In the western world, skirts are usually considered women's clothing. However, there are exceptions. The kilt is a traditional men's garment in Scotland and Ireland, and some fashion designers, such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, have shown men's skirts.
At its simplest, a skirt can be a draped garment made out of a single piece of material (such as pareos), but most skirts are fitted to the body at the waist and fuller below, with the fullness introduced by means of dart, 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.
Some medieval upper-class women wore skirts over three metres in diameter at the bottom. At the other extreme, the miniskirts of the 1960s were minimal garments that may have barely covered the underwear when seated.
A straw-woven skirt dating to 3,900 B.C. was discovered in Armenia at the Areni-1 cave complex. Skirts have been worn by men and women from many cultures, such as the lungi, kanga and sarong worn in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and the kilt worn in Scotland and Ireland.
The earliest known culture to have females wear clothing resembling miniskirts were the Duan Qun Miao, which literally meant "short skirt Miao" in Chinese. This was in reference to the short miniskirts "that barely cover the buttocks" worn by women of the tribe, and which were "probably shocking" to observers in medieval and early modern times.
During the nineteenth century the cut of women's dresses in western culture varied more widely than in any other century. Waistlines started just below the bust (the Empire silhouette) and gradually sank to the natural waist. Skirts started fairly narrow and increased dramatically to the hoopskirt and crinoline-supported styles of the 1860s; then fullness was draped and drawn to the back by means of bustles.
- Straight skirt or Pencil skirt, a tailored skirt hanging straight from the hips and fitted from the waist to the hips by means of darts or a yoke; may have a vent for ease of walking
- Full skirt, a skirt with fullness gathered into the waistband
- Short skirt, a skirt with hemline above the knee.
- Bell-shaped skirt, flared noticeably from the waist but then, unlike a church bell, cylindrical for much of its length.
- A-line skirt, a skirt with a slight flare, roughly in the shape of a capital letter A
- Pleated skirt, a skirt with fullness reduced to fit the waist by means of regular pleats ('plaits') or folds, which can be stitched flat to hip-level or free-hanging
- 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
- Hobble skirt, long and tight skirt with a narrow enough hem to significantly impede the wearer's stride
- Ballerina skirt, a full-length formal skirt popular in the 1950s.
- Broomstick skirt, a light-weight ankle length skirt with many crumpled pleats formed by compressing and twisting the garment while wet, such as around a broomstick. (1980s and on)
- Bubble dress/skirt, a voluminous skirt whose hem is tucked back under to create a “bubble effect” at the bottom. Popular in the 1950s, 1980s and from the mid 2000s to currently.
- Cargo skirt, a plain utilitarian skirt with belt loops and numerous large pockets, based on the military style of Cargo pants and popularised in the 1990s.
- Dirndl, a skirt made of a straight length of fabric gathered at the waist
- Jean skirt, a trouser skirt made of denim, often designed like 5-pocket jeans, but found in a large variety of styles.
- Leather skirt, a skirt made of leather
- Kilt-skirt, a wrap-around skirt with overlapping aprons in front and pleated around the back. Though traditionally designed as women's wear, it is fashioned to mimic somewhat closely the general appearance of a (man's) kilt, including the usage of a plaid pattern more or less closely resembling those of recognized tartan patterns of Scotland.
- Maxiskirt, an ankle length-skirt (1970s, but has made a comeback in the 2000s)
- Midi skirt, mid-calf length.
- Miniskirt, a thigh-length skirt, and micromini, an extremely short version (1960s)
- Poodle skirt, a circle or near-circle skirt with an appliqued poodle or other decoration (1950s)
- Prairie skirt, a flared skirt with one or more flounces or tiers (1970s and on)
- Rah-rah skirt, a short, tiered, and often colourful skirt fashionable in the early-mid 1980s.
- Sarong, a square of fabric wrapped around the body and tied on one hip to make a skirt; worn as a skirt or as a cover-up over a bathing suit in tropical climates.
- Scooter skirt (or skort), a skirt that has an attached pair of shorts underneath for modesty. Alternatively, but with similar effect, a pair of shorts incorporating a skirt-like flap across the front of the body.
- Tiered skirt, made of several horizontal layers, each wider than the one above, and divided by stitching. Layers may look identical in solid-colored garments, or may differ when made of printed fabrics.
- Trouser skirt, a straight skirt with the part above the hips tailored like men's trousers, with belt loops, pockets, and fly front.
- T-skirt, made from a T-shirt, the T-skirt is generally modified to result in a pencil skirt, with invisible zippers, full length two-way separating side zippers, as well as artful fabric overlays and yokes.
Lehenga or Ghagra is a form of skirt which is long, embroidered and pleated. It is worn as the bottom portion of a Ghagra choli. It is secured at the waist and leaves the lower back and midriff bare. It is worn by females mostly in North India and Pakistan.