore skirts over three meters in diameter at the bottom.[ citation needed ] At the other extreme, the miniskirts of the 1960s were minimal garments that may have barely covered the underwear when the woman was seated. Costume historians[ who? ] typically use the word "petticoat" to describe skirt-like garments of the 18th century or earlier.

19th century

During the 19th 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. In the 1890s, the rainy daisy skirt was introduced for walking or sportswear. It had a significantly shorter hemline measuring as much as six inches off the ground and would eventually influence the wider introduction of shorter hemlines in the early 20th century. [15]

In the 19th century, in the United States and United Kingdom, there was a movement against skirts as part of the Victorian dress reform movement, and in the United States, the National Dress Reform Association. [ citation needed ] There were also different ways to wear skirts being created. For example, in 1851, early women's rights advocate Elizabeth Smith Miller introduced Amelia Bloomer to a garment initially known as the "Turkish dress", which featured a knee-length skirt over Turkish-style pantaloons. [16] Bloomer came to advocate and promote the dress, including instructions for making it, in The Lily , a newspaper dedicated to the "Emancipation of Woman from Intemperance, Injustice, Prejudice, and Bigotry". This inspired a craze for the dress, which came to be known as bloomers. [17] Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone, other early advocates for women's rights, also adopted this style of dress in the 1850s, referring to it as the "freedom dress". [18] Concurrently, some female labourers, notably the pit brow women working at coal pits in the Wigan area, began wearing trousers beneath a short skirt as a practical component of their uniform. This attracted the attention of the public, and various photographers produced records of the women's unconventional manner of dress through the mid- to late 19th century.[ citation needed ]

20th and 21st centuries

A 21st century skirt Tuska 20130630 - Amaranthe - 25.jpg
A 21st century skirt

After 1915, ankle-length skirts were not generally worn in the daytime. For the next fifty years fashionable skirts became short (1920s), then long (1930s), then shorter (in 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, no one skirt length has dominated fashion for long, with short and ankle-length styles often appearing side by side in fashion magazines and catalogs.

Skirts by geography and ethnicity

East Asia



Basic types

A full skirt of blue damask (back). Ethnographic region: Zywiec. Collection of The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw. Spodnica (tyl). Zywiec; PME 2887.jpg
A full skirt of blue damask (back). Ethnographic region: Żywiec. Collection of The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw.
A-line skirt
An a-line skirt is a skirt with a slight flare, roughly in the shape of a capital letter A
Bell-shaped skirt
A bell-shaped skirt, flared noticeably from the waist but then, unlike a church bell, cylindrical for much of its length
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
A form of divided skirt, split skirt or pantskirt constructed like a pair of shorts, but hanging like a skirt. [19]
Divided skirt
See under: Culottes.
Full skirt
A skirt with fullness gathered into the waistband
Gored skirt
A skirt that fits through the waistline and flares at the hem. May be made of from four to twenty-four shaped sections. Dates from the 14th century and much used in the 19th century. Very popular in the late 1860s, mid-1890s, early 20th century, 1930s, 1940s, and now worn as a classic skirt style. [20]
Inverted pleated skirt
A skirt made by bringing two folds of fabric to a center line in front and/ or back. May be cut straight at sides or be slightly flared. Has been a basic type of skirt since the 1920s. [20]
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
Short skirt
A skirt with hemline above the knee
Straight skirt
A 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 or kick-pleat set in the hem for ease of walking
Simple, basic skirt over which an overskirt, or drapery, hangs. [20]
Wrap or wraparound skirt
A skirt that wraps around the waist with an overlap of material

