The Mini-skirt – considering Sixties style

Last week I wrote about the sixties shift dress. This was stimulated by hearing that Mary Quant had become a Dame in the New Year Honours. Something else she is credited with designing and naming is the Mini-skirt, which she said she named after the car which was also fashionable at the time. But she also said she didn’t invent it – it was invented by girls on the streets of London. Which is probably true. However the Mini sums up the sixties even more forcibly than the shift.

A mini-skirt is just a short skirt, ending somewhere around the mid-thigh. Unfortunately it often meant you had you place a hand strategically on the thigh when being photographed to avoid showing your underwear. Witness2Fashion has recently written about how the mini skirt changed how women sat.

two women in mini skirts on a car bonnet
Models in mini dresses

The mini-skirt was at heart a garment that revealed and celebrated the leg. On the beautiful models of the day (whose legs were slimmer than the average woman’s arm), they looked superb. Bare legs with sandals, or with pale tights (making a change from suspenders and stockings), flat girlish shoes, and few accessories; these simple items made the strongest statement. Notice the props – a scooter, and a London front door, complete with milk bottles.

Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy

Initially the skirts were not that short – ending maybe four inches above the knee, a length that would be regarded as unremarkable today. Here are some designs by Mary Quant, which merely reveal the knees. Nevertheless the outfits have a youthful feel with the coordinating woollen fabrics, Peter Pan collars, black polo neck jerseys and cheeky hats, worn with what an old boyfriend used to call “contraceptive tights” due to the shade rather than effect I think. The neat, flattish shoes work really well with the shape of the garments.

three women on bus in mini skirts
Minis by Mary

Of course many young women were naturally slim and looked good in a mini, but soon shorter skirts became the norm and everyone started wearing them. They allowed women more freedom, especially paired with less constricting underwear and “pantyhose” which were originally pants with stockings attached.

pantyhose advert
Advert for tights

Wearing a mini today

While in the 1960s wearing a thigh length skirt was radical and challenging, today a short skirt will not generally turn heads. I would also argue that you do not need to be young, leggy and beautiful to wear a shorter skirt.

In my view many women are wearing skirts which are too long and do not flatter their legs. The most unflattering length for most women will be mid-calf, making them look shorter and fatter. Just above the knee, on the other hand, will suit most figures. Everything else depends on the leg

  • thick legs demand a skirt should that is A line or wider, as a pencil skirt will emphasise their girth. Wear opaque, darker tights and toning shoes or boots
  • very slim legs look great in a short, tulip type skirt with thick, textured or lighter coloured tights
  • relatively long legs, especially in the thigh, can carry off a short skirt.
  • cellulite or less than perfect skin means tights are essential with a short skin.


5 Responses

  1. Stephanie

    Worth the read for “contraceptive tights”! I’ve always preferred wearing longer skirts, usually slightly below the knee. I have several pencil skirts that finish above the knee but I almost never wear them, choosing the longer ones. I think it’s just a proportion thing with my figure that makes the long ones look better to me. That said, shift dresses with an A-line skirt I’ll wear above the knee. I don’t think I’ve ever worn a mini, although I love the pictures!

  2. symondezyn

    I love these photos – such a huge fan of 60’s styles! 🙂 I totally agree – mid-calf length is just awful on me, and I rarely see it look good on anyone, for that matter. I’m all about the mini – show off those legs! LOL. In summer though, I totally love a maxi length ^__^

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