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Protecting the Miniskirt: How a Trend in American Fashion Became a Proponent of Social Change

By Analise Bruno

Photo by Pinterest

In my eyes, miniskirts are a quintessential staple of one’s wardrobe. Though they typically find their notoriety in mainstream fashion during the months of spring and summer, I don’t think there’s ever a temperature too low to forgo such a timeless piece.

There’s definitely some contention over how "short" is too short and what spaces they’re appropriate for, but I would argue that at a hem just a few inches above the knee, the skirt can be adaptable to many situations. An oversized sweater, a miniskirt, a cute set of tights, and some boots are the kind of style I like to wear to class; however, for a more casual look, I don’t mind opting for a baby tee or perhaps a basic long sleeve to finish the look.

Their impact on modern fashion cannot be understated; my drawers are quite literally filled with a myriad of denim, cargo, and satin miniskirts for any occasion; but it's imperative to note that the origins of their popularity did not come from the fact that people like me found them "cute."

Miniskirts, in fact, have been a longstanding symbol of the feminist movement. During a period of "counterculture" in the 1960s, society was beginning to question norms of modesty and sexual freedom. As such, well-known designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Mary Quant began sending models out onto the runway wearing skirts hemmed far above the knee.

While the movement gained traction when beloved models such as Twiggy were seen sporting them on the streets and in shoots, not every designer was initially receptive to trimming the hemline.

Women’s fashion prior to the 1970s had long been defined by pantyhose, tights, knee-length dresses, and skirts. A certain amount of modesty was expected to be maintained by women to uphold the conservative morals and values of American society. Some designers found skirts lying above the knee to be a sort of "risqué" retaliation, and a death blow to the world of conservative fashion.

Such thinking was exemplified by Dior's 1966 runway presentation, as viewers were shocked to learn that the company did not include the biggest seasonal trend: miniskirts!

In retaliation for leaving out the hottest rising fad, protesters stood outside the doors of the show with signs reading, "Miniskirts forever!" "Support the miniskirt!"

The demonstration was less about keeping a fashion trend alive and more about breaking down social codes. Women of the 1960s did not have the same rights or freedoms as women today do (though there’s still a lot more work to be done), and while miniskirts may have only been a minor controversy on people’s radar, this movement in the history of fashion has proven how clothes can be a tool of empowerment.

Without my collection of miniskirts, I am not sure what my sense of style would be like now. And, while I do occasionally like to experiment with a midi or maxi skirt, the more hemmed look ultimately has my heart.


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