A long summer skirt is the fastest way to get the drop on fashion. Women who are commited to short may have to make an investment; women who never gave up on long will need to make some adjustments.
Not to worry. Long is optional and not the total fashion picture for the moment, but it's always smart to take the long view.
"It may sound like a cop-out to say there are many options but it's true," says Basha Cohen, the trend spotter for Associated Merchandising Corp., which advises retailers on shifts in fashion. "Long will make total sense in two years, but not for one minute do I think short is obsolete. My mother finally shortened a year ago, to a nice respectable 23-inch length and she looks beautiful and fabulous at 60.
"But a long skirt is the one fresh addition every woman can make to her wardrobe," says Ms. Cohen, "especially the woman who wants to be in step with fashion and hasn't bought long since 1987."
Both camps should be advised that the silhouette has changed. That old gathered dirndl some women hope to resurrect will not do.
"All the long looks we're showing have a little movement, a little action, whether it's a wrap, a sarong or a flare," says Sally Jones of Jones & Jones Inc. at Cross Keys. "They're moving because it's a great look in summer. Paired with pretty flats, a long skirt eliminates the need to wear stockings. Long also looks terrific with a beautiful belt and a fine white shirt. Many of the things we show have their own tops, but this year the top is definitely smaller -- a tank, a camisole or a T-shirt." She suggests a lean cable-knit cardigan belted over a skirt as a crisper career alternative.
"The newest way to go is narrow with a deep side slit -- always something to show a little leg and allow movement," says Ms. Cohen. "Women who are used to short are not going to give up the freedom to move.
"I've pulled out some skirts from my distant past out of the closet, but I'm looking at them a different way.
"Probably the newest way to wear long depends on what I wear on my feet. Now I want a platform, or an open sandal, as opposed to the basic pump I wore eight years ago, the last time long was hot.
"Accessorizing has everything to do with it. I would put a %J body-conscious ribbed tank with long as opposed to a big, broad top which we wore then; for a dressier, look a short shaped jacket."
"They're buying long," says Linda Scherr of Rococo in Pikesville"The favorite is the buttoned skirt -- unbuttoned. The news is a long skirt that is open, slit, unbuttoned or very sheer to reveal the shape and sense of the leg."
All that leg may be fine for the few, but how about the reawomen?
"For the mature woman, who doesn't want to show a lot of leg, a few buttons left opened will put the look across," says Ms. Scherr. "The hippest way is to top a long skirt with a T-shirt worn over it and pulled in with a great belt.
"I recently returned from California and that's the way the girls on the West Coast wear long. They live in it year round and are wearing it in vintage versions. A wonderful look is to wear long with white Keds and little white ankle socks -- old-fashioned but fresh.
"I wear my own long skirt over a bathing suit at the pool. For a summer pool party, a sheer flowing skirt over a bathing suit topped with a big straw hat and finished with outrageous platforms makes for high drama."