Skirts are a staple of every woman’s wardrobe. They come in all different shapes… sizes… and colors. Unfortunately… many women are unsure of how they should be wearing this fashion staple. If you are wondering… “How do skirts work?” or “What was the original purpose of a skirt?” you have come to the right place.
A skirt is a garment that can be worn over the lower part of the body… either around the waist or lower… typically less than 9 inches. A skirt may be worn as part of a dress or as an outer garment such as a pants… or even shorts.
The most common form of the skirt is the mid-thigh length skirt that is often worn on formal occasions and it is usually made from light and soft fabric like silk… satin… etc. The other type of skirts is short skirts that are mostly worn by girls and women who want to look sexy and attractive.
How Do Skirts Work?
A skirt works in a pretty similar way to pants… by using elastic fabric in order to hold it against the body while walking or running. However… with trousers… you have extra advantages since they are more comfortable to wear and they have more pockets where you can place things like coins or your phone.
- Skirts usually sit at the waist. It’s common in western societies to pull a skirt up over your hips… but some skirts are designed to be worn lower on your waist.
- Sometimes you’ll have to pull a skirt up over your hips and then adjust the waistband so it fits correctly. This is especially common if you’re wearing a “pencil” or A-line skirt that’s full at the bottom and narrow at the top.
- Skirts come in various lengths. The most common length is mid-thigh… which is also sometimes called just “midi”. Above-the-knee (also known as “knee-length”) and tea-length skirts are also quite popular. Mini skirts can be considered a subset of above-the-knee skirts… though they’re often shorter than knee length by quite a bit!
- A long skirt will generally cover you from your hips down to your shoe tops or even further down your legs depending on how long it is.
Tops and Bottoms: Skirts come in two pieces — the top half… called the waistband or bodice… and the bottom half… known as the skirt panel. The skirt panel is cut on the bias so that it hangs gracefully. It can be straight or flared and is attached to the waistband at one side with a seam that runs down the back of the skirt (called an in-seam). Skirts are most often gathered at this seam rather than along a side seam.
Waistbands: Waistbands are usually cut on the straight grain and attached to skirt panels with a flat seam that runs up the front of the skirt (called an out-seam). The waistband can be either elasticized or un-elasticized. Elasticized waistbands can stretch to fit many sizes while un-elasticized waistbands have a fixed circumference size. The waistband can also be cut on the bias to create a more flattering fit.
To add shaping… darts or gores can be added to both the waistband and skirt panels.
How Are Skirts Put On?
Skirts are an everyday staple for women… but how exactly do they work? Here’s a brief overview of the process… step by step:
- Step 1: Pull. A skirt works because it’s made of stretchy material. It has a waistband that fits around your middle… and a hemline that sits at your ankles or above. You can buy skirts in different lengths… but they all have the same basic structure… so the same rules apply to all of them.
- Step 2: Tug. You pull your skirt up over your hips and tug it down into place at the waistband. The fabric stretches along with you… so it will conform to any bumps or curves along your hips and thighs.
- Step 3: Settle. When you stand still… the skirt will settle into place over your hips and legs. The shape of the skirt depends on how tight you pull it as you put it on. If you pull it up loosely and let it fall back into place at the waistband… you get a full… draped look around your hips and behind; if you pull it up tightly and settle it back down into place… you get more of an hourglass effect that accentuates your waist and legs.
What Was the Original Purpose of a Skirt?
You may have thought the original purpose of a skirt was to cover your legs… but that’s not entirely true. The earliest skirts in Western history… dating back to the early Middle Ages (500-1100 C.E.)… were worn by men and not women. That’s right — during the medieval period in Western Europe… skirts were worn by both men and women as an item of clothing that symbolized a person’s social status.
The original purpose of a skirt was to keep one’s legs warm — not to cover them up. In fact… pants weren’t even invented until about 100 years after skirts gained popularity.
Prior to pants becoming mainstream… tights were used by both men and women as an undergarment to cover their legs from knees to ankles — trousers were still considered “underwear” for the upper body (i.e.. shirts) or outerwear for the lower body (i.e.. dresses).
Skirts were designed for functionality — in contrast with dresses… which were rather impractical in terms of movement and comfort.
A skirt could be made from a wide range of materials… including animal hides… woven grasses or fabric. Skirts were often hemmed to the length of the wearer’s liking… which could range from knee-length to floor-length.
Skirts were not only practical but also stylish in ancient societies. Women wore skirts as formal wear… and many cultures used them as part of religious ceremonies and rituals.
For example… Minoan culture viewed skirts as symbols of fertility and growth. Ancient Egypt considered the skirt an important element of mummification… more so than other garments worn during life.
As skirts became more popular among ordinary people in ancient Egypt… they began to take on additional meaning. In the culture’s funerary art… the skirt symbolized protection over death and rebirth.
In modern times… skirts remain a fashionable choice for women’s clothing… though their original purpose has been forgotten by many. In some cultures… skirts are still viewed as part of religious ceremonies and rituals.
