The miniskirt, which seems a rather ordinary part of fashion today, was shocking when it first emerged on the scene. While hemlines started to go up significantly with the abandonment of corsetry by some in the 1920s with flapper-style dresses often showing off the knees, women’s clothes for most of the first half of the 20th century remained fairly modest and well structured.
Then the miniskirt arrived. Considered part of the Mod fashion trend of mid 1960s in Britain, the skirt, which generally must be at least eight inches above the knee to qualify as a mini, is usually credited to fashion designer Mary Quant who began experimenting with the shorter skirts as early as the 1950s. Other designers picked up on the trend and hemlines continued to rise, resulting not just in the ubiquity of the miniskirt but also the arrival of the micro-mini. In fact, it was thanks to these skirts that pantyhose and tights became more common than stockings with garters. The short skirts would reveal garter belts, stocking tops and possibly more without the new hosiery.
In the 1970s, the miniskirt faced a backlash, not on moral grounds (although there have always been some objectors) but on fashion grounds. With hemlines unable to go higher, and fashion always thriving on change, skirts necessarily became longer and more flowing in response to the mini. The 1980s brought the return of the miniskirt (not that it ever really went away) and more styles and cuts. Popular miniskirt trends included those based on the skirts of cheerleader uniforms and those structured into puffs and spheres with tulle and other even heavier construction.
The miniskirt, however, became truly tame in the 1990s, when it became a common part of women’s business wardrobe, at least on television. The sexy business suits of shows like Ally McBeal and Sex in the City became so ubiquitous that many workplaces found their dress codes and expectations challenging by younger office workers who had used these shows for blueprints.
Today the miniskirt, micro-mini and mini-dress continue to be alive and well and appear both on their own as well as worn over pants, leggings or tights, often in a nod to international styles that pair long tunics (or short dresses) with pants.