IThere is a “hem theory”. Built across the Atlantic in 1926, it establishes a correlation between the economic situation and the length of skirts. Hypothesis verified during the crisis of 1929: while women had begun to reveal their legs in expensive silk stockings, the crash caused the hem to drop to floor level. Subsequently, post-war growth saw the advent of the miniskirt, then the oil crisis goes hand in hand with the long hippie petticoats.
The denim skirt, for its part, has less to do with the recession than with a form of decline: in the 1970s, young people had the idea of transforming their old jeans into a skirt by opening the crotch and inserting pieces of denim or any other fabric, front and back. Before fast fashion imposed itself, it was a matter of mending to the end, of making something new with something old. Actions of which the long denim skirt – even produced in an industrialized way – sometimes retains the stigmata: fringes, unstructured cuts highlighted by topstitching.
Cowgirls before hippies
In the United States, before the hippies were the cowgirls. Turned author, one of them, Agnes Morley Cleaveland, describes as a major step in her emancipation the abandonment, in the mid-1890s, of the side saddle reserved for women and the change to a wide denim petticoat, worn over trousers of the same material.
In the following century, if the short denim skirt left the ranch, the long one remained linked to the imagination of the South of the United States. Queen of country, Dolly Parton is a tutelary figure reconciling holy water frogs and drag queens, and wears sequined tops and denim in an ecumenical approach. A doll bearing her likeness marketed in 1978 depicts her wearing a western shirt and an asymmetrical faded denim skirt reaching mid-calf.
Her notoriety then goes far beyond the world of country music and Dolly Parton tries her hand at an acting career. In the movie 9 to 5 (how to get rid of your boss), she forms alongside Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin a happy trio of employees who decide to take revenge on their boss. “sexist, selfish, liar, hypocrite and bigot”.
Likeable turnip, the film is inspired by a protest movement launched in 1974 by Boston secretaries demanding better pay and a change in behavior from their employers with the slogan “Raises not roses” (“increases, not roses”).
Fifty years later, Dolly Parton is still releasing albums, the latest of which, Run, Rose, Run, contains a single titled Big Dreams and Faded Jeans (“Immense dreams, faded jeans”). As for the 9 to 5 movement, launched in Boston, it has turned into a national association fighting against the precariousness of women and for equal pay. The opportunity to recall that, if they allegedly see their skirts lengthen in times of recession, they are also and above all the most affected by the crisis.