Curious 60s fashion fads: the ankle-length hemline

Pattie Boyd (with The Rolling Stones) in Mary Quant’s Little Miss Muffet dress, 1964

Fashion in the 1960s was pretty fast paced, especially so amongst the mod crowd which, in the early part of the decade, dictated fads that often only lasted a matter of days. As you would expect, these mod trends tended to focus on the little details and, aside from the more well-known examples, I imagine many have now been forgotten.

I’m personally really interested in the lesser-known trends, so I was pretty excited to discover a rare publication called Mod’s Monthly in which is featured an absolute gem of a column by none other than “Queen of the mods” Cathy McGowan. Cathy’s round up of what’s happening on the mod scene naturally focuses on the minutiae of mod fashion and its ever-changing moods, and it reveals some tantalising details.

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Cathy McGowan on ‘To Tell the Truth’, March 1964

In the April ’64 edition, McGowan mentions one such short-lived fad – the long skirt: “Well at long last, long skirts are on the way out. They were great though while they lasted, quite the weirdest thing on the scene for months, but sooner or later they had to go”. Coincidentally, I’d also recently seen a recording of Cathy, from March 1964, on American panel game show ‘To Tell the Truth’, on which she’s sporting a slim-fitting blouse with cutouts teamed with an ankle-length skirt and “granny shoes” (fuzzy screenshot right).

Celia Hammond and Jean Shrimpton, photographed by John French, 1964

I did a bit of digging and came across a few more examples of this short-lived fad, then realised that, of course, I’d seen it somewhere before, namely in the form of Mary Quant’s Little Miss Muffet dress, modelled beautifully by Pattie Boyd (top left) and Jean Shrimpton (left). I’m not entirely sure who started the trend – whether it was Quant or the mod girls on the street – but in his book, ‘Sixties Fashion: From Less is More to Youthquake’, Jonathan Walford says that Cathy was an advocate of Quant’s “granny hemline” and took it with her on her tour of the US in early ’64, so perhaps we have Mary to thank for it. (If you’re interested, Quant’s Little Miss Muffet was 12 inches off the floor, ending mid-calf; Cathy’s skirt – presumably also by Quant – looks slightly longer just skimming the ankle).

I also found a couple of examples of the “granny hemline” in photos from London Fashion Week, 1964, and, certainly, the couture houses were doing their own versions later that year – though, of course by this time, the mods had deemed the style well and truly “out” and had moved onto something else.

The ankle-length hemline seemed pretty unusual for the time. Of course the 60s is synonymous with rising hemlines, and by the time this curious trend had gone out of fashion in early ’64, hemlines were beginning to gradually creep up the leg.

What are your favourite unusual fashion trends from the 60s? Let me know in the comments!