People who have known me over these three decades remember me in miniskirt. They are, most of all, students and colleagues, but also friends, acquaintances, and neighbors.

I wore miniskirts and mini-length dresses all the time and hardly anything else, and I still do -- most of the time. The only exceptions were a few midi-length full skirts I wore for cello lessons and maxi-length dresses for formal occasions. Very recently, I added a few skirts reaching below the knees, bending to the fashion of these few years. They can be flattering, and ankle-length full skirts are certainly opulent. I don't dislike midis and maxis; but they are not my first choice.

I love miniskirts.

I favored miniskirts since their first appearance in mid-60s. Introduced by Courrèges and Mary Quant, they were youthful and daring; and I was young enough then, though not too young, and found it enthralling to be daring. Their popularity waxed and waned, and they took on various shapes and lengths. But I continued to remain loyal to them and continued to wear them, whether in fashion or out of fashion, well beyond my years regarded too advanced to wear them and too unseemly to be seen in them.

But I continued to like miniskirts. I like them in all shapes and styles -- tight, straight, narrow, flared, circular, pleated, tucked, gathered, low slung, tiered, dirndl, very short and not so short; and I wear them in all seasons, in summer and winter, and any time in between. The best length for me is 16 inches from the waist; with my anatomy that's exactly where my fingertip would be with the arms held close by the sides. It's the length that presents my body in best proportions. But I also wear microminis, even as short as 12 inches, barely skimming the bottom. When I walk into shops, I used to instinctively spot shortest dresses and skirts on the racks to try on first. My wardrobe is, in consequence, almost entirely mini-length with hemlines well above the knees.

My knees are nothing like Claire's, however, that is to say, they are nothing to boast of. They are bony; I wish they were rounder. My legs are spindly -- or, perhaps, fashionably sinewy, to put it nicely. My thighs look underfed such as to make me envious of the thighs whose owners eagerly pore through books with titles like <Thin Thighs in Two Weeks>, <Thin Thighs Diet and Workout>, and <Thighs to Die For>. There are no books on the market for people who like to work out for fat thighs -- something like <A Shortcut to Plump Thighs>. So, there is no sexy allure to miniskirts when I wear them. It's definitely not for sex appeal that I wear minis.

I am tempted to state categorically that I wear miniskirts because I like wearing them and not because I like how I look in them. But this isn't saying much. We all wear what we like to wear because we like wearing it, and we like wearing it because we like the way we presumably look in it to others -- not necessarily for the pleasure of looking nice for them but, more likely, for the pleasure of projecting our self-image to others, or, in short, showing off. If we wear anything we don't like that is generally by default than by choice. This is ultimately the basic rule of personal fashion. If what one wears offends others, the wearer's priority is her own satisfaction rather than of anyone else's.

I like wearing miniskirts. But if I'm hard pressed, I must admit that I'd be less than honest unless I say that in wearing miniskirts I take pleasure in the appeal of the risqué.

That's why I am drawn to microminis. Looking down on the hemline of the skirt you are wearing, it always appears lower than it actually is. So, unless I check myself in a full-length mirror, I could walk out showing more of my thighs than I had intended to. But I don't really mind that. I like the way a tight mini pulls up when I sit down and cross my legs instead of spreading out and covering them.

The truth is that I like exposing the skin in general. I did even before cultivating the deeptan. I like baring the shoulders. I prefer no sleeves to short sleeves, and tank tops to sleeveless tops, camisole tops to tank tops. I like string straps, and I like scooped necklines, front and back. So, I wear slipdresses all the time except in mid-winter. I prefer bikinis to the maillot. I wear sandals all the time, and the more open the better. So, I am partial to thongs, and I wear them as soon as I can without getting my toes frostbitten and keep them well into the frost time in November. If convention permits I would go barefooted as I did against convention in my hippie years. I don't bare my midriff although I would if my tummy had been presentable; I consider most unsightly a young woman in low-waist jeans whose tender fat spills over the belt.

It's not titillation, which serves others, but the dare, the dare of exposure, that underlies my psychology. That, after all, was the point of the miniskirt at its inception. It is a clothing item that made parents admonish their daughter: Don't dare go out in that thing, it makes you look like a whore. Hot pants and short shorts should serve this need, too, to be sure. But I don't wear shorts. They may be sporty and provide ease of movement to most. But, long or short, pants are constraining to me. I don't like the way they feel when I have them on. Jeans are the worst; they are unbearably constrictive. I own a pair but wore then no more than twice. So, I am also averse to culottes, skorts, and divided skirts.

I move around impetuously, like a whirlwind as a friend once so aptly described me, and long skirts are cumbersome, especially going up and down the stairs. A full skirt is Romantic but it tangles around the legs, and makes me step on the hem; I trip and fall. A tight-fitting maxi can be sensuous, but even with slits, it binds the legs and need to be tucked up with one hand climbing the stairs. Trousers wrap around the knees and constrain the same way. Tights are fine; they move with the movement of the limbs.

It is no surprise then that I am especially fond of flared minis. The flare flutters as I scurry about or go flying up and down the stairs. Circular minis are absolutely dear; if no one was around looking, I'd twirl around like a whirling dervish. Short of whirling, I'd imagine skipping along, as the flare flutters and flies. Some years ago, certain colleagues referred to me as <skippy>, with no malice but not without a bit of mockery, no doubt for my hopping around in minis. But the epithet, I thought, was right on the target and rather endearing to me even if it meant that I was seen as an old woman who never outgrew her adolescence.

It so happens nevertheless that for years I had the fortune of looking years younger than I actually was, and, so, I could brazenly continue to wear mini length hems for years and years without much embarrassment. I was aware, on the other hand, that if long past my years strangers still addressed me "Miss" rather than "Ma'am," that was probably because of my dress and not because of my face. Still, time had to come inexorably when I was more often called "Ma'am" than "Miss." But by then the miniskirt was so completely a part of me that anything longer on me felt cumbersome and dowdy. In the last two years many young women stopped wearing minis. My minis started to stand out a bit too much.

There are practical advantages to the mini that I don't disregard. It can be sewn cheaply from a tiny scrap of fabric, even a remnant piece; it is easy to put on and walk in, cool in summer and refreshing in cooler weather, even in winter, and it packs tight and allows me to travel extra light (traveling light). Practicality, however, does not define preference in fashion. A woman who's just cut her hair short may say that it's sooo easy to take care of it; but the ultimate motivation is the looks, the satisfaction in the self-image.

So, it's the dare that drew me to the mini in the first place, and then subsequently prompted me to go shorter and still shorter and eventually into the micro. I welcome appalled looks. Ultimately, then, miniskirts instil in this wearer that particular sense of carefree freedom, physically but also, and perhaps more importantly, symbolically or, if you will, semiotically. Skimpy and skippy, flippy and zippy -- that's me. Feisty and spunky are my favorite words.

I still persist wearing miniskirts. During last two years the hemline came down below the knees; but, thank goodness, short minis are back in fashion this summer, some ultra short ones, too, and I have been noticing more of them as the summer advanced. I like to stand out but it is nice to have some company.


T. Kaori Kitao, 06.20.02

It's two years since writing this essay, and this year the miniskirt is shorter than ever, creeping up higher and riding lower, some close to mere 10 inches in length, with half pleats, like those worn in the movie, Mean Girls. I love them and wear them, too.

"That's the outfit my grandaughters wear," some tell me not without sarcasm, and I say, "Yes, and some older women, too, and, occasionally though rarely, also some oddball senior citizens." 06.06.04

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Miniskirt Yesterday and Fashion


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