At its simplest, a skirt can be a draped garment made out of a single piece of fabric (such as pareos). However, most skirts are fitted to the body at the waist or hips and fuller below, with the fullness introduced by means of darts, gores, pleats, or panels. Modern skirts are usually made of light to mid-weight fabrics, such as denim, jersey, worsted, or poplin. Skirts of thin or clingy fabrics are often worn with slips to make the material of the skirt drape better and for modesty.
The hemline of skirts can vary from micro to floor-length and can vary according to cultural conceptions of modesty and aesthetics as well as the wearer's personal taste, which can be influenced by such factors as fashion and social context. Most skirts are self-standing garments, but some skirt-looking panels may be part of another garment such as leggings, shorts, and swimsuits.
Ancient Egyptian garments were mainly made of linen. For the upper classes, they were beautifully woven and intricately pleated. Around 2,130 BC, during the Old Kingdom of Egypt, men wore wraparound skirts (kilts) known as the shendyt. They were made of a rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the lower body and tied in front. By the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, longer skirts, reaching from the waist to ankles and sometimes hanging from the armpits, became fashionable. During the New Kingdom of Egypt, kilts with a pleated triangular section became fashionable for men. Beneath these, a shente, or triangular loincloth whose ends were fastened with cord ties, were worn.
Since the 1970s and the rise of pants/trousers for women as an option for all but the most formal of occasions, no one skirt length has dominated fashion for long, with short and ankle-length styles often appearing side by side in fashion magazines and catalogs.
The skirt is a part of uniform for girls in many schools across the world, with lengths varying depending on local culture. The pleated tartan skirt has been a component of girls' school uniforms since the early twentieth century in UK. In the 21st century, skirt has become part of Western dress code for women and is worn as business casual and office wear, and also as sportswear (ex. in tennis). Skirt may also be mandatory as formal wear, such as for airhostesses, waitresses, nurses and military women.
Circle skirt, a skirt cut in sections to make one or more circles with a hole for the waist, so the skirt is very full but hangs smoothly from the waist without darts, pleats, or gathers.
There are a number of garments marketed to men which fall under the category of "skirt" or "dress". These go by a variety of names and form part of the traditional dress for men from various cultures. Usage varies – the dhoti is part of everyday dress on the Indian subcontinent while the kilt is more usually restricted to occasional wear and the fustanella is used almost exclusively as costume. Robes, which are a type of dress for men, have existed in many cultures, including the Japanese kimono, the Chinese cheongsam, the Arabic thobe, and the African Senegalese kaftan. Robes are also used in some religious orders, such as the cassock in Christianity and various robes and cloaks that may be used in pagan rituals.
The sarong is a piece of cloth that may be wrapped around the waist to form a skirt-like garment. Sarongs exist in various cultures under various names, including the pareo and lavalava of the Hawaiian islands and Polynesia (Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, and Fiji), the Indian dhoti and lungi, and the South Indian and Maldivian mundu.