AskDefine | Define miniskirt

Dictionary Definition

miniskirt n : a very short skirt

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

From mini- + skirt.

Noun

  1. A skirt with the hem well above the knee.

Translations

Extensive Definition

The miniskirt (often hyphenated as mini-skirt) is a skirt with a hemline well above the knees (generally 20 cm—about 8 inches—or more above knee level). The mini was the defining fashion symbol of "Swinging London" in the 1960s.
A minidress is a dress with hemline above knees.

Origin

The earliest known culture to have females wear miniskirts were the Duan Qun Miao, which literally meant "short skirt Miao" in Chinese. This was in reference to the short miniskirts "that barely cover the buttocks" worn by women of the tribe, and which were "probably shocking" to Han Chinese observers in medieval and early modern times.
After World War I, hemlines had risen rapidly in the Western world. By the mid-1920s, dresses worn by young "flappers" were often above the knee which was only allowed by the abandonment of the constraining corsetry of Victorian and Edwardian times. The appearance of miniskirts in the West in the 1960s was generally credited to the fashion designer Mary Quant, who was inspired by the Mini automobile, although the French designer André Courrèges is also often cited as a pioneer (the French referred to it as la mini-jupe). Some also give credit to Helen Rose, who made some miniskirts for actress Anne Francis in the 1956 science fiction movie, Forbidden Planet. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0741423/
Recently, Marit Allen, a Vogue "Young Ideas" editor at the time, has stated that "John Bates, in particular, has always been completely unappreciated for his contribution to the innovation and creativity he brought to the London design scene." He bared the midriff, used transparent vinyl and, Marit Allen asserts, was responsible for "the raising of the hemline. It was John Bates, rather than Mary Quant or Courrèges, who was responsible for the miniskirt." Bates' costumes and accessories for Diana Rigg, as Emma Peel in the ABC-TV series, The Avengers, from 19657, helped to define "Mod style". http://www.sugarzine.com/site_08.03/fashion.html. As The Avengers filmed episodes were made several months before screening, Avengers producer Brian Clemens confirmed in interviews that the miniskirt designed by Bates was a "gamble", since they did not know if it would catch on in public or be seen as a fashion failure by the time the episodes aired. However, Emma Peel's fashions were accepted by the public and even spawned a line of replicas of her clothes for public sale. Another more "immediate" proponent of the miniskirt on television was Cathy McGowan, who introduced the weekly British rock music show, Ready Steady Go! (1964-6).

Mary Quant and Jean Shrimpton

Mary Quant ran a popular clothes shop in the Kings Road, Chelsea, London called Bazaar, from which she sold her own designs. In the late 1950s she began experimenting with shorter skirts, which resulted in the miniskirt in 1965—one of the defining fashions of the decade.
Owing to Quant's position in the heart of fashionable "Swinging London", the miniskirt was able to spread beyond a simple street fashion into a major international trend. Its acceptance was greatly boosted by Jean Shrimpton's wearing a short white shift dress, made by Colin Rolfe, on 30 October 1965 at Derby Day, first day of the annual Melbourne Cup Carnival in Australia, where it caused a sensation. According to Shrimpton, who claimed that the brevity of the skirt was due mainly to Rolfe's having insufficient material, the ensuing controversy was as much as anything to do with her having dispensed with a hat and gloves, seen as the essential accessories in such conservative society.

Development

The miniskirt was further popularized by André Courrèges, who developed it separately and incorporated it into his Mod look, for spring/summer 1965. His miniskirts were less body-hugging, and worn with the white "Courrèges boots" that became a trademark. By introducing the miniskirt into the haute couture of the fashion industry, Courrèges gave it a greater degree of respectability than might otherwise have been expected of a street fashion.
The miniskirt was followed up in the late 1960s by the even shorter microskirt, which has been referred to derogatorily as a belt or pelmet. Upper garments, such as rugby shirts, were sometimes adapted as mini-dresses. Tights or panty-hose became highly fashionable, in place of stockings, specifically because the rise in hemlines meant that stocking tops would be visible. Mary Quant cited this development in defence of the miniskirt: "In European countries where they ban mini-skirts in the streets and say they're an invitation to rape, they don't understand about stocking tights underneath".

1970s

During the mid-1970s, the fashion industry largely returned to longer skirts such as the midi and the maxi. Journalist Christopher Booker gave two reasons for this reaction: firstly, that "there was almost nowhere else to go ... the mini-skirts could go no higher"; and secondly, in his view, "dressed up in mini-skirts and shiny PVC macs, given such impersonal names as 'dolly birds', girls had been transformed into throwaway plastic objects". Certainly this lengthening of hemlines coincided with the growth of the feminist movement. However, in the 1960s the mini had been regarded as a symbol of liberation, and it was worn by some, such as Germaine Greer and, in the following decade, Gloria Steinem http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1995/09/24/RV65259.DTL, who became known for their promotion of women's issues. Greer herself wrote in 1969 that:
The women kept on dancing while their long skirts crept up, and their girdles dissolved, and their nipples burst through like hyacinth tips and their clothes withered away to the mere wisps and ghosts of draperies to adorn and glorify ....
Indeed, miniskirts never entirely went away and, for example, were often worn by Deborah Harry, of the group Blondie, during the "new wave" of the late 70s. The song (I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea (1978) by new wave artist, Elvis Costello, contained the line, "There's no place here for the mini-skirt waddle".

1980s and 90s

In the 1980s, short skirts began to re-emerge, notably in the form of "rah-rahs", which were modeled on those worn by female cheerleaders at sporting and other events. In the mid-80s the "puffball" skirt enjoyed short term popularity, being worn by, among others, the Princess of Wales and singers Pepsi and Shirlie. Many women began to incorporate the miniskirt into their business attire, a trend which grew during the remainder of the century. Films and television series made in the mid-1990s (Friends, Sex and the City, Ally McBeal, for example) show how ubiquitous the mini had become again. In the BBC TV series Keeping Up Appearances (1990-5) the snobbish Hyacinth Bucket was frequently outraged by the brevity of her sister Rose's skirts.

21st century

Around the turn of the 21st century, hipster trousers became highly fashionable for women. The micro mini has been reworked as an even less substantial beltskirt, which is more an evocation of the idea of a skirt than something that covers anything substantial. It may perhaps also provide rhythm for the hipline. Due to its revealing nature, the beltskirt is rarely worn in public. Miniskirts are also seen worn over trousers or jeans, or with leggings that provide coverage of each leg from above the knee. Although "floaty" skirts were most closely associated with the boho look of mid-decade, short skirts also featured in some outfits and in London, for example, minis were more widespread during the hot summer of 2006 than for several years, a trend that continued through the mild autumn and winter and into the following summer.

Notes

Further reading

  • Quant by Quant

External links

miniskirt in German: Minirock
miniskirt in Spanish: Minifalda
miniskirt in French: Minijupe
miniskirt in Indonesian: Rok mini
miniskirt in Italian: Minigonna
miniskirt in Luxembourgish: Minijüpp
miniskirt in Lithuanian: Mini sijonas
miniskirt in Dutch: Minirok
miniskirt in Japanese: ミニスカート
miniskirt in Polish: Minispódnica
miniskirt in Russian: Мини-юбка
miniskirt in Swedish: Minikjol
miniskirt in Chinese: 迷你裙
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