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Fashion Statement: André Courrèges

“A woman’s body must be hard and free. Not soft and harnessed. The harness—the girdle and bra—is the chain of the slave,” Andrè Courrèges, remarked to Francoise Giraud, then-executive editor of the French magazine, L’Express, when, in 1965, she entered the French designer’s salon to be fitted for her first Courrèges dress.

“And what if the slave lacks muscles?” asked Giraud.

“Too bad,” Courrèges replied.

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Happy 45th Birthday, Miniskirt! Our Thighs and Kneecaps are Forever Grateful.


In early 1965, a revolution—one that was a little bit cultural and a little bit fashionable—was brewing. Thirty-one-year-old London-based designer Mary Quant watched the sassy young women in her Chelsea boutique roll up the waistbands of their skirts to force the hemlines even higher than the knee-baring styles of the era allowed, and decided to take things a step further. And so on September 1, 1965, at a happening new fashion event in New York City billed a “Youthquake,” Quant debuted that itty bitty scrap of clothing that would become the bane of conservative parents and even later—much later—a metaphor for women’s liberation: the miniskirt.

A to-the-letter fashion historian will pertly inform the doubtful that experts have long debated which designer technically “invented” the miniskirt. Some of those experts give the credit to Frenchman André Courrèges, whose skirts in collections a year prior had daringly featured a hint of thigh, while other designers had slyly snipped a centimeter or so off their own hemlines, too. It’s true that Read More »

Trailblazing Tunisia Says No to the Miniskirt

Those long-lost knees! They were finally seeing the light of day. Thanks to André Courrèges, who first gave women’s legs a breath of fresh air by introducing short skirts in 1964, and British mod maven Mary Quant, who pushed the hemlines high enough to make the miniskirt really catch fire in 1965, by 1966 knees (and a few extra inches of thigh for good measure) were everywhere. Or not.

On August 13, 1966, the president of Tunisia announced that miniskirts were to be legally banned, becoming the first country to put the kabosh on the trend. In this small, Muslim North African nation where women’s traditional dress was the sifsari, a long, sheet-like garment with a head covering, Western clothes were becoming more common but the mini was just too much to accept  (or too little, as it would be).

President Habib Bourguiba’s timing was interesting. He made his announcement in a televised speech on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the enactment of Tunisia’s personal code, which abolished polygamy and made women legally equal to men. So he was pretty much saying, listen up, ladies— you may think you’re “equal,” Read More »

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