• U.S.

Fashion: The Courage of Courr

3 minute read

Tugging at hems has been a feminine wile ever since skirts got off the floor, but more and more U.S. girls are now looking for a new parlor trick. Their skirts are soaring so high that no amount of hemming and hauling could help them hide those inches above the knee. Sometimes it does not seem they are even trying. Recently imported from Paris, the short, short skirt has been gleefully adopted by the avant-garde among U.S. teen-agers and coeds as the perfect complement to patterned stockings and leather boots—usually white. From San Francisco coffeehouses to Manhattan discothèques, girls are beginning to reveal more thigh than they have stocking to cover, and American males are scrambling for the best vantage point.

The man who did most to open up the vistas of vastus lateralis is André Courrèges, 41, the brightest new star in the Paris firmament. A former disciple of Balenciaga, Courrèges (pronounced Koo-reige) set up his own shop in 1961, soon became known as the trouser king for his slim, slit-at-the-bottom slacks and his formal trouser suits. This February his pencil-thin mannequins popped out in severe white dresses cut three inches above the knee and white, mid-calf boots open at the toe. The highflying hem was born. The French Vogue and Elle devoted so much space to Courrèges that Coco Chanel took offense, threatened leading French fabric houses that if they bought ads in the magazines, she would “never buy another centimeter of cloth.” Stormed she: “They showed Courrèges and spoke about architecture—architecture? They go on and on about art and the year 2000. Stop! Who wears art?”

A balding rugby player, Courrèges took both the bouquets and brickbats in his stride, innocently denied that his main aim was to lift the skirts of the Western world. “I’m not interested in a woman’s knees. What’s important is that the rhythm and volume of the whole be right.” He insisted that customers who would be flying skirts at three-quarter mast should wear boots to boot. “Without them,” he protests, “short skirts look ridiculous.”

Ridiculous or not, knees and the lower thigh are now in the public eye. For still supple gamines who can toss off a handstand or a cartwheel, the new look will fit like an old glove. But for those who cannot resist layer cake and ice cream, Courrèges may take more courage than they’ve got.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com