Few sartorial styles evoke an image of elegance and grace quite as much as the full midi skirt. Think Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, her waspish waist exaggerated by her full, swinging midi as she wanders wilfully around the ancient city; Grace Kelly in To Catch A Thief, resplendent in a fluid, swishing number in coral, surveying the Côte d’Azur as she picnics with Cary Grant.
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It was Christian Dior that made the style de rigeur when he unveiled it as a trademark of his 1947 ‘Corolle’ and ‘En Huit’ collections, which would become better known as the ‘New Look’. The voluptuous, fabric-heavy skirts that fell mid-calf captured the hearts of post-war women thirsty for designs that did more than fulfil ration stipulations.
A model wearing ‘Le tailleur Bar’ from Christian Dior’s 1947 ‘New Look’ collection. Photo: Association Willy Maywald/Adagp, Paris 2015
Usurped by the more liberal mini skirt in the Sixties, it made a controversial, and somewhat unsuccessful, comeback in 1970 when John Burr Fairchild, head of Fairchild Publications, declared it ‘the year of the midi’. Protestations from women’s groups ensued, claiming that the abandonment of the mini for the midi by the fashion market was a way of stifling female progression.
Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Photo: Rex
Nevertheless, it is the silhouette evoked by the mention of Dior’s ground-breaking ‘New Look’ that serves the style best. Its ability to minimise the waist and adjust to any occasion or season, like all good classics, is unrivalled.
In winter, formed of wool, it is best paired with a fine knit neatly tucked in on top; in summer, in lighter chiffon or cotton, wear it with a plain shirt or camisole.
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