Once upon a time (2013), in a land not-so-far-away (Washington D.C., where I lived at the time), a young woman (hi) proclaimed she would never want to wear Birkenstocks, no matter how cool or trendy the zeitgeist declared them to be. A year later, I not only purchased a pair with one of my first post-graduate paychecks, but I proceeded to wear them almost every day for the entire summer.
I was reminded of this mental 180 last night, when I was flipping through the latest Fall/Winter 2019 collections on Vogue Runway and noticed evidence of a burgeoning micro-trend: ankle-grazing skirts, with hemlines that fell somewhere between midi and maxi, rendered in distinctive, structured silhouettes. I spied a denim one from Khaite, paired with a black turtleneck and black boots. Then there was a tawny leather one at Ulla Johnson, also paired with boots. And at Alexander Wang, an ankle-grazer appeared in at least a dozen looks — mostly black leather, with one python iteration thrown in for good measure — styled with (you guessed it) boots.
The length of the skirts was somewhat off-putting in a — dare I say — dowdy kind of way. But intermingled with my skepticism was the distinct feeling of déjà-vu, because as much as I was unsure of whether or not I’d actually want to wear this trend-in-the-making now, I had an inkling from past experience that in about six months’ time I’ll sing the exact opposite tune. That’s right, I’m calling it: Ankle-grazing skirts are going to be a THING.
But why ankle-grazing? And why at this current moment in the trajectory of fashion? I have a few theories, one of which occurred to me as I was observing how the skirts were styled on the runway: perhaps ankle-grazing skirts are the much-needed solution for growing fall/winter knee-high boots fatigue. I have two pairs of knee-high boots that I love in theory but can never figure out how to wear in practice. I try them on with jeans or with a knee-length skirt and black tights and it looks fine but that’s it. Just fine. I have the acute sensation that something’s missing, some element of weirdness or quirk that — aha! — maybe ankle-grazing skirts, in all their slightly off-putting glory, could conceivably provide.
Another theory suggests this trend might be a result of the recent uptick in late 90s/early aughts style revivals. If cargo pants, low-rise bootcut jeans and diamond stud earrings (you’ll see) are having a moment in 2019, why not ankle-grazing skirts?
Finally, there is another applicable theory here — literally called Skirt Length Theory — stipulating that skirt lengths go up and down according to the economy: Skirts are shorter when the economy is bullish (i.e. the markets are going up), and skirts are longer when the economy is bearish (i.e. the markets are going down). Given the economy’s recent fluctuations, it makes sense for skirt hemlines to fall somewhere in between — an uncertain length for uncertain times.
What do you think? Am I onto something? Are you a fan of the ankle-grazer? Let’s discuss.
Runway photos via Vogue Runway.