Hemlines rose like the stock market for a couple of decades after World War II, but the first garments widely known as "miniskirts"—with a hem emphatically above the knee—didn't appear until 1965. Mod fashion pioneer Mary Quant (seen here working on one of the early miniskirts) later recalled in Vogue: "They celebrated youth and life and tremendous opportunity. They had a kind of 'Look at me' quality. They said, 'Life is great.'"
Quant, who had a fashion boutique on King's Road in London, named the skirt after her favorite car (seen here under Charlotte Rampling).
André Courrèges' 'Space Age'
Another designer experimenting with hem lengths was Paris-based André Courrèges, who showed his spring 1965 "Space Age" collection—which included above-the-knee A-line skirts—as early as 1964. But Quant insisted that the look had grown out of a grassroots movement. "It wasn't me or Courrèges who invented the miniskirt anyway," she said. "It was the girls in the street who did it."
Supermodel Jean Shrimpton caused a sensation during a 1965 trip to Australia when she showed up at an old-school Melbourne Cup event wearing a white shift cut above the knee. There to promote a new synthetic fiber for Dupont, she said the company hadn't given Colin Rolfe, her London dressmaker, enough fabric to make a longer dress. The scandal was compounded by the fact that Shrimpton wore no hat, gloves or stockings.
The skirts soon got even shorter. British actress Jane Birkin (seen here in a micro-mini) made her screen debut wearing and then removing a minidress in a brief but unforgettable scene in the 1966 film "Blow-Up" about a London photographer based on David Bailey—Jean Shrimpton's former fiancé.
Photo by S. E. Orchard
The look became de rigueur for rock stars' girlfriends like Jenny Boyd, Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg (seen here with Keith Richards).
Although the miniskirt is practically synonymous with Mod-era London, it took off throughout Europe with Françoise Hardy—the French pop singer and fashion icon Mick Jagger called his "ideal woman"—at the vanguard.
Soon even moms were on board.
Miniskirt and mascara sales soared thanks to Twiggy. The waiflike British model (measurements: 31-23-32) caused a sensation when she visited America for the first time in 1967.
Natalie Wood in a micro-mini in '67, a peak year for the Twiggy phenomenon.
Sharon Tate sported a mini wedding dress when she married director Roman Polanski.
Jackie O (seen here at an airport with husband Aristotle Onassis) was an early proponent of the miniskirt.
Out in Force
By the late '60s the mini was everywhere.
The miniskirt was now an integral part of mainstream American fashion—despite being banned at Disneyland.
Understanding the Mini
Back in 1965, a reporter asked Mary Quant (creator of the skirt shown here) what the miniskirt meant. Quant's reply: "Sex."
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