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The Rise and Fall of Hemlines – What’s a 50 plus girl to do?

The Rise and Fall of Hemlines – What’s a 50 plus girl to do?
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By Mary Cowser

One of the most frequent changes we’ve seen in the history of fashion is the rise and fall of hemlines. As women over 50, we’ve adjusted the hem lengths of our closet contents repeatedly in order to remain savvy with the ever changing rules.

The first hemline rules I recall are from my teens. My friends and I had two distinct wardrobes during that point in time. They were the school wardrobe and the after-school wardrobe.

The hemline rule of our school wardrobe was that it could be no shorter than two fingers above the tops of our knees. It was a strict rule and we were frequently inspected. The teachers rarely looked at our faces. In an attempt to catch us sneaking in an extra inch of forbidden leg, their eyes constantly remained on our knees.

We quickly devised a certain stance that enabled us to pass the two finger test. It was to keep shoulders straight, sway your back a bit, and bend slightly forward at the waist. I know, you’re trying to picture this in your mind right now. Go ahead, get up and try it. After practicing the stance for a while, we could usually gain the extra inch or two we needed to pass the test. It’s funny the strange things we remember.

The after-school wardrobe was simple. The hemline length was as high as we could possibly wear it without being illegal.

One wardrobe absolutely did not intermingle with the other. After school, we wouldn’t be caught dead wearing the knee length school dresses. On the other hand, we didn’t dare wear the after-school mini dresses to school unless we wanted to be sent home to change.

History of the Hemline

Historically, hemlines sometimes dictated how a woman’s virtue was perceived. Many decades ago, the way a woman held her skirt conveyed to people whether she was naughty or nice.

Remember in the movie “Titanic” when Rose’s ankle was showing? Jack brought it to her attention because everyone was staring. The setting for that movie was in 1912. In that era, a bare ankle was absolutely obscene.

You can imagine the outrage just a few years later in the 20s, when women declared they would no longer be commanded to conceal their ankles. They boldly began wearing the flapper dress, which was up to and sometimes above the knee. All that bare leg was completely scandalous, but they stood their ground and continued to show their gams with pride.

Over the next few decades, hemlines moved up and down the leg time and time again.

The styles were constantly changing as well. The loose fitting flapper dresses changed to a more feminine and fitted style. In the 50s, the circular poodle skirt made its way onto the dance floor. In the 60s, the mini skirt came and stayed, but the maxi dress arrived on the scene in the 70s as well. In the 80s, the midi length, which is midway between the knee and ankle, made its appearance with a more sophisticated and slender silhouette.

No More Rules

In the present day fashion industry, hemline rules no longer exist. The fashions on the runway and red carpet have hemlines of every conceivable length. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to cause a scandal due to the length of your skirt.

More importantly, a quick look around a department store tells us that anything goes as far as both dress length and style. After all, that is where most of us shop. We are now at liberty to wear clothes that are tight, loose, high, low, and anywhere in between. As a person that prefers to choose her own path in any situation, that suits me perfectly.

Now that I’m over 50, I still care very much about my appearance. Well, maybe not so much before noon, but after that, I try to look nice most days. I love that I no longer have to be concerned with rules.

When I was young my motto was, “It doesn’t matter if it hurts as long as it looks good.”

Nowadays my motto is, “If it hurts, it doesn’t exist in my closet.”

As far as hemlines, I have all lengths. I even have some that are a few inches above my knees, but they’re nowhere near illegal.

The answer to where the 50 plus girl should wear her hemline is anywhere she wants.

My advice is after you finish dressing, take a look in a full length mirror. If you like what you see and it doesn’t hurt, then you’re good to go.

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