Bi-level mullet styles may be having their highest-profile moment since 1992. That year, singer Billy Ray Cyrus's "business in the front, party in the back" hairstyle was as well-known as his hit song "Achy Breaky Heart." Actress Geena Davis won a permanent place on "worst Oscar dress" lists with the ruffled, bi-level dress she wore to the Academy Awards that year. And model Stephanie Seymour wore a mullet wedding gown in the "November Rain" video by Guns N' Roses.
Mullet hairstyles are still cringe-worthy but, for the past couple of years, mullet dresses have been been making a comeback on fashion show runways. In February 2010, designer Zang Toi showed a regal purple gown with a hemline that was mini in the front and maxi in the back. Sarah Burton, designing for the Alexander McQueen label, showed a Stephanie Seymour-worthy version later that year. Actress January Jones was panned for the blue Versace mullet gown she wore to the Emmys in 2010, but she was ahead of her time. I always say, "Never is the next new thing," meaning that if a fashion makes people say, "I'll never wear it," it's probably interesting enough to become a full-fledged trend once the eye adjusts. Sometimes a new name helps. Actress Katie Holmes was mocked for wearing "pegged" or "rolled-up baggy jeans" in 2008, but when manufacturers started selling the style as "boyfriend" jeans, the look flew off the shelf.
Some designers and stores are calling mullet dresses "high/low hemlines" or "fishtail dresses," and, sure enough, this year, celebrities have brought the renamed mullet to the red carpet in a big way. Singer Rihanna wore a floral Dior to the Grammys in February. Later that month, actress Emma Stone wore a 2009 Chanel Couture fishtail gown to Vanity Fair's Oscar party. In March, actress Teresa Palmer wore Cushnie et Ochs for the Paris premiere of the movie I Am Number Four. High/low hemlines also appeared at two of the biggest fashion-industry events. True Grit's teenage star Hailee Steinfeld wore Stella McCartney to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute ball in May, while Lady Gaga wore a high/low Thierry Mugler to the CFDA Fashion Awards in June.
Now mullets have made the leap from red carpet to mainstream. Tails are showing up on jackets and tops, but high/low dresses and skirts -- by labels including Funktional, Ella Moss, Aqua and Patterson J. Kincaid -- are the hot look for summer. What's not to like? A high/low hemline is less overwhelming than a maxi, let's you catch a breeze and shows off your shoes. These fashion bloggers are all fans of the high/low hem.