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Skirt

Skirt

While the most common garment for Native American men was a breechclout, or loincloth, for women it was the skirt. Although Native American women did throw a cloak around their shoulders for warmth, the skirt was often worn without any covering for the upper body. Skirts were commonly knee-length or longer. The simplest skirts were made of grasses tied to a waist string; these were worn mostly by Indian tribes along the coasts of North America. Other styles included a wraparound leather skirt, an apron tied at the back, two aprons tied to cover both the front and the back, and woven and sewn patchwork skirts. Made of leather, grasses, feathers, bark, and later, woven cotton or other fabric, skirts were embellished with fringe, embroidery, beadwork, tassels, and other ornaments. As Native Americans had more contact with Europeans, their skirt styles changed to mimic the flowing European styles, and many women began wearing leather or cloth dresses that covered their breasts. Before long, purchased fabric skirts replaced handmade leather or woven skirts for many.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Hofsinde, Robert. Indian Costumes. New York: William Morrow, 1968.

Hungry Wolf, Adolf. Traditional Dress: Knowledge and Methods of Old-Time Clothing. Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Co., 1990.

Paterek, Josephine. Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1994.

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skirt

skirt / skərt/ • n. a woman's outer garment fastened around the waist and hanging down around the legs. ∎  the part of a coat or dress that hangs below the waist. ∎ inf., chiefly offens. a woman or women regarded as objects of sexual desire: so, Al, off to chase some skirt? ∎  the curtain that hangs around the base of a hovercraft to contain the air cushion. ∎  a surface that conceals or protects the wheels or underside of a vehicle or aircraft. ∎  a small flap on a saddle, covering the bar from which the stirrup leather hangs. ∎  archaic an edge, border, or extreme part. Compare with outskirts. • v. [tr.] go around or past the edge of: he did not go through the city but skirted it. ∎  be situated along or around the edge of: the fields that skirted the highway were full of cattle. ∎  [intr.] (skirt along/around) go along or around (something) rather than directly through or across it: the river valley skirts along the northern slopes of the hills. ∎  attempt to ignore; avoid dealing with: there was a subject she was always skirting | [intr.] the treaty skirted around the question of political cooperation. DERIVATIVES: skirt·ed adj. [in comb.] a full-skirted dress.

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Skirt

Skirt

the edge of a crowd; a number of trees bordering or surrounding a place, 1617.

Examples : skirt of the enemy host, 1577; of the thickets, 1835; skirts of the cause, 1629; of congregation, 1764; of the crowd, 1894; of human nature, 1820; of the night, 1624; of power, 1839; of religion, 1648; of wood, 1617.

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skirt

skirt part of a dress or robe from the waist down XIII; flap of a saddle, etc. XIV; border, edge XV. — ON. skyrta shirt = OE. sċyrte SHIRT.
Hence vb. be on the border OF. XVII.

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skirt

skirt.
1. Projection of the eaves.

2. Apronpiece under a window.

3. Plane sides of a room.

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skirt

skirtadvert, alert, animadvert, assert, avert, Bert, blurt, Burt, cert, chert, concert, controvert, convert, curt, desert, dessert, dirt, divert, exert, flirt, girt, hurt, inert, insert, introvert, Kurt, malapert, overt, pert, pervert, quirt, shirt, skirt, spirt, spurt, squirt, Sturt, subvert, vert, wort, yurt •Engelbert • Colbert • sweatshirt •nightshirt • pay dirt • Frankfurt •miniskirt • underskirt • expert •Blackshirt • redshirt • T-shirt •Brownshirt • undershirt • extrovert •ragwort • milkwort • pillwort •nipplewort • lungwort • bladderwort •liverwort

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Skirt

SKIRT

The skirt, the lower part of a gown or robe that covers the wearer from waist downward, has been called "the simplest and most obvious of garments" by John Flügel (p. 35). He theorized that "tropical" skirts, which developed as a class of clothing distinct from "arctic" bifurcated forms, had certain advantages: "Instead of being supported on just two legs with nothing but thin air between them, a skirted human being assumes much more ample and voluminous proportions … often with great increase of dignity" (p. 35).

In Western culture, both genders long exploited the skirt's inherent characteristics, but since the sixteenth century a true skirt has not been a feature of standard masculine dress (if, with Anne Hollander [1994], one excepts the male kilt as a survival of drapery). The skirt separated from the dress bodice in the early sixteenth century; shortly thereafter "skirt" became synonymous with a woman, at first as standard English and then as slang in the nineteenth century. The skirt had become the defining female garment.

For several centuries feminine skirts were often very full, worn over petticoats, and sometimes supported by understructures and lengthened with trains. According to Hollander, shrouded legs visually confused rather than explained the structure of the female body. An inherent dichotomy was imagined between women's mysterious skirted forms—that included no type of bifurcated garment, not even as underwear—and tightly garbed trousered males, as illustrated by the furor over the Bloomer fashion of the 1850s.

While expansive and expensive skirts of previous eras may have demonstrated women's abstinence from productive employment, the slimmer line of the early twentieth century was restrictive in other ways, culminating in the "hobble skirt" of about 1910. Mobility, however, triumphed in the 1920s as skirts shortened to reveal women's legs. A new statement in the continuous dialogue between modesty and sexual attractiveness, the shortened skirt was, Hollander believes, "the most original modern contribution to feminine fashion accomplished without recourse to the standard male vocabulary" (p. 146).

For much of the rest of the twentieth century, hemlines served as the primary indicator of fashionability, alternating higher and lower, from extravagantly long New Look skirts to scanty miniskirts and "micro-minis." To explain seemingly quixotic hemlines, inventive (if unsubstantiated) theories linked short skirts with high stock prices. By the 1970s pants increasingly comprised an accepted part of women's wardrobes. In The Woman's Dress for Success Book, however, John T. Molloy, advised businesswomen to avoid what he called the "imitation man look," by wearing skirted suits with the hem length fixed at slightly below the knee, thus "taking a major step toward liberation from the fashion industry" (p. 51). Since that time, however, the array of feminine skirts has only gotten more eclectic—slit, tight, see-through, or full in any length from floor to crotch. Short skirts remain a way to attract attention, whether admiring or outraged. Flaunting legs under an abbreviated skirt has been interpreted as a form of feminine empowerment.

Wearing a skirt has become a choice for women, and since the 1990s even a rare and provocative masculine sub-fashion. Yet the tenacity of this garment as a female signifier is evidenced by standardized international gender symbols: with no innate anatomical basis for the skirt of one figure, cultural conditioning makes her femininity instantly indisputable.

See alsoBloomer Costume; Crinoline; Miniskirt .

bibliography

Bolton, Andrew. Bravehearts: Men in Skirts. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2003.

Flügel, John Carl. The Psychology of Clothes. London: Hogarth Press, 1930.

Hollander, Anne. Sex and Suits: The Evolution of Modern Dress. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1994.

Molloy, John T. The Woman's Dress for Success Book. New York: Warner Brooks; Chicago: Follet Publishing Co., 1977.

Tarrant, Naomi. The Development of Costume. Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1994.

H. Kristina Haugland

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