Why Do You Wear Skirts?
Shorts… jeans… and trousers are all variations of pants. However… the most fashionable option of them – skirts – is much more complex than that. Skirts are more than just a product of fashion… they were invented for a multitude of reasons.
Ancient civilizations used skirts to identify tribes and social status. Medieval European women wore skirts to avoid dirt while they walked. Today… women wear skirts for their sense of style or ease of movement.
Skirts are one of the oldest clothing items known to man… but they’re still around today because they’re so versatile. They can be dressed up or down… worn in hot weather or cold… and worn almost anywhere. Skirts can also be very easy to make yourself… whether you prefer a simple A-line dress or a full-blown ball gown.
Why Do Skirts Have Splits?
It’s not just a fashion statement — it’s also a matter of comfort! A skirt with a side split is made out of fabric that comes in one long piece. When it’s sewn into a tube… the seam that goes down the front dips straight down in the middle and then flares out to the sides. It’s this flared part that allows women to walk naturally.
Traditional skirts are usually made by sewing material together in long strips and then draping them over the body to get an idea of how they will look. Once they make it around to the back… they cut up the material to make two separate pieces… adding seams at each hip.
When you walk or sit… your legs will spread slightly apart and so… as with any article of clothing that is wider at one end than another… there will be some vertical bunching of fabric around your hips. The flare-like design on the front prevents this from happening… which would otherwise crumple up a skirt in the back and make walking very difficult.
The opening of a skirt… particularly the flared skirt… is intended to allow a woman to walk with a natural stride without taking tiny little steps. A simple comparison to an accordion will demonstrate how this works.
Tightly pleated material is made from multiple panels attached to each other and sewn down the front of the skirt. It has more structure and offers more control over movement.
The accordion pleat skirt has fewer panels that are wider apart and not sewn down at all. It allows for more freedom of movement… but a shorter stride than the tightly pleated skirts.
If you have ever watched a lady wearing an accordion-pleated skirt walking or dancing with abandon you have probably seen the reason it was invented. It is actually quite difficult to walk gracefully in one of these garments… especially when they are worn wide and long as they were in their heyday.
This sort of construction allows for flaring as well as freedom of movement by having fewer panels to accommodate the full range of movements while dancing or walking. The flare encouraged by this style also helps keep the wearer’s feet farther apart on the ground making her feel more grounded and secure while moving about.
What Is the Purpose of Wearing a Skirt?
The first skirts were designed as an adaptation to allow women to feel less exposed when wearing skimpy outfits.
In ancient times… women wore long tunics… which they secured at their waist with a belt. When they wanted to wear shorter clothes… they found that a loose tunic would cause them to accidentally expose themselves.
So they started wearing skirts instead. The skirt was not only more convenient… but it also offered some modesty in public settings.
Skirts have changed quite a bit over the years; however… their most basic purpose has remained the same: To provide modesty and coverage to the wearer.
Today… we see skirts everywhere. They are worn by women of every size and height… from toddlers to old ladies. Skirts are now available in virtually every color imaginable too! Yet despite all this variety in design and style… the basic purpose behind them remains intact: To provide coverage where it is needed most.
Are Skirts Cooler Than Shorts?
If you’re planning to spend time outdoors… then there’s something you should know: Skirts beat shorts… hands down. Wearing a skirt means you don’t need to worry about the sweat that builds up under your legs.
But do you want to be the girl who wears shorts in 80-degree weather? No! You want to be the one who looks cool… collected… and confident–and skirts help you do that.
- Skirts are confident… breezy… and cool. They’re also versatile: Wear them with a jean jacket and boots for a rocker chick vibe… or with sandals and a chunky necklace for date night. They’re at home in casual environments… too: The playfulness of a skirt is perfect for a picnic or outdoor concert in the park.
- Skirts… shorts… and pants all protect you from the sun’s ultraviolet rays… but skirts offer the most protection because they expose less skin. Skirts also let you wear less sunscreen… which is better for your skin.
- Skirts give you more choices than shorts do. You can don a skirt over shorts or underneath pants to add color or style to any ensemble. Shorts have fewer options; they usually have to be worn alone.
- Skirts are comfortable in warm weather because they allow your legs to breathe and release perspiration through evaporation better than pants do. Skirts also keep your legs cooler than if they were covered by pants.
In summary… Skirts have been around for thousands of years… and they have been worn in various ways in different societies throughout history.
Today… the skirt continues to be a popular choice for women’s clothing. Choosing to wear a skirt has more to do with personal preference than practicality.
Louise Wilson is an accomplished author, passionate textile historian, and renowned fashion enthusiast with a rich background in the world of apparel.
Graduating with honors in Fashion Design, Louise further expanded her skills and knowledge by completing a master’s degree in Textile History. Her academic pursuits have led her to explore the fashion capitals of the world, including Milan, Paris, and New York, enriching her insights into the global world of fashion.
As an author, Louise’s passion for fashion has found its way into her writings, where she intricately weaves narratives of style, design, and fashion history.