The Queen of Rockabilly performed at the recent Newport Folk Festival, and while Wanda Jackson sang such great songs as “Nervous Breakdown” and “Let’s Have a Party,” her red fringed top swayed and moved in time to the music. It got me thinking about the earliest recorded garments. Over 20,000 years ago someone in southern France carved a small bone sculpture of a voluptuous woman wearing long fringe suspended from a hip belt. Since that distant time, string skirts have been worn for dance and performance, and I decided to check out Etsy to see what Paleolithic vestiges I could find.
The “grass” skirts of Oceana are descendants of that early string garment.
Belly dancers and many other performers love to wear fringed skirts to emphasize the rhythm and intensity of their movements.
[Clockwise from top left: Dress made from laminated photos of lipstick from belleslettres; Navy mini tunic dress from twostringjane; Red fringe belt from Norwegianwood; Merino yellow silk dress from red2white; Fringed upcycled cardigan from darrylblack]
While it is sometimes possible to find fringed belts for daily wear, the fringe has generally migrated upwards.
[Clockwise from top: Handmade tribal necklace from adoodle; Handmade metal, mimosa and abalone chain necklace from Spoiled Cherry; Nyx goddess of night choker-style necklace from Call of Earth; Shredded scarf from Cutrag; “Sunset” necklace from Isabilles; Trail of hearts fringed collar from Snake Church]
Often all that remains is no longer a garment but a necklace or collar.
[Clockwise from top left: Vegetable tanned leather fringed men’s vest from cexn; Purple ankle fringed wrap booties from spirocreations; Vintage red fringed cowboy boots from Retro Stock; Pink “Wild Things” slippers from Paw Felts; Delores Del Rio fringed handbag from Lynell Withers Designs]
Of course, the fringe can show up anywhere, often where you least expect it.
Cate Fitt, a.k.a. knitfitt, has been a member of Etsy since 2007 and is an experienced critic, curator and juror. She earned her MFA in fiber in 1978, later receiving an artist’s fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Through the years, she’s been a maker of one-of-a-kind hand-painted clothing, pottery, jewelry, and linocut and monotype prints. She lives in a little house close to the James River with two whippets named Moose and Peach.