The Evolution Of… The Schoolgirl Skirt


Ever wonder how your favorite trends or pieces of clothing came to be? Well, so do we, and we’re here to enlighten you! We got a little help from Fashion Institute of Technology’s library and professor Daniel J. Cole who is writing a fashion history book of his own to navigate a trend that was so popular on the Fall 2010 runways, as well as in decades past: The schoolgirl skirt.

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Schoolgirl look first emerged ladies paired pleated skirts with sailor-style blouses.

1930s and 1940s: Hemlines shortened around the time of World War II, as skirts became both more fashionable and more functional. Fun fact: The term “hemline” was coined in the 1930s.

1950s: This decade brought about the stereotype of the “Catholic schoolgirl,” since the ’50s were a period of strict family values and dress codes were often enforced.

1960s: The schoolgirl look as a fashion statement was a product of the ’60s, possibly due to the “mod” look that evoked a new interest in skirts. The classic Scottish tartan plaid also became very popular around this period. London-based fashion designer Mary Quant is credited with the creation of the miniskirt, one of the defining looks of the decade.

1970s: The early ’70s spawned the “punk” movement, and much of the clothing worn by punks was meant to be ironic and against mainstream trends. Designers like Vivienne Westwood took traditional elements like pleating and tartan fabric and created clothing in interesting, subversive shapes. Debbie Harry was known to rock a plaid miniskirt like no one else during that time.

1980s: The trend faced a bit of a lull in this decade, characterized by big hair, new wave, Flashdance and Miami Vice aside from brief cameos in movies like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Heathers. But no worries folks, it comes back with a vengeance in the ’90s.

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The plaid skirt was a fundamental piece of 90s pop culture. It will forever be immortalized through the 1995 characters of Cher (Alicia Silverstone) in Clueless and Corey (Liv Tyler) in Empire Records. It resurfaced at the end of the decade when Britney Spears portrayed a naughty schoolgirl in her 1998 video for Baby One More Time. And around town on Paris Hilton.

2000s: Aside from glorious appearances on Gossip Girl, the schoolgirl skirt had a huge moment this past fall, turning up in runway looks from Proenza Schouler, Miu Miu and Alexander Wang.

So there you have it! I doubt anyone can remember a time before these wardrobe staples were in fashion, and even though they dissappear for a while every now and then, these examples from the past few decades prove they’ve got serious staying power. And in the off years, there are two things to remember: One, they’re huge in Japan, and two, they don’t have to rot away in your closet a sexy schoolgirl costume for Halloween is always an admirable option.

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