“Everything is mini in our life / Mini-moke and mini-skirt / Mini-ugly and lilliput…” sings Jacques Dutronc opposite Françoise Hardy, in October 1966, in a television clip by the facetious Jean-Christophe Averty. And the singer playfully commented: “In France, when it comes to how to dress, people sometimes have a mini-mind. Whereas in England, look, everyone wears a mini-skirt, even Scottish!”
Like many girls of her age, Françoise Hardy adopted this garment whose appearance historians place in 1962, first in Great Britain where stylists John Bates and Mary Quant created their first ready-to-wear models. “But in the street, we already meet young girls who have shortened their skirts. It’s in tune with the times,” explains Emmanuelle Polle, fashion historian.
20cm above the knee
In France, on the haute couture side, Courrèges claims to be the inventor. His spring-summer 1965 collection, full of new synthetic materials, cheerful colors and geometric patterns, caused a sensation with its trapeze mini-dresses and white ankle boots, like in a futuristic film. Trigger: “The pantyhose was invented in 1959, explains Catherine Örmen, freeing the body of women from the harness of garter belts and other sheaths that had to be concealed.”
This fashion historian recalls that the mini-skirt arrives “in a context where each year, until then, the trend was measured in hem height”. The miniskirt is defined by a height of 20 cm above the knee. But soon will coexist with it the micro-skirts, even shorter. It marked the end of the curvaceous pin-up model of the 1950s and the emergence of the long-legged androgynous body still promoted by models today.
In the 1960s, the youth, numerous, “takes power” and wears the mini to arm “I am young, thin and in the wind”, analyzes Emmanuelle Polle who underlines its playful dimension: “Young girls challenge themselves : “Am I going to dare to go out with it?” Because the miniskirt symbolizes a break with current moral values.” And faced with this skirt that proclaims the freedom of the body, resistance is numerous. The most famous comes from Coco Chanel who castigates these “indecent” women who dare to show their “awful” knees, she launched on television in 1969.
In fact, the Chanel suit reflects the image of a dignified and bourgeois woman – like the politician Marie-France Garaud – the antithesis of the short-dressed student climbing the barricades! “Daughters want to stand out from their mothers, whereas previous generations became adults by dressing like them,” smiles Catherine Örmen. Ironically, Coco Chanel was betrayed by her most faithful heir, Karl Lagerfeld who, in 1984, declined the famous suit with a miniskirt…
High school girls claim it
If fashion suddenly changed to the “maxi” at the turn of 1970, the mini never completely disappeared from the locker room and came back in force regularly. Without losing any of its strength in claiming freedom, as evidenced by the various Skirt Days organized in French high schools since 2006, where young girls claim to be able to put on dresses and short skirts without being subjected to sexist remarks. “I wear a lot of miniskirts, especially in summer, testifies today Camille, 27 years old. Because I like my legs and I’m not afraid to show them. My favorite model is the one in jeans, which you can wear it just as well at work as in the evening or at the beach, depending on the tops you pair with it.” This confidence in herself and in her body is no longer built in opposition to the previous generation since the young woman has recovered several skirts from her mother… still choosing to “shorten them a little more”!