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The Midi muscles in.
Caption from LIFE. The Midi muscles in.John Dominis—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
The Midi muscles in.
Saks Fifth Avenue sales personnel watch a fashion show as part of their indoctrination on how to foist the midi on a reluctant public.
At Bonwit's, midi-clad salesgirls learn techniques that helped the thirteen stores, in the first ten days of August, gross a million on the new line.
In the garment district warehouse of big time midi-backer Susan Thomas, one thousand medium-priced dresses hang on racks for store delivery.
Shoe salesmen see how the boot teams up with the long skirt to create the total look that fashion has decreed.
Amy Levitt of ABC's One Life to Live thinks more positively: "One thing about the midi, it's sexy."
On NBC's Today Show, midi-enthusiast interviews James Brady of Women's Wear Daily, which has been relentlessly pushing the style it calls "the longuette," and Mrs. Linda Oller, a viewer who wrote in demanding equal time to state the case against it.
Ruth Warrick and Joanna Miles play mother and daughter on ABC's All My Children. Both are midi-haters, "I have terrific legs," says Miss. Miles, "but you'd never know it." Miss Warrick calls the midi "the poor pitiful Pearl look."
Two stalwarts in the movie world are caught up with the midi ruckus. Doris Day loves the look. She wore is first last summer on the Merv Griffin Show, where the warm response—especially from men—calmed her doubts. When the Doris Day Show resumes in the fall on CBS, she will wear only midis and pants.
Midi fashion, 1970.
Midi fashion, 1970.
Midi fashion, 1970.
Rock Hudson doesn't agree. He sits on the MGM lot surrounded by the eight midiskirted starlets who will appear with him in the upcoming movie Pretty Maids All in a Row. Of midi's, Rock says, "Yechh!"
Caption from LIFE. The Midi muscles in.
John Dominis—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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How One of Today's Top Trends Caused a 1970s Fashion War

Oct 28, 2015

“Farewell to knees and maybe even calves if the anti-mini forces have their way,” LIFE declared in August 1970, as a new wave of more modest clothing styles paraded down runways. Department store buyers were swiftly replacing racks of mini skirts with new shipments of midi skirts, praying for the look to catch on with what the magazine called “a reluctant public.”

Now that midi skirts, suede and fringe have all risen from the ashes of 1970s fashion and cycled back into vogue, it's easy to forget that today’s longer hemlines were once fraught with discord. As the 1960s gave way to the '70s, the debate over skirt length was significant enough that LIFE published not one, but two cover stories detailing the antagonism between stalwarts of shorter ‘60s looks and adherents of the new mid-calf regime.

The trend was ordered by Women’s Wear Daily, which LIFE called a “sacred mouthpiece” of the New York fashion world. High-minded designers weighed in on the future of the mini as well as the midi's chances of replacing it as the go-to style. Coco Chanel condemned miniskirts as “an exhibition of meat.” Valentino hailed the midi as “a return to elegance after so many years of bad taste.” Givenchy sought a compromise: “I have always lingered around the knee.”

But the real push behind the dubious trend came from the business side of the fashion world—department store buyers, advertising producers and Hollywood costumers who had invested too much in the midi to retreat. They promoted the long look through ubiquitous advertising and pushy saleswomen, many of whom were required to wear the look, if grudgingly, to work.

As for consumers, LIFE reported that the majority—including “all males over 12 (especially husbands)” and “the girls for whom it was really made”—found the style a dowdy, unflattering departure from the leggy looks of the 1960s. Indeed, the trend would wear out by mid-decade, as many women turned to a look that allowed them to abstain from weighing in on the hemline debate altogether: pants.

LIFE Magazine 

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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