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August 20, 2013


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keren b.

This is a wonderful post!
How do I get in touch with author? I am working on a book and would like to offer her to contribute a sidebar on this topic.


FIDM Museum

Hi Keren,

Thanks for your comment! Glad to hear you enjoyed this post. I'll forward your contact info to the author.

keren b.

Thank you! I am looking forward to hearing back from her. The book by the way is with Schiffer Publishing and is due out Fall 2015.

Bill Trantham

I never would've guessed how this was used. We're so out of touch with the culture of that era. Very interesting. Thank you.


Wonderful post! Something I'd never heard of before. So, I gather the primary intention of the dress holder was to allow women's hands to remain free from holding up their skirts themselves? Is there some sort of little lock system/mechanism on the FIDM's example to enable the holder to maintain its grip on the dress? Hooks on the underside of the butterfly, or something like that?

FIDM Museum

Hi Carolyn

Thanks for your question!

The two bars forming a V-shape behind the butterfly are loosened by pinching them together at the top, and sliding the butterfly up the bars. Then, the skirt can be placed inside the opened prongs at the bottom. To close, the bars are pinched together again, the ring is slid back down, and the bars are released, clamping the fabric in place.

The purpose of the skirt lifter was to raise the skirt without having to constantly hold it in your hand. Also, the skirt could be arranged perfectly, and then clamped, creating a pretty cascade of fabric, rather than just grabbing the folds of material.

Cathy Kawalek


Would you also put me in touch with the author? I would like to access one of the sources listed in her bibliography. Wonderful article, thank you!

Val LaBore

I bought one of these recently, a rather plain one, but am puzzled by how it was attached to the waistband.
The "pads" on the clamps are rubbery and would have a very good grip on the skirt fabric.

FIDM Museum

Hi Val,

Wonderful that you were able to acquire a skirt lifter of your own!

As you can see in the images, skirt lifters were usually attached to the waist via a chatelaine and/or belt. On our skirt lifter, the small ring at the top would have been used to thread a chain, which would have been attached to a chatelaine, which was then attached to the skirt at the waist, probably via a chain belt of some type. Hope this info helps!

FIDM Museum

Cathy, yes, I'm happy to pass your contact info on to the author!

Ann Dixon

This is an excellent article. I would like to share it on the Frontier Women's Living History Assn. blog at http://frontierwomen.blogspot.com/2013/11/skirt-lifters.html We are a group of Living Historians that portray the lives of women on the Texas frontier. We are always looking for good information to expand our knowledge. Thanks for the great information

Karen Jessee

This is a fascinating post and I'm thrilled to have found it. I just recently purchased a skirt lifter of my own for a third historical program I'm creating. Looking forward to knowing more about the author as well.

Karen Jessee

I would like to comment on the images. While the skirt lifter is indeed featured, it appears to be more ornamental than instrumental. There is still a great deal of skirt / train on the ground to get in the way or soiled during a sporting activity Were these images designed to merely feature the accessory because I don't think they really exemplify the purpose. I'd appreciate your feedback on this. Thank you

Dixie Bailey

Were the chains ever made from hair ? I was told that mine was hair .

FIDM Museum

Hi Dixie,
Our curators have not seen a skirt lifter made with hair chains - hair work was typically reserved for jewelry. But perhaps you have the rare example!

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