Not currently on display at the V&A

Mini-Dress

1967 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Barbara Hulanicki and her husband John Fitz Simon set up Biba in 1963 as a mail order boutique. The success of their affordable, youthful designs enabled them to open a small shop in Kensington the following year. They attracted glamorous pop stars, bohemian aristocrats and impoverished students alike. In April 1966, the American news magazine Time published a special edition celebrating ‘London: The Swinging City’. It named Biba as ‘the most in shop for gear’

The label was famous for murky colour palettes, but they also produced some strikingly colourful garments. Purple was a typical Biba colour, but when combined with a vibrant yellow zig-zagging print and a short flirty skirt, the effect is dramatic. In the 1960s, Biba clothing featured some of the shortest miniskirts available, focusing attention on the wearers's legs. Their reputation for micro-minis started almost by accident following a shipment of jersey skirts in 1966. Barbara Hulanicki, the designer, recollected in her autobiography, A to Biba:

'The skirts were only 10 inches long. God, I thought, we'll go bust - we'll never be able to sell them. I couldn't sleep, but that little fluted skirt walked out on customers as fast as we could get it onto the hatstands.'
read An introduction to 1960s fashion Marked by sweeping social change, the 1960s is a decade that still holds a special significance, seeing traditional hierarchies begin to dissolve and make way for the birth of the modern age.
object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Printed cotton
Brief Description
Short mini-dress in printed cotton, designed by Biba, London, 1967
Physical Description
Short minidress in crisp cotton fabric, printed with a purple and yellow zig-zag pattern. Full gathered miniskirt, fitted bodice with a 'V' neckline, and high cut armholes with slightly bloused sleeves.
Dimensions
  • Height: 79.5cm
  • Width: 62.5cm
  • Width: 38cm (Note: Shoulder to shoulder width)
Production typeReady to wear
Credit line
Given by Mrs Frances Hinchcliffe
Object history
Pre-1968 Biba is notable for its brighter colour palette. Although Biba was using the pit-dye method to colour cotton and flannel garments into a wide colour spectrum, the colours tended to be sludgy. There are several examples of brightly coloured cotton garments with swirling and abstract patterns produced by Biba, very much in keeping with the psychedelic trend of 1967.



Commentary provided by Angela Smith, Biba researcher and scholar, 01/06/2016
Historical context
In her book From A to Biba Hulanicki provides an alternative explanation for the invention of the mini skirt. Soon after Biba opened on Kensington Church Street in 1966, she received a delivery of skirts made out of stretchy jersey fabric which had shrunk dramatically between leaving the manufacturer's and arriving at her shop:



'... I nearly had a heart attack. The skirts were only 10 inches long. God, I thought, we'll go bust - we'll never be able to sell them. I couldn't sleep, but that little fluted skirt walked out on customers as fast as we could get it onto the hatstands.'
Production
Reason For Production: Retail
Summary
Barbara Hulanicki and her husband John Fitz Simon set up Biba in 1963 as a mail order boutique. The success of their affordable, youthful designs enabled them to open a small shop in Kensington the following year. They attracted glamorous pop stars, bohemian aristocrats and impoverished students alike. In April 1966, the American news magazine Time published a special edition celebrating ‘London: The Swinging City’. It named Biba as ‘the most in shop for gear’



The label was famous for murky colour palettes, but they also produced some strikingly colourful garments. Purple was a typical Biba colour, but when combined with a vibrant yellow zig-zagging print and a short flirty skirt, the effect is dramatic. In the 1960s, Biba clothing featured some of the shortest miniskirts available, focusing attention on the wearers's legs. Their reputation for micro-minis started almost by accident following a shipment of jersey skirts in 1966. Barbara Hulanicki, the designer, recollected in her autobiography, A to Biba:



'The skirts were only 10 inches long. God, I thought, we'll go bust - we'll never be able to sell them. I couldn't sleep, but that little fluted skirt walked out on customers as fast as we could get it onto the hatstands.'
Collection
Accession Number
T.12-1982

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdMarch 21, 2007
Record URL