July 13, 2012

The Miniskirt – A Short History

André Courrèges – “The Real Mod Squad” – Moon Girl, 1964

You see them everywhere nowadays and you probably have a couple of them in your wardrobe right now, but did you ever stop to think for how long have the miniskirts been around?

Worn by Greeks and Romans in ancient times to complete their military outfits and during the Middle Ages under armours, the very short tunic was, for a long time, a garment reserved exclusively for slaves and fighters.

Mary Quaint wearing her own design

It wasn’t until the 1960s that the modern version of the now so popular garment became mainstream. Credited with the invention of the miniskirt is designer Mary Quaint, who, in the late 1950s, ran a clothes shop in Chelsea, London. By 1964, she had designed what would come to revolutionise the fashion world and become a defining element of the decade – the controversial and boundary-crossing miniskirt.

Model Jean Shrimpton wearing a miniskirt at the annual Melbourne Derby Day, 1965

The daring style quickly spread, becoming an international trend. After British fashion model Jean Shrimpton wore a white dress with a short skirt to the annual Melbourne Derby Day, in 1965, and French actress Brigitte Bardot wore the skimpy garment in 1966, during a trip to London, the miniskirt became widely recognized as a fashion must-have.

Actress Brigitte Bardot in a miniskirt, 1965

French designer André Courrèges also helped popularise the miniskirt by introducing it amongst his Mod Spring/Summer 1964/1965 looks, as did Yves Saint Laurent, who included the style in his Fall/Winter collection in 1965. Paco Rabbane gave the short skirt an interesting twist the next year, when he presented the “Body Jewelry” collection, which featured short shift dresses constructed from plastic or metal discs or tiles linked with wire or chain. After being introduced into the haute couture area of fashion a few years later, the miniskirt got a higher dose of respectability.

André Courrèges S/S 1965 looks

Yves Saint Laurent, Rive Gauche boutique, Paris, September 1966

Paco Rabanne “Body Jewelry” Collection, 1966

Ignoring a short period of time during the 70s, when the miniskirt took a backseat to longer versions, due to the growing feminist movement, that believed the skimpy garment was a tool for objectifying women, short skirts have been and will remain around, starting with the punk rock decade of the late 70s, as a symbol of playfulness and femininity.

Photos courtesy of: harpersbazaar.com, sandrascloset.com, stillad.com, theredlist.fr, vogue.it, woodstockwardrobe.com