skirt = robe?

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Horrid Henry

Hi there,
I'm wondering about a certain passage from a poem by Philip Levine:

is set for twenty, and the tall glasses
filled with redwine, the silver sparkling.
But no one is going in or out, not even
a priest in his long white skirt, or a boy

The question is, why does he call priest's clothes a 'skirt'? Is it ironical/malicious? Or is it because he maybe didn't know what they are called, so he used a vague expression (but then why doidn't he simply say 'robes'?).

Best Regards
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  • morzh

    I'm having have trouble imagining skirt as a part of priestly garment, but then lower part of the robe potentially may be detachable, or resemble skirt, so....honestly, it is not even that important. As long as the image of the priest is correct (a guy in a long robe). It is not even specified what denomination it is, so having a general picture in mind is sufficient. I would just treat it as a long robe.


    Senior Member
    English - American
    It was once common to speak of "the skirts of a coat". I believe it can be used to describe any undivided (not trousers) garment or portion of a garment that covers the lower part of the body.
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    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Um... figurative language? The bottom part of a priest's robe looks like a skirt. And that's what the poet is doing - using an evocative figure of speech to discuss that part of the garment.

    I agree with PWM that this isn't that bizarre a term, anyway. But also, in a poem, it's not just acceptable, it's expected.


    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    It seems quite correct to me to refer to the lower part of a long garment as the skirt. Indeed, the first two definitions in the American Heritage Dictionary are: "1. The part of a garment, such as a dress or coat, that hangs freely from the waist down. 2. A garment hanging from the waist and worn by women and girls."
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