Edwardian Divided Skirt

The world is reopening, whether or not Covid-19 is under control.  I’m a bit conflicted, as it seems like the more people are out being “normal”, the greater the likelihood is that we’ll again find ourselves in lockdown again this fall. I have discovered that antique shops are a good compromise between staying home completely and jumping into a swimming pool with 100 strangers, yelling about our right to party.

So, after getting my hair cut for the first time since February, I went to an antique mall in a nearby town, as a little treat for myself. I had never been there before, so I didn’t have any expectations. As I walked up the aisles, I saw ahead a booth that clearly had clothing. Ten years ago I’d have been all excited, but so many booths in antiques malls are now selling modern clothing that I really didn’t get my hopes up.

But, praise be, there were old clothes in this booth! I immediately spotted a pair of old black cotton exercise bloomers. $12! As I grabbed them, I took a quick look around the booth, and then I saw it – an Edwardian divided skirt. This is the garment women wore for hiking, for camping, and for horseback riding. It’s an all-purpose sports garment, with a big secret.

That secret is that the skirt is actually a pair of pants. Unbutton the front panel, flip it to the right, and you are now wearing culottes.

For years women had been wearing some sort of pants under their skirts for sports. The divided skirt was a late Victorian innovation that allowed the wearer to switch from one to the other with the changing of a few buttons.

Even buttoned to expose the pants, the garment could pass for a skirt.

These were sold by the Standard Mail Order Company of New York  City.  There are digital copies of catalogs from that company all over the internet, so I will be doing a bit of searching for my divided skirt.

This was not a product unique to Standard. My 1910 Abercrombie & Fitch catalog has a very similar style  for sale for $12.50 to $20  dollars. According to the inflation calculator, that would have been  $320 to $512 in today’s money. Perhaps Standard was a bit more accessible to the less-than-rich.

And I’m guessing it was more affordable, as I have in my collection of vintage photos various women wearing the garment. It was such a great innovation, which allowed women to ride a horse astride, to safely ride a bicycle, and to romp freely through the woods. Can’t ask more of a garment than that.

My divided skirt shows a lot of signs that it was worn a lot. It’s missing a button, and there are a few small rips around some of the buttonholes. The hem you see with the darker thread is not original. Either the original wearer was very short, or she shortened the skirt in the mid 1910s when fashion dictated a shorted skirt. Either way, it’s a part of the skirt’s history, and will remain.


Filed under Collecting, Shopping, Summer Sports, Vintage Photographs

24 responses to “Edwardian Divided Skirt

  1. Seems I must go to America for my shopping – I have never seen anything like this in England outside of a museum! What luck!


  2. seweverythingblog

    Great find! Women have a come a long way from divided bike skirts to lycra bike shorts 🙂 . Still, this could be such a chic adaptation for a modern garment for any occasion.


  3. jacq staubs

    A treasure! The close up with the old hook and eye reveals the secret?! You must be very happy. nice!Wonderful!


  4. Eagle eyes! Another item rescued for the museum.


  5. What a wonderful treasure to find on your first big outing! I will take it as a hopeful sign. I remember when we all had to have culottes. I rather liked them. I would definitely wear something like this.


  6. What a find! (Was it as much of a bargain as the exercise bloomers?)


  7. I’ve never seen one of these before. What a useful garment, and a great find for you.


  8. The online sewing community is currently enjoying a resurgence of culotte popularity with new patterns from indy designers, but I don’t recall anyone coming up with this idea!


  9. Theresa in Tucson

    The pattern company “Folkwear” has a pattern for this skirt should anyone wish to make her own.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. ceci

    How exciting. I wonder if the antique shops of the future will have baskets of vintage masks from 2020?


  11. This is a grand and practical idea ! I can only wonder why this style is not popularly made today.


  12. I feel the same as you with regards to going out! It’s a strange world. You sure were lucky finding this skirt though. What an interesting piece of history!


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