Lightweight and luxurious, the full-length maxi skirt is once again being embraced by women everywhere.
“What I love about maxi skirts is that they elongate the silhouette,” remarks Karine Tawil, the Lebanese designer behind womenswear label Karoline Lang. “There is nothing more feminine than a dress and nothing more appealing than a woman in touch with her femininity.” Long gone are connotations that a full-length skirt is dowdy or shapeless. As seen on the SS19 runways, they’re formal, sporty, modest, and, depending on your intention, will even offer a feminist statement. In 2019, a floor-length piece is as much an expression of freedom and emancipation as the mini was in the 1960s. Historically, the evolution of the skirt’s hemline has always mirrored the changing times. Women have shown varying expanses of skin depending on the decade in which they came of age. After a brief lifting of hemlines in the time of the flapper, the economically challenging 30s and 40s saw calf and knee-length skirts, made from inexpensive fabrics, become the norm. By 1947, the rationing of the second world war had ended and when Christian Dior unveiled his New Look, there was an enthusiastic return to the frivolity of fashion.
Waists were accentuated and there was no stinting on material. Shapes were feminine and powerful. Come the Fifties, that power had translated into playful circle skirts with layer upon layer of petticoats as well as their counterpart: the figure-hugging pencil cut. But perhaps the most revolutionary era was the late 1960s. Alongside the rise of the teenager, rock‘n’roll, and a mood of rebellion, hemlines were shorter than ever before, thanks to the now iconic Mary Quant mini. Fashion never looked back. Even with the arrival of rah-rah skirts in the 1980s, the preppy plaid of Clueless in the 90s and the ultra-low-rise skirts of the early 2000s, in the West, each and every one of these hemlines was well above the knee. And while short skirts are here to stay, they have been pushed to the back corners of wardrobes.
Change is afoot, not only in the ateliers of designer labels, but in the mindset of women all over the world. Maxi styles are now a staple for any season, with social media playing a significant role in influencing trends. Pippa Vosper, Notting Hill boutique owner and fashion consultant, agrees. “With so many wearing maxi styles, it naturally has an impact on what others seek out when deciding their own looks,” she says, adding, “I have always loved longer skirts and dresses. The movement and silhouette they create are far more elegant than shorter styles.” The recent popularity of the midi has helped speed up a shift towards a more modest approach to dressing. Whether it’s for cultural reasons, a desire for comfort, a push-back to the over sexualisation of style, or just an aesthetic inclination, women are finding ways to make covering up cool.
Certainly, there’s something in the way a maxi moves that’s endlessly appealing. All that fabric flows so pleasingly around the ankles, creating its own drama as the wearer strides by. “For me, it’s the draping, the movement,” says Dubai-based Saudi designer Daneh Buahmad. “It’s about comfortable elegance and the way the garment falls.” It’s a look she has regularly incorporated into her collections since launching her label in 2011. “I’m generous with fabrics in my designs,” she explains. “Many of my pieces can be worn to the office or to evening events. I think that’s the beauty of full-length pieces.” This summer, Kenzo shows us how to take the pleated version to the office; Elie Saab and Christian Dior prove the maxi skirt’s worth as a red carpet staple; while Coach lends it urban edge. For those with a bohemian bent, there’s limitless inspiration to be found in the gypsy romance on offer from Johanna Ortiz, Alexander McQueen, and Loewe.
However way you work it, a maxi skirt is the most graceful way to update your look this season and with labels like Gabriela Hearst and Rodarte keeping fabrics elongated for FW19, it’s an investment that won’t lose value when the calendar flips to September 1. Let your love affair with all things full length begin – or continue – and revel in a style foremost about the woman wearing it, rather than those who gaze upon her.
Originally published in the June 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia