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Several years ago, when I first learnt I had got a job at Vogue, lots of people wanted to give me advice. It ranged from diet tips to the brand of earrings I should look up. One question arose repeatedly: “What are you going to wear?”
As the curious parties ran through the respective “looks” of the existing
Vogue team – one editor wore only monochrome, one had the monopoly on jeans (her library, reportedly, had 200-plus pairs), another had first dibs on anything with ruffles (yes, really) – my mind went blank. The only thing I could come up with? “Miniskirts.”
I’ve always reached for a mini in a moment of crisis. A statement in itself, there’s nothing simpler than pulling on a short skirt – all you have to add is a black cashmere sweater and you look like you’ve made an effort. At last count, I own upwards of 20. They range from Prada suede and Courrèges patent-leather retro styles to summer denim options from Frame and a smart khaki safari iteration from Arket. One of my favourites is a black Loewe style with small shards of mirrored plastic sewn on to it, like sparkling fish scales. It is difficult to sit down in a lot of my minis – but that guy is the prickliest. Still, he packs a punch: when I wore him to a Chloé party one Fashion Week a few years ago in Paris, the event photographer mistook me for Alexa Chung.
Why, you may well ask, wear something that you can’t sit down in? To quote Eve Ensler in The Vagina Monologues: “My short skirt is happiness. I can feel myself on the ground.” As a schoolgirl, hitching up my bottle-green uniform skirt felt assertive. As a teenager, shy and spotty, a leopard-print mini lent me an air of confidence I didn’t possess. At university, I cycled round campus in a succession of vintage tennis skirts, circle skirts from American Apparel and a much-loved JW Anderson for Topshop kilt, savouring the sensation of the crisp October breeze on my knees, feeling as though I owned the world.
That’s the wonderful thing about short skirts: all that 1960s-era youth-culture optimism still inhabits the mini’s very seams. Mary Quant, largely credited as the mother of the miniskirt (though Greek warriors were wearing variations on them as early as the third century BC), always posited them as a vehicle for change – quite literally. She started dealing in minis in 1966, naming the scandalously short skirts after her favourite car, the Mini Cooper. “The mini car went exactly with the miniskirt; it did everything one wanted, it looked great, it was optimistic, exuberant, young, flirty, it was exactly right,” she said. (It was for this reason that, aged 17, I wore one to take my driving test.) In 2019, a mini functions as shorthand for non-cooperation, a gloriously unsubtle “F-you” to the kind of people whose actions inspired #MeToo. There’s defiance in a flash of leg.
I’m not the only one wedded to short cuts: at a recent appointment with the Marks & Spencer womenswear team, I was surprised to hear that minis are big business. In November, the retailer sold nearly 9,000 checked miniskirts after Holly Willoughby wore one in its Christmas ad and sparked a buying frenzy. The TV presenter always includes minis in her monthly M&S edit – and they consistently sell-out.
At Prada, they had a tennis skirt’s skippiness, paired with oversized cashmere cardigans and smart gold-buttoned jackets. And at Burberry, they were central to the “relaxed” segment of Riccardo Tisci’s debut spring/summer ’19 show, styled with brothel creepers, button-down shirts and the ubiquitous trench coat.
When it comes to styling, the age-old rule still applies: if you’re baring acres of leg, keep it a little more demure up top. Other points to note: crisp shirting and tailored blazers work unexpectedly well with a mini (and if things are looking a little prim, throw in an optic white shoe). A-line shapes can be more forgiving than straight, tailored cuts. Seek out utility pockets and seams to break up block shapes. By all means, wear tights if it will make you feel more comfortable: even Versace included thick, colourful hosiery on its runway this season. And if you’re about to take your driving test, may I suggest a short black skirt? I passed first time. And I now drive a Mini Cooper.
Feeling inspired? Shop Vogue‘s edit of the best mini skirts to trial this spring.