Fashion breaks the concept of being caged. It adds more character and value to one’s personality. Such is the diversity of fashion and yet ‘Miniskirts’ remain timeless for a reason.
Paris Catwalk in the 60s witnessed top models sashaying in their mini’s and by far this remains an iconic moment in the history of fashion. This is the time, when British designer, Mary Quant created hemlines inspired by the fashion she witnessed on London streets. She cut several inches of the skirt along with the norm- ‘Skirts must be below the knee’. This marked the beginning of ‘Miniskirts’ to become the symbol of embracing individuality and sexual liberation. A small piece of garment became a global admiration for some, while stirred controversies in many. Til this day.
Miniskirts are often synonymous with ‘Daring attire’. It so happened that miniskirts represented the early days of Feminist movement. Activists like Gloria Steinem wore minis during protests to voice an opinion against government. It was a fabric designated with politics that when designers like Dior failed to showcase models wearing mini on the ramp in the 60s, a group of women called “British Society for the Protection of Mini Skirts” protested with banners reading, “Mini skirts forever!” This emphasises how relevant clothing can be in fiercely expressing your stance in public.
What you choose to wear, describes the core of your personality. If you are brave enough to wear a mini, you are free and empowered. V&A Curator, Stephanie Woods spoke to BBC Designed on how high hemlines didn’t stop women from being in charge of their sexual preferences. She said that ,“As more women entered the workforce, gaining their own independent wealth, and women began to gain more autonomy over their own bodies with the introduction of the contraceptive pill.”
That was how the women during 1960s presented themselves when they adorned a mini. At a time when women were breaking free from a male-chauvinistic society filled with deeply-structured stereotypical barriers, minis paved the way to show rebellion. It showed willingness to fight for their rights and equality. But, did minis really break the prejudices of people?
Back in time when Quant introduced this audacious hemline for women, she faced several outbursts from the orthodox class of the society who value their traditions thoroughly. In an interview with British Vogue’s Alexandra Shulman, Quant quoted;
“Middle age business men would beat on the window and shout ‘it’s obscene, it’s disgusting.’ Extraordinary, isn’t it!’
Has much changed since the past?
The idea of minis was a way of self-expression for women. However, even to this day, it is seen as sultry and an invitation for men. Not long ago, in 2017, a popular Journalist and Former Deputy editor of the Spectator, Petronella Wyatt Angers on Channel 5 sided with patriarchal views and blamed women wearing mini skirts to be derogatory. She mentioned, “I’ve seen women researchers in Westminster running around in micro miniskirts getting paralytic drunk. What kind of signal do you think that sends? When I wear a micro miniskirt it is to show off my figure.”
This is one scenario that speaks volumes about the prejudices that still lurk around us.
It shows how the legacy of fighting for women rights continues and clothes become the deciding factor to define a woman’s character. ‘Clothes are not the cause for rape, the mentality is’. Unfortunately, even minis could not thoroughly enunciate this. ‘Dress modestly’, is a phrase women are tired of listening to. And, women are allegedly accused for luring those men who relentlessly objectify women today. Irony, much?
The minis became a personality trait for the youth culture and was extravagantly worn by this generation during the 60s. And a decade after, minis proved that, ‘Age is just a number’. Miniskirts show no signs of vanishing into thin air and constantly reeks of defiance, even today. Gina Martin, a young woman who is the very definition of a ‘Game-changer’, in this case, the law-changer that made ‘Up-skirting’ illegal and succeed at it.
Not in the orthodox manner, but a deep and traumatising experience for Gina turned her into the activist she is today. Learning from one of her own experiences in a festival, when a group of boys clicked pictures of her crotch and when confronted was advised to have dressed better. In a conversation with TeenVogue, Gina shares her experience when the cops arrived and mentioned to her that, “It shows more than you’d want it to, but because you’re wearing knickers, there’s not much we can do.”
This was the very moment Gina realised that this was a cultural problem of judging women by their clothes and believing that a woman’s body is public property. She became an advocate for shouting out loud on narrow mindsets of people towards high hemlines. In an interview with Channel 4 News, she expressed her stance, “The conversation is always about what I’m wearing – instead of what the guy did.”
After struggling for 18 months lobbying the British Government, Gina Martin and her lawyer accomplished at making ‘Up-skirting a sexual offence.‘
Truth be told, it has always been a struggle for women to be who they really are. Outrageous comments are petty enough, that they face sexual assault for showing a bit of cleavage. It is saddening to note that in an exclusive survey conducted in 2019 for The Independent found at least 55% of the men believed that women who wear revealing clothes are prone to be raped or sexually harassed. Its high time that we shatter this ridiculous myth. How long will the victims in sexual assault be responsible for the actions of the predator?
This must stop today. We have reached a point in life where higher hemlines of skirts shouldn’t raise eyebrows in shock and disbelief but in utter admiration. For this to happen, you don’t need a violent protest, just a reformation in your thinking.
Because each one of us can be a Gina Martin, all it takes is a bit of bravery and the audacity to wear a miniskirt.
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