How Mary's mini-skirt conquered the world

AFP  |  Paris 
February 7, 2014 Last Updated at 17:21 IST

It was all too much for Coco Chanel.
As the sixties started to swing, the French fashion icon pronounced mini-skirts to be "just awful".
She also famously declared that she had never met a man who liked women wearing them.
How wrong can you be?
Half a century later and with Mary Quant, the woman credited with inventing it turning 80 this month, the mini remains a wardrobe staple worldwide.
A hemline half-way up the thigh is no longer synonymous with rebellion and newly-won sexual freedom as it was in the mini's first decade.
But the style remains as popular as ever with the likes of Kate Moss and Sienna Miller having lately given it a contemporary twist as an element of the "boho chic" look copied by millions.
Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel's current artistic director, recently described Coco's dismissal of the mini as one of the biggest mistakes she ever made.
The German designer has underlined that belief by making above-the-knee skirts a staple of the Chanel suit.
"Coco must be turning in her grave," observed Laurent Cotta, a fashion historian.
Cotta echoes Quant's own admission that the mini was a trend on the streets before she gave it its name, taking inspiration from another 60s design classic, the Mini car.
"It was a revolution but it didn't come out of nowhere. The trend was already established," Cotta said.
"It was in the air- a mini-skirt was a way of rebelling. It stood for sensuality and sex. Wearing one was a sure-fire way of upsetting your parents."
Not for the first time, a trend born in the youth culture of Britain soon found its way onto the catwalks of Paris.
Designer Andre Courreges is credited with importing the mini to France and some say he rather than Quant should be considered the inventor of the cut.
Whatever the truth, Courreges's lead was quickly followed by rival fashion house leaders Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin. The latter pushed the trend to its natural limit with even shorter micro-skirts.
By the mid-sixties, the mini could be spotted around the world, its success driven by the parallel export success of British pop, spearheaded by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
A ban in, of all places, The Netherlands lasted only a few months and by 1968 the mini was part of the uniform of young female students and workers taking to the barricades in that year of upheaval.