So, it turns out that the miniskirt wasn't ‘invented’ by Mary Quant, or Andres Courreges, or John Bates, or Rudi Gernreich, or Marimekko… Although not yet called ‘miniskirts’, the first above-the knee dresses date from the spring of 1960.
This photograph is dated June 3, 1960 and shows models Cynthia Doucette and Annalisa Posen (then known as Alice Honzal) wearing the girlishly short hemmed skirts. I wrote Annalisa, and in an email conversation she told me this photo was her first modelling job in Canada, and that later that day she and Cynthia appeared on a Toronto television show, modelling these revolutionary 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 hemlines coming from the manager of an unnamed shop in London’s Oxford Street. He was experimenting with short hemlines on window mannequins and noted how positively his customers responded. Despite the intriguing debut however, the style didn’t catch on. However, two years later another attempt to bring in short skirts occurred and this time they were called ‘Ya-ya’ skirts.
Ya Ya Skirts: Two left images from Women’s Wear Daily, 1962, and far right image from Canadian fashion industry news magazine Style, July 9, 1962 which reports:
“The Ya-Ya skirt... launched in England, was introduced recently to the west coast by Marjorie Hamilton with traffic-stopping impact…The controversial… skirts… reaches about eight inches above the knee if worn with a crinoline… 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 song with the lyrics “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 ya' refrains.