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Maxi skirt a summer classic
Long skirts are a summer classic. Picture: Rob Duncan/The West Australian

Many observers of fashion have pondered why skirts get longer as the weather gets warmer.

Some say it’s because of the cooling effect they can have on the legs when the skirt is lightly lifted by the wind. Others suspect it has something to do with bad economic times, which are said to have an effect on skirt length.

Some women say they feel sexy in a long skirt because of the way the movement of the material tends to emphasise the sway of their hips.

While the 1960s brought us the miniskirt, the ’70s produced the maxi. Long skirts have gone in and out of fashion since then.

"The current style is an elegant adaptation of playful hippie chic," said fashion consultant Andreas Rose.

Maxi skirts are being combined with T-shirts, college jackets and large purses. One very popular and classy variation is a skirt that reaches the floor and includes pleats in see-through fabric.

Personal shopper Silke Gerloff warns her customers about selecting a long skirt because they tend to sit low on the hips.

"They should be strictly combined with the right top otherwise they look too sweet or conservative," said Gerloff.

The shape women should aim for is that of an hourglass.

"The skirt should be cut to fit at the waist and fall gently following the tailoring of the fabric," said Rose.

The top should also be fitted - a short-sleeve blouse that has a fitted bodice, for example. A fuller blouse can be worn with a skirt that is straight, said shopping consultant Simone Piskol.

The German label Marc O’Polo has the straight maxi skirt in its current collection that is combined with a full blouse, while the label Mango has a pleated skirt with a casual full shirt. The Italian label United Colours of Benetton has a hippie skirt in green plaid combined with an orange blouse.

The trendiest combination is a long skirt with a short-sleeved top. Piskol said the top should extend no longer than mid-bottom. Women who are very thin can wear a short top that ends at the hips to emphasise their waist. Longer tops can be gathered at the waist or hips with a belt, preferably a wide one, to achieve the hourglass look.

An alternative is seen in the Minx line, which features a red skirt worn with a long white shirt. The hourglass shape is created by a vest worn over the shirt that is drawn in at the waist.

"Long skirts with their accentuated waistlines work well on both thin and fuller figures. Problem zones at the hips and upper thighs are cleverly concealed by the flow of the fabric," said Rose.

Piskol added that maxi skirts are as interesting for miniskirt-wearing young girls as they are for older women, who prefer longer skirts.

An elastic waistband has advantages and disadvantages for full-figured women. While it stretches to fit any figure, it also requires more material and therefore can look unflattering because the fabric bunches up. Piskol advises against elastic waistbands especially when the top is cut to fit the torso and gathered at the waist.

There are some other rules of thumb regarding height that women should know. To look good in a long skirt, a certain height is necessary. Gerloff advises women who are taller than 1.7m not to wear a skirt down to the ankle or the floor. Women who are short should select a maxi skirt with a slit.

Piskol said a maxi works best on women who are at least 1.65 metres. She suggests shorter women are better off selecting skirts that fall to the calf and she said slender women should wear skirts to the knee.

Designers are combining the skirts with flat shoes such as ballerinas or Roman sandals. Piskol, however, considers these types of shoes less than optimal especially for women who have a few extra kilos.

"Higher shoes make the way a woman walks look graceful and force her to tighten the stomach muscles and hold her body straighter. This can fudge away a few kilograms," said Piskol.

She recommends shoes with a heel that is 4-6cm high.