The cover story for the August 21, 1970 issue of Life, “The Midi Muscles In,” relates the controversy over the introduction of the midi skirt, a below-the-knee-cousin to the down-to-the-floor maxi skirt. Backed by designers and big department stores, the new length met push back from consumers. In fact, many fashion history books see resistance to rapidly changing skirt lengths in the 1970s as the beginning of the end for fashion by dictate from above.
Department stores tried to boost sales, which were not strong, by getting all their saleswomen to wear and promote the new style. That’s not what’s going on in this photo, a fashion show for saleswomen at Lord and Taylor. We can see by all the knees on display that the older women in the front row had not yet taken to the new style. Their facial expressions don’t look very enthusiastic, either.
“Many women, resigned to the loss of the above-the-knee-look, are taking evasive action, buying pants and pants suits, whose sale have more than doubled in a year,” the article reports. Although I can’t imagine that gray haired woman, center front, jumping into a pants suit any time soon, it is certainly in the seventies when I begin seeing photos of a lot of older women in pants.