A Lengthy History: The Rise and Fall of Women’s Hemlines


Stroll through any metropolitan area, and take a look at what people are wearing. Chances are good you’ll see a variety of hemline lengths that range from micro-mini retro style to mid calf business attire to uber-modest skirts that span to the floor.

Ups and downs of fashion

Women’s hemlines have risen and fallen numerous times over recent years. Dress lengths were not always so variable, however. For many centuries, ladies’ garments came in two lengths: long and longer. It wasn’t until around the start of World War I that women cast off Victorian restrictions and dress hems began to ease upward. In 1915, a mid-calf “wartime crinoline” skirt was popularized as practical for women who were entering the workforce and supporting the American war effort. In the wake of WWI, skirt lengths eased upward even further, until standard skirt hems were 12 to 15 inches above the floor by the early 1920s. At this time, politicians, religious leaders and outraged college presidents railed against the supposed moral disruption fomented by such outrageous skirt lengths, explains LoveToKnow magazine.

In the 1920s, “flapper” dresses soared high enough to show off pretty knees of fashionable young women and were considered quite daring for their time. Mary Jane shoes, long, long strands of pearls and finger-waved bob hairdos were “the bee’s knees” and “the cat’s pajamas,” too.

And then, the crash

Shortly before the lighthearted and short-skirted as The Roaring Twenties ended, the 1930s began with a horrible thud. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 sent bank accounts plummeting, and hemlines, as well. Merry times were over, and modesty became the fashion of the day. Hemlines went low, but not as low as the ground. The sole exception was elegant evening wear, which remained as floor-sweeping as it ever was, notes the Women’s History Network.

Fortunately, the era also ushered in the dawn of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and film stars such as Jean Harlow, Bette Davis, and Greta Garbo kept some modicum of glamor and fashion in the public eye.

In the mid-1940s, hemlines made a new and dramatic change and again, the change was coincidental to world war. After WWII, a French fashion designer by the name of Christian Dior helped Paris reemerge as the couture capital of the globe. Dior’s “New Look” revived the fashion industry in Europe and abroad and more or less dictated how high or low ladies’ hemlines would be in any given season.

Freewheeling 1960s and beyond

The 50s were more of the same, but when the 1960s came, everything about modern fashion changed. Gone were the days when couture fashion houses dictated what was or was not in vogue.

Mary Quant and other young designers raised hemlines sky-high and the world was delighted. Of course, not all women want to wear a revealing miniskirt. That’s why every woman should know about the cute dress extenders at Lacistreet. Add a touch of flirtatious modesty to any too-short hemline with an easy-to-wear lacy extender.

Today, you can wear anything you wish and nobody thinks twice. Dare to show your fashion flair and always, always be true to your own tastes.

About Heather Jones

I'm just a wife and mom of two boys trying to find her place in this world. I enjoy walks around the lake, bible journaling, and RV camping with my family.

Heartfully Heather


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Heather Jones

I'm just a wife and mom of two boys trying to find her place in this world. I enjoy walks around the lake, bible journaling, and RV camping with my family.

9 thoughts on “A Lengthy History: The Rise and Fall of Women’s Hemlines

  1. This was so wonderfully written! I have noticed a lot of different hemline lengths, and it’s funny because I was just talking about this today! I was wearing a knee-length dress, I saw a girl wearing a mini-skirt, and another lady wearing a floor-length skirt. Fashion can be so interesting sometimes!

    Jasmine / http://www.jasminekeclipse.com

  2. I’ve never tried a skirt extender before. It sounds pretty cool and cuts down on the cost of having to purchase additional clothes. I like that it can also help give you 2 different looks. 🙂

  3. I don’t usually wear skirts but if I have to I wear either a mini or a below the knee with a slit. I am not comfortable with a long skirt especially when I travel or have to walk long distance.

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