A mini dress is characterized by its hemline around the mid-thigh level. Hemline began climbing upward starting in 1961 and achieved its iconic appearance in the mid-1960s. Short dresses existed prior to the advent of mini dresses in the film and entertainment industry, albeit not popularized among the general public. However, they paved the way for mainstream acceptance that followed shortly after. Popular understanding is that the mini dress history has its beginning in the 1960s. The term mini dress was not coined until the 1960s when it became a fashion icon in the Swinging Sixties in London. England was the cultural hotspot in the 60s with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the WHO. At the same time, the conservative notion of women’s fashion was being challenged with minimalistic shapes and vivid colors. The rise of the mini dress embodied personal liberation and the complexity of gender and power relations.
Mary Quant, one of several designers credited as the driver of this trend, began constructing mini dresses characterized by a childlike dress with bright color and simple shape, which matched the short bob hairstyle popularized by Vidal Sassoon. Stockings with suspenders were no longer practical to wear with a mini dress, giving rise to tights, which were only worn by ballet dancers. These tights were often colorful, reflecting the current fashion of the 1960s. The popularity of colorful tight went hand in hand with demand for mini dresses in a positive feedback loop. Quant coined the name mini dress after her favorite car, Mini Cooper, and she clarified that she did not invent the mini dress, but rather, she was the first to notice young girls hemming their dresses shorter and responded by designing a mini dress to sell in her boutique.
Another key figure in popularizing this trend is André Courrèges based in Paris. In contrast to Quant, Courrèges’ clientele were older conservative women. In response to the dispute regarding the invention of the mini dress, Courrèges claimed that he was the first to invent a mini dress, whereas Quant was instrumental in popularizing the style. In contrast to Quant, Courrèges’ style of mini dress was characterized by well-tailored trim reminiscent of the Space Age. Whereas Quant was a key figure in popularizing mini dress as a street fashion in London and the US, Courrege played a pivotal role in introducing mini dress in high fashion in France.