After consecutive seasons showing prim and proper, below-the-knee skirts, fashion designers are unleashing the miniskirt in a big way for this spring.
Younger women in particular are expected to embrace miniskirts, minidresses and even the micro-minis — skirts so short that wearers dare not bend over. The jury is still out on how they'll go over with women who are a few years past their last frat party, but they're all over the fashion pages, and experts believe they'll make a splash.
"Miniskirts are going to be huge," said Suze Yalof Schwartz, executive fashion director of Glamour magazine. "It's a somber time, and people want to have fun. They like to change their fashion and clothes."
Miniskirts are generally defined by anything that is about six inches or more above the knee. They're not for everyone, and fashion experts warn there's a fine line between stylish and sleazy. Plus, while they're perfect for a date, they're not a smart look for working women jockeying for a promotion, she said.
"I don't recommend them for the office," Schwartz said. "Keep your pencil skirts."
Britney Set Will Go For It
Miniskirts first took off in the late 1960s when London boutique owner Mary Quant slashed hemlines and helped popularize what became known as the "mod" look. (If you've seen Austin Powers movies, you get the idea.)
At the time, miniskirts were a big deal — a symbol of the sexual revolution — and considered an expression of female empowerment not seen since the flapper days of the 1920s.
Many of the new miniskirts are retro-looking, while others are made of washed out denim, and newer materials.
While they can still be funky and stylish, miniskirts have never been as hot as they were in their initial heyday, said Leah Feldon, a fashion expert who wrote Does This Make Me Look Fat?
"They do trot them out cyclically if they want to get people into the stores," Feldon said. "I wore them in the '70s, and everyone did. But you can't work in them, you can't even bend over a file cabinet in them."
Miniskirts are a funky look for weekends or nights out, but no longer acceptable at the office.
"You're there to get a little respect and show authority and be upwardly mobile," Feldon said. "That's not what miniskirts do."
She said that the look will probably catch on with the "Britney Spears set," along with teens and 20-somethings, but most women over 30 probably won't be swayed, unless they have great legs or are tall enough to carry off the look.
"Only about 3 percent of women can wear them and look really good in them," Feldon said. Count women like Elle MacPherson and Tina Turner in that group, she said.
While short skirts were basically the uniform in the 1970s, now fashion is a lot looser and more individual.
"The good thing about fashion now is you don't have to do it," Feldon said. "You can do a look that works for you."
Shoppers Have Mixed Reactions
Macy's plans to introduce miniskirts for juniors in its spring collection, and some minis for working women.
"The miniskirts are going to be a presence. For more of the older women, it won't be micro-minis," said Deanna Williams, Macy's spokesperson. Instead, there will be INC miniskirts, modified in length so that they are suitable for the office.
"The micro-minis will be for more fashion-savvy, impulse shoppers," Williams said.
At Nordstrom in Seattle, there were a few miniskirts on the racks, and some requests for them, but there's not a major push so far, said Pamela Perret, a company spokeswoman.
Several women who had been shopping at the Macy's Herald Square store in Manhattan gave the miniskirt trend mixed reviews.
"I'm in college, and I don't really have the money to go trendy," said J'nelle Bobb-Semple, a 17-year-old student at New York University. "I like comfortable clothes, pants or long skirts."
On the other hand, Natalia Malek, a 16-year-old from Rhode Island, said she would wear miniskirts once the warmer weather hit.
"Not for the winter, but in the summer I'll wear them with sandals or sneakers," Malek said. "I don't like them if they're too short, though."
Another shopper shot them down entirely.
"Miniskirts? No," said a 40-something woman. "I don't think so."
Miniskirt Do's and Don'ts
No one wants to put an age restriction on miniskirts, but experts agree that if you wear it, at whatever age, wear it with courage.
"Miniskirts are for the very brave," Schwartz said. "They look best on younger girls, it's a youthful look. They're not great on women 40 and up."
Anyone with a pear shape should avoid them, but if they would like to embrace the trend, they should reach for the new A-line miniskirts, which are kinder on the curves, Schwartz said.
There are a host of fashion faux pas to be wary about.
Miniskirt wearers should either skip the hosiery altogether, or opt for opaque tights, Schwartz said. She also recommends wearing them with either flats or lower heels.
"Don't wear a cropped top and don't show cleavage, or you'll look like a tart,"Schwartz said.
For a downtown funky look, try pairing the skirt with a bigger over shirt and a pair of bowling shoes with socks, Feldon suggests. Another idea: Pair the miniskirt with tights that come mid calf, and maybe a pair of funky shoes.
For a sexy, dressier look, pair the mini with a low-heeled mule with a princess heel. Avoid clunky shoes which tend to throw off your proportions, Feldon said. If you are short, make sure that the miniskirt is longer than it is wide, or you will look like a postage stamp, she warns.
"Go for solids or darker colors," she advised. "Make sure you buy a fabric that doesn't ride up."