The History of the Miniskirt: The Scandal, The Empowerment and the Runway Resurgence

by | Apr 28, 2023 | POP CULTURE | 0 comments

Advertisements

The miniskirt has become a staple in many women’s wardrobes. Nowadays, It’s normal to see the silhouette on the runway or casually worn on the streets, no matter the season. However, the miniskirt wasn’t always such an everyday fashion piece.

History of the Miniskirt

The tale of a short skirt predates modern civilization.

Advertisements

Archaeologists have uncovered figurines dating between 5400 to 4700 B.C. dressed in kilt-like coverings, and Ancient Egyptian frescos depicting people in similar garb.

A photo was taken within the Tomb of Renni in Egypt. UNIVERSAL HISTORY ARCHIVE/UNIVER

During the Warring States era of China from 476 B.C. to 221 B.C., men wore short skirts similar to kilts, too.

Advertisements

While the miniskirt is a tale as old as time, it wasn’t until the 20th century that it would slowly start becoming part of the modern fashion zeitgeist.

The Miniskirt Scandal

During the roaring ‘20s, hemlines began rising thanks to the advent of the flapper dresses. History-making entertainer Josephine Baker shocked the crowd when she wore a miniskirt made from bananas to perform “Folies Bergère” in Paris.

Advertisements
Advertisements
Josephine Baker in costume for her famous ‘banana dance’, circa 1925. GETTY IMAGES

But it wasn’t until a woman named Mary Quant came along that the miniskirt really took hold.

Meet Mary Quant

Dame Mary Quant was a British fashion designer famous for liberating women’s fashion in the ‘50s and ’60s. She passed away on Thursday at age 93.

Advertisements

Quant had a storied career and one of her claims to fame is popularizing short skirts, dubbing them “mini” skirts, as the public has come to know them.

Upon her death, her family noted that Quant “was one of the most internationally recognized fashion designers of the 20th century and an outstanding innovator of the Swinging ’60s.”

Advertisements
Mary Quant in 1975. GETTY IMAGES

In 1958, Quant officially christened the miniskirt, inspired by the model car. Quant has acknowledged how the trend for rising hemlines was influenced by the emerging London street style. During the ‘50s and ‘60s, there was a shift toward breaking down formality.

Before Quant’s miniskirt revolution, skirts usually hit at or below the knee. The miniskirt has undergone many revolutions since it was first introduced by Quant.

Advertisements

Miniskirts on Earlier Runways

Miniskirts eventually hit runways in Paris, London, Milan, and New York. Fashion designer André Courrèges began hiking up the hemlines for his runway shows, and in 1964 his runway collections featured space-age dresses fit for Jane Jetson from “The Jetsons,” albeit with higher hemlines.

During the ‘70s, miniskirts got bolder and more colorful. At Jean Paul Gaultier’s 1979 runway show, he showcased playful miniskirts decorated with multicolored confetti triangles.

Advertisements
Advertisements
Model wearing a halter bikini top with miniskirt decorated with multi-colored confetti at Gaultier’s 1979 ready-to-wear runway show. PENSKE MEDIA/FAIRCHILD ARCHIVE

In the ‘80s, American fashion designers began taking the miniskirt seriously as a part of high fashion. Perry Ellis showcased his version of the silhouette at a 1980 runway show, pairing them with preppy sweaters and

belted shirts and jackets. In 1988, Michael Kors embraced the miniskirt revolution with his collection of elegant business-inspired womenswear.

Advertisements
Voluminous tucked blazer with a mini skirt in the Michael Kors spring 1988 show in New York. PENSKE MEDIA/FAIRCHILD ARCHIVE

Women Who Helped Revolutionize the Miniskirt

Socialites, first ladies, and celebrities helped popularize the miniskirt. In 1968, when Jackie Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis, she wore a short white pleated Valentino dress, creating a discussion surrounding the miniskirt.

Advertisements
A wedding dress belonging to Jackie Onassis from 1968 is shown in a catwalk display at the “Valentino: Master of Couture” exhibition at Somerset House on Nov. 28, 2012, in London. PETER MACDIARMID

During the ‘70s, rock band Blondie fronted by Debbie Harry saw the famed singer sporting miniskirts for many of their live performances and concerts.

Advertisements

The miniskirt trend was further popularized in the ‘80s thanks to pop stars Madonna and Cyndi Lauper who wore them for performances and in music videos.

The Miniskirt in Pop Culture & Film

Music wasn’t the only form of entertainment capitalizing on the miniskirt’s popularity, film got in on the action too. Julia Roberts in the ‘90s when wore a micro miniskirt and thigh-high boots in the hit film “Pretty Woman.”

Advertisements
Julia Robert and Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman.”

However, French actress Brigitte Bardot is considered the first actress to wear a miniskirt on film in Roger Vadim’s 1956 film “And God Created Woman.”

Birth of the Micro Mini, the Miniskirt in the 2000s and Present

Advertisements
Miu Miu RTW spring 2022. GIOVANNI GIANNO

When current Celine creative director Hedi Slimane led Saint Laurent as their creative director from 2012 to 2016, his collections were wrought with miniskirts, usually in black, channeling a sexy rock’n’roll aesthetic.

Advertisements

Slimane wasn’t the first creative director of Saint Laurent to bring the miniskirt into fashion for the brand. When Tom Ford helmed the label from 1999 to 2004, he showcased many miniskirts on the runway.

At their spring 2022 runway show, Miu Miu debuted a micro miniskirt that instantly went viral. The skirt ended up in multiple fashion magazine editorials from Vanity Fair to i-D and is currently selling for around $2,000 on resale sites like Vestiaire.

Advertisements
Advertisements
The Tuck in French

The Tuck in French

Have you ever wondered what the heck the tuck in French is, and heard the term used? Also me! Until I at last finished watching Queer Eye on Netflix! France has been renowned for its sophisticated elegance and beautiful fashion for many years. When it comes to...