At 50, we still love the mini
Over the past five decades, the miniskirt has transformed from a bold statement piece to an everyday item in a woman's wardrobe.
“The miniskirt began as youth embracing a new trend, and a rebellion of sorts,” says Leah Wynalek, associate editor Reminisce , a nostalgia magazine. “And once we went there, there was no turning back. It became embedded in our culture. And it wasn't shocking anymore.”
This little garment first appeared in Vogue magazine in 1964.
It was head-turning to start, says Audrey Guskey, professor of marketing at Duquesne University and a consumer-trends expert.
“I am a child of the miniskirt,” says Guskey, who adds she wore a flowered skirt and go-go boots when she was 8 years old. “I grew up in the '60s, and it wasn't just a fashion statement. It was a revolution. Women were free. The Beatles were hot, and things were changing. It felt so cool to wear it. I don't know if that feeling from that time could be replicated.”
The miniskirt was about women being liberated, says Deirdre Clemente, author and assistant history professor specializing in 20th-century American culture at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has a Ph.D. in history from Carnegie Mellon University. Her book “Dress Casual: How College Kids Redefined American Style” (University of North Carolina Press, $29.95) came out out this spring and is available at Amazon.
“I love the miniskirt because it is one of those garments that people really identify so strongly with an era; yet, it is timeless — like the flapper dress,” Clemente says. “It's one of those garments the American public understands as an outgrowth of a particular historical moment.”
London designer Mary Quant, who created the Chelsea girl look, is often credited as the mother of the miniskirt, according to Reminisce. She named her skirt sensation after her favorite car, the Mini Cooper. American clothing companies were reluctant to adopt the mini — until they spotted trendsetter Jackie Kennedy wearing one.
After ABC aired a television special called “The Mini-Skirt Rebellion” in 1967, more American teenagers adopted the style. When miniskirts first hit the fashion scene, they weren't the thigh-baring styles seen today. Instead, they brushed just above the knee.
The miniskirt is responsible for the explosion in the pantyhose market, because the skirts were too short to cover up the top of stockings and garters.
By the end of the 1960s, the stunningly short micro-miniskirt had already hit stores. Hemlines had reached new heights by 1970, making way for the upcoming hot pants and sizzler dresses.
Miniskirts are part of American culture, Clemente says, and have evolved over the years.
“Clothes are an indication of who we are,” Clemente says. “Mini- skirts happen to be sexy, and they are pretty comfortable to wear. If you are a skirt wearer, you like the miniskirt.”
The miniskirt signified a trend toward more skin being shown. “The mini skirt was about pushing boundaries, and once a few women do it, others follow suit, and it becomes acceptable,” she says.
“At some point, it was rebellious, but now women have more freedom to show more skin, especially in the summer,” says Hayley Phelan, fashion features editor for Lucky magazine. “Mini skirts are comfortable, and they show off a woman's legs. There are also so many more styles to choose from now than from when it started as a mod style in the 1960s.”
Through the years, the look has evolved to include many silhouettes, says Nicole Fischelis, Macy's group vice president and fashion director, such as the pencil, the skater, the wrap, the kilt, the asymmetrical skirt and the pleated skirt.
“This classic is almost universally well-suited when worn over leggings, skinny pants or opaque tights and paired with flat sole, pointed-toe pumps or flat wedges,” she says.
“The miniskirt has survived so long because it has an enduring appeal,” Phelan says. “It makes women feel good when they wear it. Women today are dressing more for themselves and wearing what makes them feel confident.”
Gregg Andrews, Nordstrom fashion director, points to miniskirts as an alternative to shorts.
“There is something fun and youthful about the miniskirt, about a shorter hemline,” he says. “They are not necessarily the most practical thing in a woman's wardrobe. But they give women a different silhouette to wear with well-toned legs.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7889.