Museum of Ancient Inventions: String Skirt

String Skirt, Europe, 6000 BCE

This string skirt, copied from one still used in some parts of the Balkans, is based on one of the longest continuing clothing trends in the world. The oldest extant evidence we have for this type of apparel is from the Egtved grave, a Bronze Age archeological site in Denmark, dating to the fourteenth century BCE. Folk costumes in many countries of Eastern Europe include a version of this string skirt in the form of a fringed apron. Many small figurines from Neolithic Europe depict women wearing nothing except a belt with long fringe hanging down from it. Women have worn and still wear these aprons to communicate information about their lives and marital status (the exact information implied varies from group to group).

Method of Construction

Constructed by: Kathryn Gerry

My reproduction is based on both the Egtved skirt and these more modern versions. I have made a fringed belt, which circles all the way around my waist, as the Egtved model did. The designs on the belt are based on those of the modern folk costumes, which usually employ red and black colors, and a repeating diamond, lozenge or triangle pattern, which are all symbolic references to female genitalia. I have used card weaving, a very ancient and simple weaving technique which was very likely the method used on the Egtved skirt. I have done some card weaving before, but only with mercerized cotton. I thought wool would be a more authentic material to use, and this ended up causing lots of problems. Wool tends to stick to itself, and when I first started to set up the weaving, I ended up sitting in a big pile of tangled knots. The weaving itself generally went smoothly, though the wool strings broke more often than the cotton I had used before. I made the fringe by letting all of the weft threads on one side of the band drop down in long loops, which I later cut so that they would hang loosely. This method worked well, though it made the weaving much more time consuming. I still have to figure out what to do with the strings to keep them from tangling. I braided every three together for about an inch and a half down from the belt, but I’m not satisfied with this resolution. Braiding them all the way down to the end might work and weighting the strings with a bead or a metal band might also be a good idea.

I would also like to express my undying gratitude to John Billingsley, who stayed up all night with me untangling strings.

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