The skirt, as we think about it in its more common use, is part of women’s wardrobe and it covers their body from the waist down.
The idea of modern skirt was born during the 15th century from the gotic sukiene, a tipical dress of the period, which split into two elements: the corset and the skirt.
The skirt changed in its volumes, length and shape, affecting the creation of new silhouettes throughout centuries.
In this post I will analyze 8 different types of skirts to give you the ultimate guide to impress your girlfriends on your next shopping spree.
It is the most antique item in fashion history, which remained almost the same from the Egyptians to the present day.
Its shape didn’t changed a lot as well as its function of protecting garments while working.
Seen on the street: Smock could be also used by aristocratic woman during 19th century, while embroidering linen. In fact the smock was embellished by precious laces, to be part of women’s sophisticated outfits.
This skirt is made by an alteration of the fabric through pleats, made by heating the fabric.
First pleated skirts appeared during Egyptian domination and they were a typical item for men’s wardrobe, called Skentis.
Pleated garments were in and out of fashion uncountable times, throughout centuries. Nowadays, in Europe, the pleated skirt survives in some historic national costume, as in Greece and Scotland).
Seen on the street: Pleating a fabric is an expensive effort, also because a pleated garment needs at least three times the fabric than a non pleated one. During the Renaissance pleated garments were made only for aristocratic and rich people for their marriage and they were as costly as a Ferrari is now!
Wide skirt whose shape create a bell-inspired shape. The accent of volume on the hips is a clear tribute to female fertility.
Seen on the street: This is the most copied skirt of all times and it’s the iconic outfit for princesses of fairy tales.
Made with horsehair, crinoline is a rigid structure.
Originally it was used for soldiers’ collars and then it turned to be a part of women’s wardrobe.
It gave wide volume to a skirt made with soft fabrics through padding, wooden frames (which could also be made with iron wire), whalebones, bamboo circles and air chambers.
Crinolines appeared in fashion history in 1848, preceded by criardes, guardinfanti and paniers.
Seen on the street: During the 80′s Vivienne Westwood created a new silhouette, which overturned the aesthetic of the decade. The mini-crini saw the spotlight of the catwalks in 1981 and was a great success. It was a reminiscence of the past crinolines, but it was presented as a garment and not as part of lingerie, with a sophisticated Lolita-inspired style.
Giving the woman a sophisticated attitude, train allows the silhouette to gain importance.
In fact it was used mostly by aristocratic families.
It could be fixed upon the shoulders or it could be the extension of the skirt.
At some aristocratic European courts the length of the train was determined by the noble rank.
During Baroque fashion the train disappeared and subsequently came back in 1680 with draped skirt called bouffantes, with the tornure during the second half of 19th century and finally with the cul de Paris at the beginning of the 20th century.
Seen on the street: The longest train ever in history was surely worn by Catherine of Russia for her coronation: 70 meters long and 7 meters wide, it was carried by 50 pageboys.
Cul de Paris
It’s a petticoat with a padded back, made with iron circles or whalebones and decorated with bows and ruffles.
It first appeared during the 18th century and then it was back in vogue starting from 1880.
Seen on the street: Elsa Schiaparelli took inspiration from cul de Paris. Schiaparelli reinvented it with humor and good taste, creating a gown photographed in 1939, which presented on the back a ruffled volume, very similar to that created by the cul de Paris.
Long skirt, which narrows at the ankle, called Humple-rock in German, intraves in French and a intoppo in Italian.
It was fashionable between 1910 and 1914. This skirt is an interesting example of how fashion is predominant on rationality.
This is the story of its origin, as wrote in a newspaper of the time:
“These silhouettes give the chance to be noticed in a decent way, respecting traditions, with a grotesque result…At the beginning no divas were enthusiastic about this Paquin’s creation. Even Sarah Bernhardt, who had an extravagant style, refused to wear the skirt (maybe for her age). But Madame Sorel, who was very famous for her exquisite taste, needed a dress to appear in a frame of a movie, standing for a long time, leaning against a pillar. In order to appear in a great shape, Madame Sorel needed a smart solution. The hobble-skirt seemed to have all the qualities: if you want to wear it you should stay still like a statue. After that the hobble-skirt became a successful item and women went crazy for it. They wanted to take a walk or dance in it, sure to have the most glamorous and equally uncomfortable outfit ever. At the time the skirt was described as pure madness.”
Seen on the street: Paul Poiret was a huge fan of hobble-skirt. He was fascinated by the oriental taste and style and created exuberant outfit for his clients and his wife, including hobble-skirts, decorated with feathers, lace, pearls and sequins. Poiret was more concentrated about the theatrical aspect of his creations rather than comfort.
This sporty skirt was very famous in France, where it was called jupe-culotte.
It was worn by gentlemen of the European upper-classes during the 1930s, although it appeared in Italy in 1911 (men wearing it were called gagà) and it was used before during the Victorian Age.
It was developed for horseback riding so that women could sit astride a man’ saddle rather than riding side-saddle.
It looks like a skirt with wide pleats in the front, but only with movements it revealed the shape of trousers.
Seen on the street: Loose trousers are the must-have of the moment. Very chic and loose-fitted gives a sophisticated and 30′s inspired allure. Wearing them with a double-breasted jacket, like an Italian Gagà makes your outfit a remarkable one. Also Schiaparelli loved to wear them, with a tiny pull and silk blouse, because she was a trend-setter, as well as an artist, designer and avant-garde thinker.
My final thoughts
Whether you read this post because you’re seriously addicted to wear each of this type of skirts in your future outfits or just wanted a dose of fashion history culture, I hope this little guide and my drawings will inspire you to draw a comparison between what is on sale now and what was in the past, as a proof that in fashion what goes around come around.