From Mary Quant to Jeremy Scott: History's Highest Hemlines

From Mary Quant to Jeremy Scott: History's Highest Hemlines

London celebrates the creator of the miniskirt, Mary Quant, and the cultural icons who showed their legs in her creations.

London celebrates the creator of the miniskirt, Mary Quant, and the cultural icons who showed their legs in her creations.

Text: Paul Madley

Few designers can be so specifically tied to their time periods as Mary Quant. Known for liberating the young (and their knees) with her pioneering of miniskirts, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum celebrates the mod icon with a new design retrospective. As the story goes, Quant rose to prominence in the 1960s. As a young designer, she was at the forefront of the British youth movement, which exploded with the breakdown of the English class system.

Quant is credited as the inventor of the miniskirt and her work revolutionized the fashion industry, as it's said that “Quant raised hemlines and liberated the young." Quant had huge success with her independent boutique Bazaar, diffusion line Ginger, and with a range of capsule collections for the US retail giant J.C. Penny.

Everyone wanted a piece of Quant. To support her US success, a national marketing campaign was launched featuring live models, late-night chat shows, and an actual red London bus. Within a few years, Quant's business grew quickly and she became the go-to designer for the youth du jour.

Miniskirts and minidresses were quickly adopted as fashion staples but were seen by many as controversial and inappropriate clothing for a young lady. Model Jean Shrimpton made front-page news in 1965 when she wore a white ‘minidress’ to Melbourne's Carnival Cup, the public was outraged that her dress was 5 inches above the knee (quite modest in comparison to today's minis). From Chanel to Versace, from Twiggy to Christina Aguilera, high hemlines have been celebrated and reinvented by the best of the best.

We pay homage to Mary Quant's designs by looking at the best miniskirts and short dresses of all time. Click through the slideshow below to see our full roundup.

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