Fads and fashions

Ballerina skirt
A Ballerina skirt is a mid-calf full 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 skirt
A bubble skirt, also called tulip skirt or balloon skirt, is a voluminous skirt whose hem is tucked back under to create a “bubble effect” at the bottom. Popular in the 1950s. [20]
Cargo skirt
A cargo skirt is a plain utilitarian skirt with belt loops and numerous large pockets, based on the military style of Cargo pants and popularised in the 1990s.
A crinoline is a very full skirt supported by hoops or multiple petticoats, popular at various times from the mid 19th century onwards.
A dirndl skirt, (durn′del) is a skirt in the Bavarian-Austrian dirndl style, made of a straight length of fabric gathered at the waist. The style derives from Tyrolean peasant costume. [20]
Denim skirt
A denim skirt (or jeans skirt), is a skirt made of denim, often designed like 5-pocket jeans, but found in a large variety of styles.
Godet skirt
A godet skirt (go-day’) is a skirt with triangular pieces of fabric inserted upward from the hem to create more fullness. Popular in the 1930s. [20]
Hobble skirt
A Hobble skirt is a long and tight skirt with a hem narrow enough to significantly impede the wearer's stride
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 the general appearance of a man's kilt.
Leather skirt
a skirt made of leather
A Lehenga (also Ghagra; Garara ), is a long, pleated skirt, often embroidered, worn mostly as the bottom part of the Gagra choli in North India and Pakistan. [21]
Maxi skirt
An ankle-length daytime skirt, popular with women in the late 1960s as reaction against miniskirts. [20]
an extremely short miniskirt.
Mandala skirt
A skirt with a mandala motifs.
Midi skirt
A skirt with hem halfway between ankle and knee, below the widest part of the calf. Introduced by designers in 1967 as a reaction to very short mini skirts. [20]
a mini-length version of the crinoline, designed by Vivienne Westwood in the mid 1980s. [22]
Poodle skirt
A Poodle skirt is a circle or near-circle skirt with an appliqued poodle or other decoration (1950s)
Puffball skirt
A puffball skirt, also called "puff" or "pouf", is a bouffant skirt caught in at the hem to create a puffed silhouette. Popular in the mid-late 1980s when it was inspired by Westwood's "mini-crini". [23]
Rah-rah skirt
A Rah-rah skirt is a short, tiered, and often colourful skirt fashionable in the early-mid-1980s.
A Sarong is a square or rectangle of fabric wrapped around the body and tied on one hip to create a skirt that can be worn by both sexes
A Samare was a long-skirted jacket, in which a loose jacket with extra frills hung down to the knees in the style of a gown. [24] [25]
Scooter skirt
A scooter skirt or skort (variant), 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.
Skater skirt
a short, high-waisted circle skirt with a hemline above the knee, often made of lighter materials to give the flowing effect that mimics the skirts of figure skaters.
Squaw dress
A Squaw dress or fiesta dress is a one or two piece outfit based on Native American clothing. Fashionable in the 1940s and 50s. [26]
Swing skirt
flared skirt, circular or cut in gores, fitted at hips with a wide flare at the hem. Popular in the late 1930s and at interval since. Very popular in the mid-1980s. [20]
A T-skirt is a skirt made from a tee-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.
Tiered skirt
a 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.
Prairie skirt
A Prairie skirt, variant of a tiered skirt, is a flared skirt with one or more flounces or tiers (1970s and on)
Trouser skirt
Trouser skirt or culotte, a straight skirt with the part above the hips tailored like men's trousers, with belt loops, pockets, and fly front.
Tulip skirt
see under: Bubble skirt.


Dancing and skirts

Many forms of dancing require females to wear skirts or dresses, either by convention or competition rules. In Scottish highland dancing, for example, women wear the Aboyne dress, which actually involves a skirt, for the national dances, and wear a kilt-based outfit for the Highland dances. However, tartan trews can be worn by women in the United States.[ citation needed ]

International norms regarding skirts

Since 2004 the International Skating Union has allowed women to wear trousers instead of skirts in competition if they wish. [27]

Law regarding skirts

In the 1980s in Puerto Rico, Ana Irma Rivera Lassén was not allowed to enter court in trousers and was told to wear a skirt. She sued the judge and won. [28]

In 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled against the Charter Day School in North Carolina, which had required girls to wear skirts due to the idea that girls are "fragile vessels" deserving "gentle" treatment from boys. The court ruled the requirement was unconstitutional. [29]

School policy regarding skirts

The skirt is a part of uniforms for girls in many schools around the world, with lengths varying depending on local culture. The pleated tartan skirt began as a component of girls' school uniforms in the early twentieth century in the United Kingdom. [30] Most UK schools now allow girls to wear trousers, but many girls still wear skirts in primary and secondary schools, even where the choice of trousers is given. In the late 20th and early 21st century, many schools began changing their uniform rules to allow trousers for girls amidst opposition to skirts-only policies - the most publicised possibly being Jo Hale vs Whickam Comprehensive in 2000. [31] Although it is commonly accepted that girls may wear trousers to school, no test case is known to have been brought before the courts, making the legal position uncertain on requiring skirts as part of girls' uniforms. The rule is still enforced in many schools, particularly independent and selective state schools. In fact, United Kingdom government guidelines expressly state the decision of allowing girls to wear trousers is with individual schools. [32]

