Rebellion, youth, and breaking social norms. This describes the revolutionary impact that miniskirts had with their modern debut into the world of fashion. From their ancient roots, the miniskirt has come to hold far greater significance than just a piece of clothing.
The miniskirt has been adopted as a symbol of freedom for women in many ways throughout its history, for example, girls who were expected to dress like their mothers in the 1920s found new freedom by lifting their skirts 8 inches higher in the 1960s. This represented a tour de force of empowerment, coming alongside a wave of feminism crashing into the fashion arena. The miniskirt thus played a bigger role in history than just being another addition to one’s closet; rather it resembles a symbol of newfound liberty for women that goes way beyond fashion.
THE HISTORY BEHIND the PLEATS
5400-4700BC: Although the miniskirt took off in the 1960s, it existed well before the 20th Century. Dating from 5400 to 4700BC, evidence has suggested that women used to wear a style of skirt similar to that of the miniskirt, although this is probably more likely to be for practicality and tradition rather than a daring fashion choice!
1900-1920: However, the miniskirt appears to have taken a 6600-year hiatus and instead made its first significant reemergence in the early 1900s. In this era, flapper style began to embrace the high hemline, fighting the social norm that kept skirts below the knees. This went alongside the women’s liberation movement which was beginning to grow and gain deserved attention in the time. As a result of this growing demand for recognition, some major changes were brought about, including the Sex Discrimination (Removal) Act in 1919 which allowed women to work in law, and the Matrimonial Causes Act in 1923 which allowed for easier divorce.
1960s: In the 1960s, the miniskirt was famously taken under the wing of British designer, Mary Quant, followed by French designer André Courréges. In 1955, Quant opened the Bazaar boutique, and in 1964 lifted the hemline of her skirts to create the now iconic miniskirt, named after the Mini Cooper, her favourite car. Closely following the unofficial coining of the garment, one of the first known supermodels, Lesley Hornby (Twiggy), became its public face.
POLITICS MEETS FASHION
During the second wave of feminism in the 1960s, leaders of the movement came to embrace the miniskirt and what it represented. This coincided with the approval and release of the contraceptive pill in 1961 which encouraged women to embrace sexual freedom. The miniskirt was aligned with this view, as its loose and unconfining nature was associated with freedom of sexuality. Whilst this appears to be a positive stance of empowerment for women, Harriet Hall in the Evening Standard explains how the miniskirt also had the effect of inadvertently increasing dieting as it was aimed towards those who were young and thin.
Although the miniskirt lost some of its popularity in the 1970s, it made a comeback in the 1980s as women began to sport the power suit to the office. From here, and alongside the third wave of feminism, there was a strong focus on encouraging women to embrace whatever made them feel confident and empowered. The miniskirt has thus lost some of its modern-day impact as the purpose of feminism is now to steer women away from specific fashion choices and instead make them feel comfortable in whatever they like. Expression through clothes is now easier than ever with a vast array of businesses that cater to individual needs. However, the significance of the miniskirt’s history should not go unrecognized, and its popularity remains intact despite it losing some of its revolutionary ability.
MINISKIRTS in the 21st CENTURY
From the office to the club, 21st century women are still rocking the miniskirt to any and all occasions. Between crop tops, bikinis, and short shorts, the miniskirt no longer stands out as revealing attire and can be worn just about anywhere. According to Marjon Carlos in Vogue, even the magazine’s Marketing Editor, Chelsea Zalopany, can be seen sporting the miniskirt’s close relative, the minidress, to the office. The fact that the miniskirt is now everyday wear, even for women at the height of their careers, demonstrates how we now accept as a society that a woman cannot be judged by the length of her skirt. The less revolutionary nature of the modern-day miniskirt is thus something to be celebrated, whilst the history of the skirt goes to show that clothes can carry far more significance than meets the eye.