Myth Information – The First Miniskirt — ‘Ya-ya’

This should forever end the debate over who ‘invented’ the first miniskirt. It turns out it wasn’t Mary Quant, or Andres Courreges, or John Bates, or Rudi Gernreich, or Marimekko… Although not yet called ‘miniskirts’, the earliest above-the knee dresses date from the spring of 1960. The photograph at left dated June 3, 1960 pictures Annalisa Posen (then known as Alice Honzal) wearing the girlishly short hemmed skirt with fellow model Cynthia Doucette. Annalisa recalled in an email conversation that it was her first modelling job in Canada, and that later that day they appeared on a Toronto television show, modelling the above-the-knee styles.

A quote about the history of miniskirts on wikipedia references a May 28, 1960 article from the Montreal Gazette that cites the origin of the short style coming from the manager of an unnamed shop in London’s Oxford Street who was experimenting with short skirt hemlines on window mannequins, and noted how positively his customers responded. Despite this, the style didn’t catch on, but two years later another attempt to bring in shorter skirts occurred, but this time they were called ‘Ya-ya’ skirts. The two images below dating from 1962, both from Women’s Wear Daily, refer to Ya Ya skirts:

Thanks to James Fowler for unearthing this following snippet from the Canadian fashion industry news magazine Style, that reported on July 9, 1962:

“The Ya-Ya skirt, recently launched in England, was introduced recently to the west coast by Marjorie Hamilton with traffic-stopping impact…The controversial… skirts… on a girl of average height, a Ya-Ya reaches about eight inches above the knee if worn with a crinoline. There is a six-inch hem for any length alteration required… Commenting on the Ya-Ya the other day, the curator-historian of the costume department in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum said: “This is more than a concession to the sun. This fashion emphasizes that women are seeking a matriarchal state, that they desire to grip and hold men’s attention and gain their subjection. Not since the days of bare bosoms have women been so studiedly carefree in their clothing”.” 

Speculating on the possible origin of the name ‘Ya-Ya’, there were two popular songs at the time. Lee Dorsey’s 1961 hit Ya Ya “Sittin here la la, waitin’ for my ya ya – a-hum, a-hum….”, and the Ya-Ya Twist first recorded by Richard Anthony in 1961 and then Petula Clark in 1962. Although English, Clark often sang in French and was considered one of what the French called the ‘Yé-yé girls’ for their choruses that had a lot of ya/yeah refrains.

Before the Rainbow was gay

Rainbow patterns were popular in fashion during the 1970s, before Gilbert Baker adapted the motif in 1978 for a rainbow flag to represent the diversity of the gay community. San Francisco’s first openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk, used the flag as a symbol for that year’s Pride Parade (called Gay Freedom Day at the time). On November 27 1978, the assassination of Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone propelled the flag into a symbol of the LGBT movement. Gilbert Baker passed away March 31, 2017 at his home in New York City, He was 65 years old.

The Squaw Dress

The term ‘Squaw dress’ is used to describe a two-piece dress with an aesthetic borrowed from the Southwest Apache, Navajo and Pueblo Native cultures that stretch between Tucson, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Similar styles known as Fiesta dresses borrowed styling from further south, in Mexico. The rickrack trimmed tiered skirt style of a squaw dress was also known as a “broomstick skirt,” because the fabric was wrapped around a broomstick to create creases.

The style was originally a regional style of dress that became defined in the late 1940s, but as they were sold through department stores across the U.S. the style exploded in popularity in the 1950s, only losing popularity when the fashion for full skirts fell from favour in the mid 1960s. Some of the earliest makers of these dresses include Tucson’s Dolores Gonzales, Cele Peterson, George Fine, and Lloyd Kiva New, but it was Albuquerque’s Jeanette Pave that was probably the most prolific manufacturer. Polish born Henry Pave and his wife Jeanette opened a store in Albuquerque in 1945. Between 1950 and 1968 Jeanette manufactured and distributed a line of squaw dresses sold under the label ‘Jeanette’s Originals’.

The term ‘squaw dress’ makes some people shudder at the thought of its political incorrectness, however, there has been no conclusive word from the Native community as to whether the term is considered offensive or not. Historically, the word comes from the Algonquian Native dialect and was used to simply denote female gender, the way the word ‘she’ is used in English. However, because it has also been used derisively, some indigenous women and politically correct watchdogs consider the word disrespectful. However, squaw is an acceptable word to many indigenous women when spoken with respect.

Fashion Faux Pas – 2002

Fashion reached a new low 15 years ago when there was a hooker chic look consisting of overly tight everything with overly pointy-toed boots, laced up tops, low rise bell bottom jeans and micro minis or hot pants that looked like wide belts. Added to this was a dash of ripped up punk and a heap of boho hippy fringe with frosted, fried, hair and asymmetrical hems. Don’t forget to pile on some velour sweats and wear  underwear as outwear… Let us pray to the fashion gods 2002 is NEVER REVIVED.

Wit Knits

I am stealing these images from Messy Nessy Chic because they are too good not to! These illustrations come from a 1986 English knitting book entitled Wit Knits – and modelled by British celebrities (at the time) including Joanna Lumley:

1935 Cocktail Hour ideas…

Great film showing the latest in cocktail fashions (clothes and cocktails). The soundtrack is lost, but the original script survives:

“Tricky new styles and ideas in cocktail accessories are being shown here at the National Wine and Liquor Show in the Hotel Stevens.

The latest in cocktail attire, too. Even the canapes are blossoming out in new designs and flavours. Step up and pick your own! But don’t forget to keep a strict count of them, sister.

And now how’s this! Cocktail mittens! For warding off that cocktail shaker chill.

And how about this portable bar for the beach next summer! The 1935 growler! Another good reason for lolling on the sands. If you neen any more! Well, here’s sand in your eye!

Ah! The spirit of champagne! Up to her neck in bubbles!”

Trompe l’oeil…

Apparently I like trompe-l’oeil, I seem to copy images to my photo bank when I find them:

Added July 18: Gucci just did a collection for S/S 2016 that uses Tromp l’oeil:

Bloomerism in Corning New York, 1851

photo 10This past summer we visited the Corning Glass Museum (well worth the visit), where Kenn took a photo of an 1851 painting in their collection depicting the earliest known view of Corning, before the glassworks were built.

photo 8The view of the town depicts a couple taking a stroll with the woman dressed in a Bloomer costume: an outfit named for Amelia Bloomer consisting of loose fitting ‘harem’ trousers, like those worn by women in the Middle East and Central Asia, under a short skirt.

The weight of multiple petticoats required to achieve the full skirt fashionable at the time caused editor Amelia Bloomer to advocate for dress reform in her publication The Lily: “The costume of women should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once to her health, comfort, and usefulness; and, while it should not fail also to conduce to her personal adornment, it should make that end of secondary importance.”

Bloomer was not the first to adopt the bifurcated costume. Both New England temperance activist Elizabeth Smith Miller and actress Fanny Kemble began wearing what they considered to be the more rational trouser costume during the day. Miller showed her trouser outfit to her cousin Elizabeth Stanton who wore one when she visited Amelia Bloomer. Bloomer immediately took up the fashion and it was her name that became associated with the style. Subjected to ridicule in the press and harassment on the street, Bloomer stopped wearing the fashion named for her in 1859, saying (surprisingly) that the crinoline was a sufficient reform from conventional dress as the crinoline took the place of multiple petticoats.

The bloomer costume survived in the form of bathing and gymnastic sportswear, as well as another name for pantaloons or knickers.