Skirt and Miniskirt
A miniskirt is a shortened version of the skirt, itself a tubular garment worn around the waist of varying length and open in the crotch. A skirt has two edges and is bounded by a waistline and hemline; a miniskirt is generally defined as a skirt with a hemline at least two inches above the knee--and often considerably higher!
Skirts and miniskirts play a role as beach attire, both as a solo garment as well as a garment worn over top a bikini (fig. 35-6). They also serve to complement bikini-type tops in non-beach environments.
Skirts can be worn long or short, high-waisted or low-waisted, have slits, and can be worn with or without briefs underneath. Miniskirts worn with panties (SL197130) or swimsuit briefs underneath convey complicated signals, especially when the subject is sitting (E199410) or active (NJ199510). The miniskirt worn sanpan, that is without briefs underneath, presents a different set of possibilities.
The Origin of the Miniskirt
The miniskirt is among the oldest of clothes. Mythology holds the miniskirt is invented before 15000BC in France, where its popularity among young girls allowed them to show off their legs to young boys. It has remained a mainstay of primitive costume up into the modern era (LL5909A).
Victorian depictions of topless Egyptians wearing fringed miniskirts demonstrate that a low-rise waistline is well understood long before its coming-out in the late 20th century (EL188010).
The adoption of the miniskirt in the early twentieth century begins on the dance stage of the musical theater, both in Europe (JB2610) and America (JC2450, GG192710, AR3410). The miniskirt is sometimes accompanied by hosiery, sometimes not. Hollywood treatments in the 1930s continue the theatrical tradition (EB3110-20, GG3110, KB3210, CC193301), and by the 1940s glamour girls (YD4501, GM4810), pinups, and swimsuit models are adding the short skirt to their repertoire of leg art. The absence of closure and what lies underneath is never far from mind.
The 1960s Revolution
The migration of miniskirt to the mainstream is an early 1960s phenomena. The revolution is lead by Mary Quant in England and Andre Courrages in France. The legline rises above the knee, exposing successive inches of thigh with each successive year. Young ladies vie as to whom can wear the most scandalous skirts (RS6607) as moralists wring their hands and try to look away.
By the end of the decade the micro miniskirt demonstrates the extreme, a garment with a hemline one inch below the crotch and worn so high that seating without showing panties is functionally impossible. Or as critic James Brady writes in 1969, "Skirts had gone as high as they could architecturally go--any higher, and they would cease to be skirts and become blouses."
But something else also happens as the hemlines rise sky-high, and that is the popularization of pantyhose. As more and more leg is uncovered and the crotch becomes playful pantyhose provides the way to cover up--with something. Another direction that emerges from the micro mini is the invention of hot pants, essentially a miniskirt with closure, and a costumes that brings short shorts back into mind.
Note that a skirt differs from a dress in that a dress covers the full body including the torso, whereas the skirt does not. Thus the miniskirt is similar to the minidress, again the difference being that the dress covers the chest and torso (RS7105), whereas the skirt's upper reach is the waistline. The miniskirt is also similar to the sarong, which wraps around the waist. Unlike shorts, a miniskirt has no closure between the legs.
Like slacks, shorts, or the bikini, the miniskirt can be worn high or low on the waist, and post-1960s styles work their waistlines down the pelvis. With very low waistlines, underwear or bikini briefs can be seen above the miniskirt waistline. The waistline of the miniskirt can also be designed de roulè (SM8519), and it can double as a belt or a bandeau in combination with rolldown maillots and other reconfigurable swimwear (GG199110). The tube-like design of some miniskirts also resonates to tube tops and forms a natural silhouette ().
As a swimsuit the miniskirt seule has marginal utility, but as a beach costume or component of a sunsuit it has high utility (VB8603). It is frequently worn as a coverup both to and from the beach (SL92026B), and provides the special utility that a wet bikini may be removed or changed from underneath with no indecent exposure.
The miniskirt is a species of skirt with a hemline at least two inches above the knee.