A woman modeling a miniskirt

A miniskirt, sometimes hyphenated as mini-skirt, is a skirt with a hemline well above the knees – generally no longer than 10 cm (4 in) below the buttocks;[1] and a minidress is a dress with a similar meaning. A micro-miniskirt or microskirt is a further abbreviation of the miniskirt and short shorts are the shortened versions of the shorts.

The popularity of miniskirts peaked in the "Swinging London" of the 1960s, but its popularity is since still commonplace among many women, mostly teenagers, preteens, and young adults. Before that time, short skirts were only seen in sport clothing, such as skirts worn by female tennis players.



Until 1960s

From the ancient Greek tunic until the military tunic of Roman times, the very short tunic was exclusively worn by slaves and fighters. In the Middle Ages they were worn under the armour.

During her theatre performances in the Folies Bergère in Paris in 1926, Joséphine Baker wore a sort of miniskirt made from bananas.

In the 1950s, they could be seen in the science fiction films Devil Girl from Mars and Forbidden Planet.


Wedding minidress, 1968
Red velvet Minidress, c. 1965

Mary Quant ran a popular clothes shop in Kings Road, Chelsea, London, called Bazaar, from which she sold her own designs. In the late 1950s she began experimenting with shorter skirts, culminating in the creation of the miniskirt in 1964—one of the defining fashions of the decade.[2][3] Quant named the miniskirt after her favourite make of car, the Mini.[4]

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. The style came into prominence when Jean Shrimpton wore 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.[5][6]

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.[citation needed]. An even more prominent French fashion designer, Yves St. Laurent, began to show shorter skirts in his fall/winter 1965 collection, including his famous "Mondrian" dress (inspired by the work of painter Piet Mondrian), a trend that he continued with throughout the 1960s, although he became more famous during this period for introducing the concept of the formal trouser suit for women into haute couture. Paco Rabanne's designs were on the extreme edge of fashion. He introduced a "body jewelry" collection in 1966 that presented short shift dresses constructed from plastic or metal discs or tiles linked with wire or chain. Other 1960s designers worked with easy-care acrylic and polyester fabrics that were becoming popular.[7]

In her book From A to Biba, Barbara Hulanicki provides an alternative explanation for the invention of the mini skirt. Soon after Biba opened on Kensington Church Street in 1966, she received a delivery of skirts made out of stretchy jersey fabric which had shrunk dramatically between leaving the manufacturer's and arriving at her shop: '... I nearly had a heart attack. The skirts were only 10 inches long. "God," I thought, "we'll go bust - we'll never be able to sell them." I couldn't sleep, but that little fluted skirt walked out on customers as fast as we could get it onto the hatstands.",-barbara-hulanicki/ Fashion designer Rudi Gernreich was among the first U.S. designers to offer miniskirts.[8]

Upper garments, such as rugby shirts, were sometimes adapted as mini-dresses. With the rise in hemlines, the wearing of tights or pantyhose, in place of stockings, became more common. 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."[9]

Hemlines were just above the knee in 1961, and gradually climbed upward over the next few years. By 1966, some designs had the hem at the upper thigh. Stockings with suspenders were not considered practical with miniskirts and were replaced with coloured tights.[10]


Three American college students in 1973 wearing (left to right) shorts, a miniskirt, and a minidress

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".[11] 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,[12] 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 ..."[13]

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."[citation needed]

1980s and 1990s

A 2011 Anna Sui micro-mini skirt.

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-1980s the "puffball" skirt enjoyed short term popularity, being worn by, among others, the Princess of Wales and singers Pepsi and Shirlie.[14] 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 (Melrose Place, Sex and the City, Ally McBeal, for example) show how common 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.[citation needed]

21st century

Around the turn of the 21st century, hipster trousers became highly fashionable for women. The micro mini or microskirt 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. However, these "microskirts" are rarely worn as streetwear, but for theatrical effect. 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 before, a trend that continued through the mild autumn and winter and even five years later have not yet lost their popularity with bare legs becoming more common in 2011 for the first time in some years.

Stretch miniskirts and micro-minis can be made using Spandex material or PVC and are sometimes worn by the more daring as club-wear in conjunction with hold-ups and a pair of stiletto heel pumps.



  1. ^ (French) Sophie George, Le Vêtement de A à Z, ISBN 978-2953024012, p.100.
  2. ^ The 60s Mini Skirt Fashion History - Mary Quant
  3. ^ Ros Horton, Sally Simmons, 2007. Women Who Changed the World
  4. ^ Barry Miles, 2009. The British Invasion: The Music, the Times, the Era Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2009
  5. ^ Shrimpton, Jean (1990). An Autobiography.
  6. ^ Kimball, Duncan (2002-09-12). Jean Shrimpton in Melbourne. Milesago article on Jean Shrimpton, modified "Thursday, 12 September 2002 10:48:55". Retrieved from
  7. ^ Laver, James (2002). Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd.. pp. 262-4. ISBN 9780500203484. 
  8. ^ Time Magazine article on fashion
  9. ^ Adburgham, Alison (1967-10-10). Mary Quant. Interview with Alison Adburgham, The Guardian, 10 October 1967. Retrieved from,6051,106475,00.html.
  10. ^ Laver, James (2002). Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd.. pp. 261-2. ISBN 9780500203484. 
  11. ^ Christopher Booker (1980) The Seventies
  12. ^ Holt, Patricia (22 September 1995). "Making Ms.Story / The biography of Gloria Steinem, a woman of controversy and contradictions". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  13. ^ Greer, Germaine (1969-02). Germaine Greer in Oz, February 1969.
  14. ^ Puff it, Guardian
  • Quant, Mary (1996). Quant by Quant. London: Cassell. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • miniskirt — (n.) also mini skirt, 1965, from MINI (Cf. mini ) + SKIRT (Cf. skirt) (n.); reputedly the invention of French fashion designer André Courrèges (b.1923). The miniskirt enables young ladies to run faster, and because of it, they may have to. [John… …   Etymology dictionary

  • miniskirt — ► NOUN ▪ a very short skirt …   English terms dictionary

  • miniskirt — [min′ē skʉrt΄] n. [ MINI + SKIRT] a very short skirt ending well above the knee miniskirted adj …   English World dictionary

  • Miniskirt —    A short skirt trademarked in 1960 by British designer Mary Quant. The miniskirt was a symbol of sexual freedom for women during the mod period in fashion. They were offered in lengths ranging from 18 inches below the waist, or mid thigh, to… …   Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry

  • miniskirt — UK [ˈmɪnɪˌskɜː(r)t] / US [ˈmɪnɪˌskɜrt] noun [countable] Word forms miniskirt : singular miniskirt plural miniskirts a very short skirt …   English dictionary

  • miniskirt — noun Date: 1965 a woman s short skirt with the hemline several inches above the knee • miniskirted adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • miniskirt — miniskirted, adj. /min ee skerrt /, n. a very short skirt or skirt part, as of a coat or dress, ending several inches above the knee. Also called mini. [1960 65; MINI(ATURE) + SKIRT] * * * …   Universalium

  • miniskirt — noun /ˈmɪnɪskəːt/ A skirt with the hem well above the knee …   Wiktionary

  • miniskirt — min|i|skirt [ˈmıniskə:t US skə:rt] n a very short skirt = ↑mini …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • miniskirt — min|i|skirt [ mıni,skɜrt ] noun count a very short skirt …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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