I can’t remember the last time I wrote about hemlines. Which is weird, because fashion used to be all about them. It was knee-length one season, maxi the next, then a season of minis and a cameo for the micro mini, and then spin the wheel all over again. Indeed, if it wasn’t for hemlines, my job wouldn’t exist: it was the sensation caused by the New Look in 1947, when the sheer extravagance of fabric in Christian Dior’s full, calf-length skirts shocked the postwar world, inventing the idea that fashion could be news.
So, drumroll please, for a new hemline. After a solid six years of the midi, the above-the-knee skirt is back. At the Celine show in Paris and the Victoria Beckham show in London, the autumn catwalks raised the hemline bar to an inch or two above the knee.
The ABK hemline is a length that works. You can wear it with bare legs up until, well, about now-ish, and then you can wear it with tights. (The midi, by contrast, is great with bare legs, but starts to look quite cumbersome when you add in hosiery.) You can wear an ABK with a half-tucked white T-shirt, a trench and flat loafers, or you can dress it up with a silk blouse and heels. It does bourgeois with a pussy bow and pearls, and Gloria Steinem with a sweater vest and chain belt.
This hemline fell out of fashion because it came to be seen as corporate: it was professional, safe. Sort of client-facing. It got left behind as style moved towards a new way of dressing for work that felt less rigid, more expressive, more authentic. A midi – vaguely bohemian and in some hazy way less roped to outdated tropes of dolly-dressing – seemed a more “individual” choice. Which is quite lols really, considering that pretty much everyone made that same “individual” choice and stuck with it for the same six years, but still.
Everyone loves a good comeback. After so long in the style wilderness, the above-the-knee hemline can reinvent itself as the adventurous choice. After six years of rule by midiskirt it had started to feel like change would never come – but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that you never know what’s around the corner. In hemlines, at least, things are finally looking up.