AKA: mini-skirt, mini skirt
How to say it: min-ee skurt
- a short skirt that finishes well above the knees, usually mid-thigh, no longer that 10cm below the buttocks
- can be any shape or style
…of the style: While the miniskirt is most often associated with fashion in the 1960s, the style actually has much older roots. Figurines of women wearing miniskirts have been found in Europe that date back to the 5th century BC, ancient Egyptian frescos show female dancers prancing around in miniskirts, and the Duan Qun Miao people in China were even named for the miniskirts that the women of the tribe wore (Duan Qun Miao literally mean ‘short skirt Miao’).
In the 20th century there are images from the 20s, 30s and 40s of women wearing miniskirts, and in the 1950s women wore them in Science Fiction films like Flight to Mars. However the style didn’t really ‘arrive’ on the fashion scene until the 1960s, thanks to London designer Mary Quant who is widely accredited with bringing the miniskirt to the people.
Mary Quant was a young designer with a boutique on London’s Kings Road. She had little training in design, but had her finger on the pulse of street fashion and sold clothing that reflected the desires of the new youth market, rather than what the established fashion houses were producing in Paris. It was a time of massive changes in society – the teenage generation had found their voice and were establishing themselves as a separate demographic, women were leaving the kitchen and entering university or the workforce, and the introduction of the birth control pill had empowered women, putting control over their lives and their sexuality into their hands and giving them a sense of freedom and confidence.
Mary Quant saw that hemlines were slowly creeping upwards in response to this newfound sexuality and freedom, and in 1965 raised the hems of her clothing to several inches above the knee; the miniskirt was reborn. The shorter style was an instant success and became the epitome of London women in the 60s – youthful, energised, free, revolutionary and in charge of their own destinies.
Around the same time, French designer André Courrèges raised hemlines in France, featuring skirts that finished above the knee in his 1964 collections. The shorter skirts initially shocked the fashion world, but his designs were more sophisticated and mature than the street styling of Quant and this is thought to have helped the miniskirt gain acceptance in French Haute Couture. However, the miniskirt wasn’t quite done with shocking the world, and in late 1965 model Jean Shrimpton was the centre of an international stir thanks to her appearance at the Melbourne Cup racing carnival in a miniskirt (she wasn’t wearing stockings, a hat or gloves either which was also an issue for older women of the day).
However the swinging 60’s couldn’t last forever, and by the end of the decade the miniskirt began to be replaced by the longer skirt styles that spoke of nostalgia in a time of political despondency. The style came back again in the late 70s thanks to the Punk movement who’s style was motivated by being the anti-fashion and going against everything that was considered acceptable – skirts at the time were long, so Punks went for higher hemlines. Ironically, many mainstream designers soon picked up on the Punk look and began releasing collections that mimicked the anti-fashion style, making them fashion again. This included the miniskirt, and this time the style stuck.
Through the 80s and 90s the miniskirt spread outside the realm of teenage fashion, becoming an acceptable choice for women of all ages and was even incorporated into the big-shouldered power suits of the time, becoming the unofficial uniform of the successful working woman who was in total control.
In the 21st century, the miniskirt is widely accepted in the western world and has become a basic skirt style that is worn by almost all women and is accepted at almost any type of affair. And while hemline trends still move up and down (midi skirts are currently the skirt of choice) the miniskirt has cemented its position as a classic style and will never fully disappear.
…of the name: Mary Quant apparently named the miniskirt after her favourite car – the Mini
21st Century Mini Skirts
The miniskirt, once a symbol of revolution and sexual freedom is now simply a classic style of skirt. In the 21st century miniskirts come in all shapes and sizes, to fit all body types and are as acceptable for a trip to the supermarket as they are for a night out.
3.1 Phillips Lim, Alice + Olivia
Nina Ricci, Thakoon