Hemlines are on the rise, but their leg-flashing lengths aren’t just for the young,
Afew years back, before Anthony Vaccarello was named creative director at Yves Saint Laurent, I commented that his designs, with the slits up above the hipbone and hemlines skirting the upper parts of the thigh, were decidedly sexy. “No, not sexy,” he said in surprise, explaining that he cut them that way to make it easier for the woman to move. Old habits die hard, I see, when his debut for Yves Saint Laurent for the spring/summer ’17 season had women swing by in liquid metallic skirts hitched up to the waist with swathes of leather sitting high on the leg.
You’d think by now we’d be used to skinbaring ways. The number of centimetres in skirt lengths should not have a direct relationship to the level of maturity, seriousness or intelligence. “I was worried that if I looked too feminine, I would not be taken seriously. I really wanted to wear my shiny lip gloss and my girlie skirt, but I decided not to,” wrote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in We Should All Be Feminists. “Many of us think that the less feminine a woman appears, the more likely she is to be taken seriously.” Dressing with a sense of one’s own form should be an extension of power.
The euphemistic term “age-appropriate” is really about what you should and shouldn’t wear as you get older. In my teens and early 20s I would shorten dresses and mimic Proenza Schouler runway looks from clothes that came from my mother’s quite fantastic 80s and early 90s-era closet. Seeing peers in the fashion industry as they progressed from interns and assistants to editors and managers swap their minis for midis and trousers was a way to chart their relationship with age-appropriate dressing.
But if fashion teaches you one thing, it’s to stick to what works for you. We all have our personal body gripes – my own genetic disposition doesn’t lean towards anything with a midriff focus. The one rule to break is that of never wearing the same trend twice. Let me explain: if you wore minis in your 20s or 30s, it’s worth revisiting now, but reintroduce the look with a slight tweak. These days I no longer wear my Luella Bartley micro-minis without the safety of opaque tights, and ensure that I balance the rest of the outfit: boots or strategically chosen heels (keep the stilettos-and-mini combo for night) and a looser shape on top.
Even on days when I question my favoured short length, there is still Julianne Moore wearing a Tom Ford thigh-grazing shimmery dress with aplomb or Jennifer Lopez in myriad mini-skirt options to look to. And I think of Helen Gurley Brown, who wore miniskirts well into her 80s. All beautiful women in their own right, but far from the typical 180-centimetre supermodels who are held up as examples for 40-plus mini-skirt wearers.
And don’t forget, fashion is only interesting when it’s divisive. Trends can be a little boring, and for every person who groans when it’s heralded that the mini is back, another one is rummaging through her closet in glee.
Dorothy Parker once quipped: “If you wear a short enough skirt, the party will come to you.” On the runway, skirts went from a few fingers above the knee to nary a hand-span below the waist, a length that one would advise are for experts only, and for the most part are runway show-exclusives anyway. For alternatives, look to Louis Vuitton for elegant A-line shapes, or Giamba for ladylike prettiness – the softer hems are more forgiving. As Vaccarello said to me after the show: “I guess because of the length, when the woman does put on heels it is like: ‘Oh, wow.’” That power play from one identity to another: isn’t it satisfying to be the bearer of such a swift transformation?
Backstage at Giamba.