In 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled against the Charter Day School in North Carolina, which had required girls to wear skirts due to the idea that girls are "fragile vessels" deserving "gentle" treatment from boys. The court ruled the requirement was unconstitutional. [33]

Male wear

A man wearing a Utilikilt, 2010 Utilkilt beige.jpg
A man wearing a Utilikilt, 2010

There are a number of garments marketed to men 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 fustanella 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:

Aside from the wearing of kilts, in the Western world skirts, dresses, and similar garments are generally viewed exclusively as women's clothing which, historically, was not always the case. [35] However, some Western men have taken up skirts as forms of civil protest. [36] Other Western men advocate skirts as a measure of co-equality between women and men.

Basic types
Fads and fashions
World culture

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kilt</span> Tartan-patterned garment worn in Scotland

A kilt is a garment resembling a wrap-around knee-length skirt, made of twill woven worsted wool with heavy pleats at the sides and back and traditionally a tartan pattern. Originating in the Scottish Highland dress for men, it is first recorded in 16th century as the great kilt, a full-length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak. The small kilt or modern kilt emerged in the 18th century, and is essentially the bottom half of the great kilt. Since the 19th century, it has become associated with the wider culture of Scotland, and more broadly with Gaelic or Celtic heritage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Japanese clothing</span> Japanese clothing, traditional and modern

There are typically two types of clothing worn in Japan: traditional clothing known as Japanese clothing, including the national dress of Japan, the kimono, and Western clothing, which encompasses all else not recognised as either national dress or the dress of another country.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Miniskirt</span> Short skirt that usually extends to mid-thigh

A miniskirt is a skirt with its hemline well above the knees, generally at mid-thigh level, normally no longer than 10 cm (4 in) below the buttocks; and a dress with such a hemline is called a minidress or a miniskirt dress. A micro-miniskirt or microskirt is a miniskirt with its hemline at the upper thigh, at or just below crotch or underwear level.

<i>Hakama</i> Type of traditional Japanese trousers/skirt

Hakama are a type of traditional Japanese clothing. Originally stemming from , the trousers worn by members of the Chinese imperial court in the Sui and Tang dynasties, this style was adopted by the Japanese in the form of hakama in the 6th century. Hakama are tied at the waist and fall approximately to the ankles. They are worn over a kimono specially adapted for wearing hakama, known as a hakamashita.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sarong</span> Traditional garment of the Malay Archipelago and the Pacific Islands

A sarong or sarung is a large tube or length of fabric, often wrapped around the waist, worn in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Western Asia, Northern Africa, East Africa, West Africa, and on many Pacific islands. The fabric often has woven plaid or checkered patterns, or may be brightly colored by means of batik or ikat dyeing. Many modern sarongs have printed designs, often depicting animals or plants. Different types of sarongs are worn in different places in the world, notably the lungi in the Indian subcontinent and the izaar in the Arabian Peninsula.

Tunic Simple T-shaped or sleeveless garment, usually unfitted, of archaic origin

A tunic is a garment for the body, usually simple in style, reaching from the shoulders to a length somewhere between the hips and the knees. The name derives from the Latin tunica, the basic garment worn by both men and women in Ancient Rome, which in turn was based on earlier Greek garments that covered wearers' waists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1890s in Western fashion</span> Costume and fashion of the 1890s

Fashion in the 1890s in European and European-influenced countries is characterized by long elegant lines, tall collars, and the rise of sportswear. It was an era of great dress reforms led by the invention of the drop-frame safety bicycle, which allowed women the opportunity to ride bicycles more comfortably, and therefore, created the need for appropriate clothing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1830s in Western fashion</span>

1830s fashion in Western and Western-influenced fashion is characterized by an emphasis on breadth, initially at the shoulder and later in the hips, in contrast to the narrower silhouettes that had predominated between 1800 and 1820.

