Monday, June 1, 2009

The Notorious Midi!

A protest Midi Skirt button from 1970

Skirt lengths have been a subject for controversy for decades, usually this happened for reasons of modesty, as they began to rise above accepted standards. Throughout most of the Victorian years, showing just an ankle would raise eyebrows, so during the teens it was scandalous when skirts began to hovered a few inches above the shoe and in the 1920s, flapper dresses, which rose all the way to the knee, provoked out and out...outrage.

Who would have predicted, that in the late 60s - early 70s, at the height of the mini skirts popularity, a falling hemline could cause similar public reaction? The later 1960s saw a number of fashion trends, one being a preoccupation with all things romantic and/or nostalgic. Think Biba + Deco or the Early, Gunne Sax, prairie dress. Longer hemlines were being created for casual and day wear. The look wasn't for everyone but it had it's place and as always, terms were coined for the emerging new styles.

In these years since, people tend to call every long dress from this era a Maxi dress but if you were around at the time you knew differently. A Maxi skirt was gown length, to the floor or at least to the top of the shoe. The Midi on the other hand, might fall anywhere from calf to ankle. I remember clearly, a newspaper fashion article in 1969 featuring three versions of an identical gingham dress in Maxi, Midi and Mini lengths. Designers like Valentino and Bohan experimented with these longer styles and according to a vintage Time Magazine article, John Burr Fairchild of Women's Wear Daily, announced that 1970 was to be the year of the Midi.

The ensuing controversy reached heights that, I'm sure, even Mr. Fairchild never expected. It was one thing for the adventurous and artistic to champion an exotic trend but for the style Monarch himself to decree that mainstream fashion was to embrace such a drastic change created a furor.

An embroidered Wool Midi Skirt from my website

Women vowed to never give up their mini skirts and according to the same Time article " A protest signed by 335 customers of the Sanger-Harris store in Dallas reads: "We object strongly to being suppressed into buying the midi exclusively. We like looking feminine and intend staying that way, even if it means shopping elsewhere."

The male population was no happier as you can imagine. Men of all ages were still pinching themselves over the daily parade of pretty legs, that the mini skirt had made possible and they were NOT about to give it up without a protest.

Even the garment industry let out a wail. The same Time Magazine article quotes Irene Johns, president of the Association of Buying Offices as saying..."by starting to push the midi last winter, Women's Wear killed not only the fall season for manufacturers but the spring season too."

Good grief, all of this over a skirt length! And a longer one to boot... I was a young teen in those days and actually liked the new Midi skirt. I found it less cumbersome than the Maxi and was charmed by it's sense of nostalgia. I just loved watching old movies with women in their feminine frocks that reached below the knee. PLUS, on a more practical note, living in New England could get pretty drafty in a mini skirt! For me the Midi was a blessing but it was years before I found out about the tempest it had stirred, not until I had begun researching vintage clothing. I can tell you this, once you delve into the history of fashion you will never be bored!

Until our next blog take care and best to all.


Sources for this article:

Time Magazine, Monday, Sep. 14, 1970, Out on a Limb with the Midi
Stop the Midi button Dudley's Vintage Ads & Prints

1 comment:

  1. What an informative piece, Melody! I'm citing some of this with proper credit on my blog today. I styled a '90s midi skirt ... not knowing the history behind this controversial length of the '70s!! My oh my!!!