Tales of a Tattered Victorian Skirt

Antique Black Silk Skirt C0018

Antique Black Silk Skirt C0018

You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I love this skirt. You know why? Because it’s a survivor.

It’s just another boring black silk Victorian skirt. It might even be Edwardian or even into the early 1920s. It’s been around.

We all love the pristine, near mint antique dresses – beauty is easy to love. But this one .. THIS skirt has a story. I only wish I knew what it was.

It seems this dear skirt was re-made from another garment or that the style was updated. So that I don’t repeat myself and be boring – you can read details of some of the changes in its description: Black Silk Skirt Antique Victorian Edwardian

There are multiple period mends. I love period mends. It reminds me of the skills our grandmothers had, and how frugal they were. That doesn’t necessarily mean that this woman was poor, but this obviously wasn’t her Sunday best ! What’s wrong with a neatly mended skirt for wearing around the house, doing “light” chores? Don’t you have a faded or holey old t-shirt that you just happen to love to wear around the house?

Another period patch

Another period patch


I suppose this skirt could have been worn for mourning. It is black, after all, and not a particularly shiny black silk. It might make sense to have a black skirt tucked away for mourning purposes. It would make sense to update the style if needed and to mend it – hopefully she wouldn’t be needing it often!

It’s a huge mistake to think that an antique dress was a “mourning dress” just because it is black. Silk wasn’t washable and fabric choices were limited: silk, cotton, wool, linen. Black hides a lot of dirt and stains. It was (and is!) a popular color for non-mourning purposes.

With a 31″ waist and it could have belonged to a middle aged or older woman. I’m sure you’ve noticed the 22″ – 26″ waists most antique dresses have. That’s not to say it didn’t belong to a younger woman who didn’t subscribe to current fashion or “wasp waists”, though. Some of us just have “big bones”, too! 🙂

The length seems short, just 33″, and there is no train or extra fabric for a bustle. Did she remake this skirt to wear for the days she spent sitting in her rocking chair, doing beautiful needlework or knitting? Or just sitting on the front porch, waving to the neighbors on a hot summer evening when sitting indoors was much too stifling.

The hand of the fabric is lovely, too. I wish had more expert knowledge of the type of fabrics and weaves. This isn’t at all crisp. It’s soft and must have been comfortable – her favorite skirt, so she kept repairing and remaking it. It could have started as a skirt with a small bustle and remade in the 1910s with more of a straight line and then worn into the 20s or even 30s as women at that time were prone to do. How often have you seen pictures of old ladies with their hair in a bun and a long skirt and shirtwaist .. standing next to automobile? Ok, maybe not that exact scenario but I do happen to have a couple of those in our family photos so they can’t be totally scarce! (Do you think I could put my hands on that picture right now??)

How I wish this skirt could talk … or maybe not. It would probably laugh at all the stories I’ve just made up about it!