From classic denim to preppy plaid, miniskirts in one form or another have been fashion staples for longer than many can remember.
Where did these garments actually come from, though? Who was the first person to don this daring clothing item?
Discover the history of the miniskirt below, starting (as many inventions do) in Ancient Egypt.
5400 – 4700 BC
That’s right. Evidence of miniskirts exists as far back as 5400 BC.
Archaeologists have discovered figurines from this period in Europe dressed in miniskirts. Additionally, ancient Egyptian paintings also depict female acrobats wearing miniskirts, likely for enhanced mobility.
476 – 221 BC
It wasn’t only women who wore miniskirts in ancient times. During China’s Warring States Period, men wore short skirts that resembled kilts.
Despite very early images featuring people wearing miniskirts, they didn’t really come on the scene until the early 20th century. Josephine Baker, an American-born French singer, dancer, and actress, wore a miniskirt made of bananas while performing in “Folies Bergère” in Paris.
Baker’s famous skirt consisted of sixteen rubber bananas, which served as a tribute to France’s involvement in colonial pursuits, including the banana and rubber trades.
While some criticized Baker for her overt sexuality, others understood that her performance and costume were a commentary on the exploitative nature of colonialism.
Decades later, in the 1950s, a British fashion designer named Mary Quant coined the term “miniskirt” (she is said to have named it after her favorite car, also known as “the mini”).
Quant was well-known for loosening up women’s fashion and freeing them from the restrictive clothing of previous decades.
In addition to being featured in Quant’s designs, miniskirts also began appearing in science fiction films, including “Flight to Mars” and “Forbidden Planet.”
In the early 1960s, an article published by The Billings Gazette, a Montana-based newspaper, spoke of the miniskirt as a controversial clothing item produced in Mexico City.
The article’s author, John Abney, referenced an unnamed psychiatrist who supposedly called the miniskirt a youthful protest against international peace threats. Abney also noted that most men appreciated the miniskirt when it was worn by younger women (who weren’t their relatives) but didn’t care for their wives and fiancées wearing the garment.
In the mid-1960s, a French designer named André Courrèges began experimenting with shorter hemlines. He also introduced a line of space-age dresses and skirts that fell above the knee.
Some have argued that Courrèges is the true inventor of the miniskirt rather than Quant.
In response, Quant attempted to squash the argument by saying that neither she nor Courrèges was responsible for the skirt. Instead, she attributed the style to “the girls in the street” who inspired her.
A year later, the miniskirt became even more popular across the globe. For example, in Melbourne, Australia, the famous model Jean Shrimpton received a lot of attention when she attended the Melbourne Cup Carnival while wearing a miniskirt without stockings, a hat, or gloves.
During this same year, Yves Saint Laurent also introduced his Mondrian dresses, which were known for their high hemlines and unique, color-blocked patterns.
In 1966, fashion designer Paco Rabanne launched a chainmail mini dress with a very short skirt.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art describes Rabanne’s dress as “sculptural,” featuring a series of square and rectangular aluminum plates. The museum also states that the dress epitomizes the “exploratory and experimental” nature of 1960s fashion.
Although miniskirts had made appearances in film and television before 1967, actress Goldie Hawn received a lot of attention when she appeared in the show “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”
Her signature miniskirts and dresses inspired girls and women across the U.S. to raise their hemlines and experiment with their own fashion.
Jackie Kennedy, who has long been lauded for her fashion sense, wore a short white Valentino dress with a pleated skirt at her wedding to Aristotle Onassis. The skirt fell just above the knee, making it not quite a mini, but it was still considered daring for the time.
Women took a break from miniskirts in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many reverted to floor-length skirts (maxis) that had been out of style for decades.
This dramatic pendulum swing likely had to do with nostalgia for a different time as the Vietnam War raged on and caused serious controversy in the U.S. and beyond.
In 1974, though, things began to change as Debbie Harry, the frontwoman for the band Blondie, was one of the first to revive the miniskirt. She regularly wore black leather miniskirts onstage, inspiring many punk artists and enthusiasts to do the same.
In the early 1980s, miniskirts began making appearances as part of cheerleading uniforms. These skirts had their own unique name, the rah-rah or ra-ra skirt. It even showed up on The Observer’s 1982 cover, which proudly declared that the mini was “back.”
A discussion about miniskirts and 1980s fashion is incomplete without the mention of recording artist Madonna. Madonna wore a white tulle minidress to MTV’s Video Music Awards, where she performed her hit song “Like a Virgin.”
Miniskirts showed up all over the media in the 1990s. In the film “Pretty Woman,” Julia Roberts donned a short skirt and thigh-high boots. Miniskirts also appeared frequently on TV shows like “Melrose Place” and “Ally McBeal.”
The early 2000s featured plenty of miniskirts, often paired with midriff-baring tops for even more daring looks. Celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, in particular, were frequent wearers of this combination.
In 2009, over 40 years after Mary Quant introduced the miniskirt, the UK’s Royal Mail released a stamp paying tribute to her and her contributions to the fashion world.
In 2014, many designers introduced vintage-inspired miniskirts that models rocked on various runways. When asked about his haute couture collection, the designer Giambattista Valli described it as “all legs, legs, legs.”
2022 and Beyond: Introducing the Micro Mini
Today, designers have found a way to make the miniskirt even more daring — by shortening the hemline further and introducing the micro mini.