What a fascinating item this is and a long-forgotten piece of fashion history. It dates to c.1880.
This is now known as a skirt lifter but at the time it was used, it was known as a dress holder. It lifted the skirts, which were so long the ankles couldn’t be seen, away from the filthy streets and paths of Victorian Britain. It became popular when women began to take part in sports and would hold the skirts up when playing tennis, cycling and horse riding for instance.
It was quite an ingenious design. The locking mechanism, which could have various motifs and be personalised to its owner, slid up and down the two handles of the ‘tong’.
The remarkable thing about this dress holder is that it still has its original cord. It was originally silver plated over brass. Some of the silver plate remains on the locking mechanism.
The locking mechanism on this piece is shaped to form of a shield. This could have been engraved with a monogram to personalise the piece, although this is not engraved.
The clamps at the bottom which would have held the skirts, appear to have been padded with leather or rubber which would have stood proud of the metal. But it appears that this was a well used piece and the padding has worn away over the years.
For more information about skirt lifters or dress holders, please see my blog: What's This Curious Thing? Curiosity III: Dress Holder aka Skirt Lifter.
A rather rare and highly collectable piece of Victorian fashion history.