Belted plaid Large piece of fabric wrapped around the body, loosely gathered and belted at the waist

The belted plaid is a large blanket-like piece of fabric which is wrapped around the body with the material pleated or, more accurately, loosely gathered and secured at the waist by means of a belt. Typically, a portion of the belted plaid hangs down to about the knees or ankles with the rest of the material being wrapped up around the upper body in a variety of ways and pinned or otherwise secured to keep it in place.

1840s in Western fashion Costume and fashion of the 1840s

1840s fashion in European and European-influenced clothing is characterized by a narrow, natural shoulder line following the exaggerated puffed sleeves of the later 1820s and 1830s. The narrower shoulder was accompanied by a lower waistline for both men and women.

1820s in Western fashion Costume and fashion of the 1820s

During the 1820s in European and European-influenced countries, fashionable women's clothing styles transitioned away from the classically influenced "Empire"/"Regency" styles of c. 1795–1820 and re-adopted elements that had been characteristic of most of the 18th century, such as full skirts and clearly visible corseting of the natural waist.

Pleat Deliberate fold in the design of a textile object or garment

A pleat is a type of fold formed by doubling fabric back upon itself and securing it in place. It is commonly used in clothing and upholstery to gather a wide piece of fabric to a narrower circumference.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1920s in Western fashion</span> Clothing in the 1920s

Western fashion in the 1920s underwent a modernization. For women, fashion had continued to change away from the extravagant and restrictive styles of the Victorian and Edwardian periods, and towards looser clothing which revealed more of the arms and legs, that had begun at least a decade prior with the rising of hemlines to the ankle and the movement from the S-bend corset to the columnar silhouette of the 1910s. Men also began to wear less formal daily attire and athletic clothing or 'Sportswear' became a part of mainstream fashion for the first time. The 1920s are characterized by two distinct periods of fashion: in the early part of the decade, change was slower, and there was more reluctance to wear the new, revealing popular styles. From 1925, the public more passionately embraced the styles now typically associated with the Roaring Twenties. These styles continued to characterize fashion until the worldwide depression worsened in 1931.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1900s in Western fashion</span> Costume and fashion in the decade 1900–1909

Fashion in the period 1900–1909 in the Western world continued the severe, long and elegant lines of the late 1890s. Tall, stiff collars characterize the period, as do women's broad hats and full "Gibson Girl" hairstyles. A new, columnar silhouette introduced by the couturiers of Paris late in the decade signaled the approaching abandonment of the corset as an indispensable garment.

1910s in Western fashion Costume and fashion in the 1910s

Fashion from 1910–1919 in the Western world was characterized by a rich and exotic opulence in the first half of the decade in contrast with the somber practicality of garments worn during the Great War. Men's trousers were worn cuffed to ankle-length and creased. Skirts rose from floor length to well above the ankle, women began to bob their hair, and the stage was set for the radical new fashions associated with the Jazz Age of the 1920s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Men's skirts</span> Skirt-like garments worn by men and boys

Outside Western cultures, men's clothing commonly includes skirts and skirt-like garments; however, in North America and much of Europe, skirts are usually seen as feminine clothing, and are not always considered acceptable for men and boys to wear. While there are exceptions, most notably the cassock and the kilt, these are not really considered 'skirts' in the typical sense of fashion wear; rather they are worn as cultural and vocational garments. People have variously attempted to promote the fashionable wearing of skirts by men in Western culture and to do away with this gender distinction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dress</span> Garment consisting of a bodice and skirt made in one or more pieces

A dress is a garment traditionally worn by women or girls consisting of a skirt with an attached bodice. It consists of a top piece that covers the torso and hangs down over the legs. A dress can be any one-piece garment containing a skirt of any length, and can be formal or casual.

Khmer traditional clothing

Khmer traditional clothing refers to the traditional styles of dress worn by the Khmer people from ancient times to the present.

Trousers Clothing for the legs and lower body

Trousers, slacks, or pants are an item of clothing that may have originated in Central Asia, worn from the waist to anywhere between the knees and the ankles, covering both legs separately.


An overskirt is a type of women's short skirt which is draped over another garment, such as a skirt, breeches, or trousers. Although peplum is often used as another term for overskirt, it should not be confused with the peplos or "peplum dress", which was worn in ancient Greece.


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