STYLE By Laura deCarufel

The mini re­turns in a blaze of glory this fall. Laura deCarufel ex­plores our ob­ses­sion with high-rise style.

Elle (Canada) - - Front Page -

The en­dur­ing ap­peal of short skirts.

no hat, no gloves, no stock­ings—just a slim white minidress hit­ting a well, hello there five inches above the knee. It’s tricky to pin­point the ex­act mo­ment of any style sea change, but that mini—which Brit model Jean Shrimp­ton wore to the 1965 Mel­bourne Cup—came as close as a piece could to sig­nalling the emer­gence of a fresh fash­ion spirit. How fresh? The derby’s win­ning horse was shunted off The Sun’s front page in favour of a trum­pet­ing head­line: “The Shrimp Shocked Them.” The ac­com­pa­ny­ing snap showed Shrimp­ton, brazen, beau­ti­ful and 22, in front of a mid­dle-aged crowd wear­ing bulky skirt­suits, pill­box hats and sour looks.

By the time the Shrimp shocked Aus­tralia, the free-love era was in full swing: The h

Bea­tles topped the charts, and the pill her­alded fe­male eman­ci­pa­tion and sex­ual free­dom. Lon­don de­signer Mary Quant sold miniskirts out of her Chelsea bou­tique, but she was vo­cal about who de­served credit for the craze: “It was the girls on the King’s Road who in­vented the mini,” she once told a re­porter. “I was mak­ing easy, youth­ful, sim­ple clothes in which you could move.... I wore them very short and the cus­tomers would say ‘Shorter, shorter.’” For the first time in his­tory, young people—not de­sign­ers—set the sar­to­rial pace.

This sea­son, the youthquake is a-rum­ble again as de­sign­ers riff on the free­wheel­ing mood of ’60s Lon­don. Gucci’s Frida Gian­nini showed mod shifts and knee-high patent-leather boots fit for step­ping off a moped onto Carn­aby Street. At Saint Lau­rent, Hedi Sli­mane’s take on the trend was more Mick Jag­ger than Paul McCart­ney: You could pic­ture those kohleyed nymphs emerg­ing from a night­club at dawn, blink­ing in the sud­den day­light as they searched their school­girl skirts for a smoke. The thread that united them? h

The ubiq­ui­tous high hem­line, which added sex ap­peal to em­bel­lished baby-dolls at Mary Ka­trant­zou and tested grav­ity at DSquared2, where the de­sign­ers’ mi­cro­mi­nis made Valentino’s high-necked thigh skim­mers look as mod­est as a nun’s habit.

“We just love women who dress in a fem­i­nine way,” ex­plain DSquared2’s Dan and Dean Caten. How do they think a woman feels in a mini? “Sexy!”

The most straight­for­ward of provoca­tive pieces, the mini of­fers none of the en­hance­ments af­forded by the bustier or the high heel—in­stead of ar­ti­fi­cial lift, it’s all about show­ing leg (and more leg). Its fo­cus on fe­male flesh has earned the cri­tique of some fem­i­nists, who ar­gue that the mini is less about real free­dom and more about sat­is­fy­ing the male gaze. The mini-gen­der di­a­logue took an ugly de­tour last year, when Uganda’s ethics-and-in­tegrity min­is­ter sug­gested that women should be ar­rested for wear­ing “any­thing above the knee.” This July, the pub­lic-works-depart­ment min­is­ter in Goa, In­dia, pro­posed a ban on short skirts, terming them “a threat to Goan cul­ture.” Hap­pily, Goa’s congress re­sponded to this misog­y­nis­tic clap­trap by mail­ing the min­is­ter a miniskirt.

What seems sure is that the mini will go on, trail­ing both dou­ble takes and dis­trust­ful glances. Hem­lines his­tor­i­cally rise with the econ­omy, and as we emerge from the 2008 re­ces­sion, squint­ing in the sun like Saint Lau­rent’s party girls, so­ci­ety is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an over­all sense of hope­ful­ness—a yearn­ing to re­turn to the days of bub­ble-gum in­no­cence and Beatle­ma­nia. De­sign­ers get that. Their job this sea­son is to pro­vide the sar­to­rial in­gre­di­ents for a bright fu­ture. If we can’t dream away cli­mate change, in­come in­equal­ity and ra­pa­cious global cap­i­tal­ism, at least we can dress like women did in sun­nier times, when Mary Quant named a cer­tain rev­o­lu­tion­ary skirt af­ter her favourite small car. Reached via email at her Lon­don home, Quant, now 80, of­fered a suc­cinct as­sess­ment of the mini’s en­dur­ing ap­peal: “Free­dom, legs and it’s sexy.” Can’t ar­gue with that. ■

The Spice Girls

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Jean Shrimp­ton in the minidress that rocked a con­ti­nent

Stylish young women sparked the frenzy for high hem­lines.

Ti­naTurner, a true mini icon

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