Never has a decade seen so many different styles. The 1970s switched between the modesty and sexuality of women through fashion, and notably, skirt length. The mini, midi, maxi and even the micro mini all made appearances in this decade. As the Butterick Fashion News flyer from July, 1970 notes, “This is the year of the changing hemline”. The Hemline theory appears to be relevant to the decades leading up to the 1970s. This suggests skirt length rose along with rising stock prices. The shorter the skirt, the more prosperous the age as seen with the popularity on the mini skirt in the 1920s and 1960s. Similarly, in poor economies skirts become longer. This is seen following the 1929 Wall Street crash. Non-peer-reviewed research in 2010 supported the correlation, suggesting that “the economic cycle leads the hemline with about three years”. Yet, the 1970s do not fit this trend as perfectly as the previous century.
The mini skirt continued its popularity into the 1970s. Despite the constant falls in stock prices during the 1970s women still wore skirts above the knee. Although, the falls in stock prices were not as drastic as the 1929 Wall Street crash. During this decade the midi skirt also made an appearance – covering the knee and lying on the calf. Evidently, this was an insult to the mini skirt as a more modest style and also a more typical skirt to the years prior to the war effort. John Burr Fairchild stated that 1970 would be the year of the midi. However, the public protested. A 1970 poll by New York’s Daily News reported 83% of readers wearing skirts above the knee in sheer defiance of this supposedly fashionable trend. The maxi skirt also dominated the fashion at this time with the hemline reaching to the ankles. As mentioned the crash of the 1970s was nowhere near as drastic as following 1929 so one can question why this long hemline made a reappearance alongside the mini and midi skirts. Some also argue feminism was the reason for the skirt lengthening in the 1970s.
So what is the significance of the 1970s no longer fitting the hemline theory? It illustrates just how volatile and defiant the period is. The mini skirt continuance from the 1960s shows the continued prosperity and purchasing power of the time. The maxi skirt shows the impact of the women’s movement as well as the poor economic situation due to stagflation. The midi skirt suggests the overall uncertainty of the time. Thus, the breaking in the hemline trend from 1970 onwards shows how the 1970s broke from the expectable nature of the post-war period. The uncertainty in the minds of the public regarding Britain’s economy is what is reflected in the changing length of women’s skirts during this decade.