Gabrielle Chanel may have hated the mini skirt but the rest of the world welcomed it with both high heels and ballet flats. The mini skirt is a silhouette that’s stayed on top of the fashion game for decades, transcending trends and forecasts. No matter the season, no matter the trends, you’ll always be able to pick up a sweet mini skirt anytime you want. Thanks to its flattering silhouette (mostly!) and versatility in terms of fabric, the mini skirt has stood the test of time and we hope we don’t have to imagine a world where the mini skirt is considered depassé.
One of the main designers accredited with having invented the mini skirt, Mary Quant is finally receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award and we couldn’t be more pleased for her! In honor of her achievement, this week we’re looking at her work in retrospect, paying homage to the silhouette that dominated the swinging sixties and has continued to rein supreme since its debut.
The Rise of Mary Quant
English born and bred but with Welsh heritage, Mary Quant actually studied illustration before obtaining her diploma in Art Education at Goldsmiths. Her first job in the fashion industry was an apprenticeship at a high end Milliners and from there she opened her first boutique called Bazaar. Her early designs were a success from the get go, including pop on white plastic collars for dresses and tops and vibrant stockings in seasonal colors. Quant set herself up as one of only two luxury designers in London who were designing dynamic clothes for the demanding youth and Mod culture, allowing her designs and her brand to be high sought after.
The Mini Skirt Invention
Quant, ever humble and modest, has always declared that it was actually her clients, the girls on the King’s Road where she was based, that allowed the invention of the mini skirt. Skirts had been getting slightly shorter since the 1950’s but it was her clients who noticed that she herself wore her skirts quite short and they consistently asked for shorter and shorter styles. Quant called it the Mini skirt, named after her favorite car, the Mini and the concept of a shorter skirt was very much inline with womens’ liberation. The idea that women could still be feminine even in a shorter skirt, that was more practical for running to the bus and not getting the length dirty as women went about their day, potentially leaning and brushing against things that often stained their clothes.
But it wasn’t just the Mini skirt that Quant is so often associated with the invention of. Hot pants too are seen as synonymous with the Quant name and although the actual invention of highly colored, patterned hosiery is debated, she certainly was a pioneer in bringing them to the public and subsequently to the streets of London.
Mini Skirts Across the Decades
The original version of the miniskirt in the sixties’ often featured a straight or A Line waist in solid colors, both a silhouette and color trend of the era. Tartan plaids sometimes made an appearance but they really didn’t come into their own until later on during the punk movement. The striking statement was all in the length and whether that was in a skirt or dress form, often this statement worn with bare legs was deemed to have quite enough shock factor and so the rest of the design was kept minimalist.
By the 1980s punk was in full swing and mini skirts were being worn with leggings and footless tights. Dark hues of red, black, green and grays were popular color choices and many styles of miniskirts were adorned with spikes, eyelets, safety pins and leather patches. Design had become more elaborate compared to the sixties’, fabric was often heavier and more unusual for the time period including leather, velvet and stretch jersey.
By the millennium, mini skirts went all kinds of wrong. Arguably a trend from the nineties but any smart fashionista knows the nineties didn’t really end until 2004 in terms of fashion sense! The mini skirt unfortunately got a brand new look, a brand new wear of wearing it and a brand new fabric; box pleats, with Ugg boots and acid washed denim respectively. This look, much to the dismay of the mini skirt, has gone down in history as one of those embarrassing looks we’ll all pretend not to have worn until photographic evidence creeps up from the depths of old social media accounts. Mini skirts were seen in all kinds of dreadful acid washes, super mini lengths and Ra-Ra styles a la Paris Hilton. The less said about miniskirts in the millennium the better, let’s just pretend this whole trend didn’t happen yes?
Thankfully, in present day, mini skirts have been restored to their former glory. While trends are recycled and many miniskirts hark back to their origins in terms of design, other styles are playing with asymmetry, tailoring and unconventional shapes. In fashion, it is becoming ever increasingly harder to design something truly unique without looking overworked but designers are certainly playing around with the miniskirt and attempting to give this classic a fresh look for every decade.
Article Commissioned by Mod'Art University of Shanghai