“Phwoar! Schoolgirls in short skirts!” says stain remover

Never one to shy away from the big issues, the Daily Mail recently ran a shocking exposé on the migrating hemline of the British schoolgirl:

From mini to micro: Schoolgirls’ skirts are shorter than ever at an average of six inches above the knee… and two thirds of parents say they don’t argue about hemline height

Schoolgirls’ skirts are shorter than ever, according to a national survey of 1,500 mothers.

Hemlines have crept up three inches in the last five years and are now six inches above the knee on average, compared with three inches in 2008.

Schools have become more relaxed about skirt lengths, and so have mothers, according to research.

Source: Daily Mail, 25th September 2013

Of course, when I say they’re never one to shy away from the big issues, I specifically mean the big issues that allow them to print photographs of celebrity schoolgirls and hint at nascent sexuality in a way that would be creepy if done by a middle aged stranger on public transport but apparently is entirely legitimate practice for a national newspaper.

Is this story true? Broadly, probably – but I’m fairly confident the stat that hemlines have raised by three inches in the last 5 years is almost entirely fabricated. I’d love to see the data (the research methodology I mean – I’m not proposing I get sent on a fact-finding mission to perv on the hemlines of underage girls. I don’t work for the Daily Mail, after all).

As the story, makes clear, the figures come not from a year-on-year measuring of trends, but on an opinion poll carried out amongst mothers. Even if it were the result of two opinion polls – one in 2008, and one recently – we’d have a slightly more reliable result. Instead, the article details only the length mothers think their daughter’s school skirts used to be.

Of course it’s worth asking for a moment – of the mothers of rebellious teen girls in 2013, how many had rebellious teen girls of a similar age in 2008? Or are we asking mothers of 16-year-old girls to guess at the skirt length of 16-year-olds five years ago? Or, worse, to recall the length of the skirts their daughters wore at the age of 11? 

Still, all of this commentary is secondary to the real purpose of the article – to promote the company who paid for the ‘research’:

‘The popular school mini-skirt is fast becoming the school micro-skirt,’ said Susan Fermor, a spokesman for Dr Beckmann, which conducted the research.

‘School uniform tends to follow fashion to a degree but seems much slower to catch up than other forms of clothes. But short school skirts never seem to go out of style.

‘Schoolgirls don’t seem to the rules stop them – they just hitch up their waistband once they leave home in the morning

For those not aware, Dr Beckmann is the name of a brand of stain remover. If that doesn’t tip you over the edge of creepy, I don’t know what will.