How to say it: min-ee, mid-ee, mak-see dress
- minidress finishes well above the knee/mid-thigh
- midi dress finishes at mid-calf
- maxi dress finishes between the ankle and the floor
- can be any shape, silhouette or style
21st Century Mini, Midi and Maxi Dresses
In the 21st century mini, midi and maxi dresses come in a huge variety of shapes and styles, defined only by the length of their skirts. From formal to casual, many different styles abound, suitable for every occasion, every taste and every budget.
Mini – Free People, Laundry by Shelli Segal, Valentino
Midi – ASOS, Rebecca Taylor, The Row
Maxi – Diane von Furstenberg, Eliza J, Young Fabulous & Broke
…of the styles: The minidress is a dress of any style whose skirt finishes well above the knee, around the mid-thigh level. It was first introduced in the 1960s by British designer Mary Quant as part of the Mod style. It became a main stream trend by the end of the 60s and has been a staple on the fashion landscape ever since, with its popularity ebbing and flowing with the seasons and trends. For more information on the history of the mini check out our post on the miniskirt.
The midi dress dates back to the Flapper styles of the 1920s, when women’s skirts first started to rise from the floor. This first incarnation of the mid-calf length dress remained on trend until the end of the decade, when hemlines again dropped to the ankle. The shortened style returned in the 40s thanks to fabric rationing in WWII and remained popular until the 1960s when the miniskirt took over. Designers tried to bring the midi-length back at the end of the 60s, and despite the might of Women’s Wear Daily backing the new trend, the style did not return to fashion until the 21st century. The style experienced a resurgence in popularity in 2011 that has continued to the present day. For more detail on the history of the midi length, check out our post on the midi skirt.
Despite women having worn long, floor length skirts and dresses for centuries, the maxi dress as we know it today was not introduced into mainstream fashion until 1968, by Oscar de la Renta in the Elizabeth Arden Salon. The style was a reaction against the extreme miniskirts of the era and the flowing full length dresses went on to became a quintessential look for the Hippie culture of the 1970s. The maxi was popular again in the 1990s as part of the Boho trend and has remained a common length for dresses since then, particularly in Spring/Summer collections. For more information on the history of the maxi, check out our post on the maxi skirt.
…of the names: Mary Quant apparently named the miniskirt and minidress after her favourite car – the Mini.
The skirt on a midi dress falls to mid-calf length and was nicknamed the ‘midi’ by Women’s Wear Daily in 1967.
I couldn’t find any recorded reason as to why the maxi dress is called the maxi – maybe it has something to do with the fact that the skirt is the maximum length.
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