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FOCUS ON THE MIDRIFF Longer-length skirts need leaner bodice

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Don't make the mistake of thinking longer skirts will hide a multitude of sins. The new shapes require a polished leg and taut midriff -- or the illusion of same. If you are thinking along longer lines,here are some points to consider:

* The news may be the length, but the focus is on the midriff. A gathered waist will add bulk to the slimmest bodies. Look for skirts with a clean hip line -- stitched pleats on a pleated skirt,a smooth yoke on a full skirt,a bias cut that caresses the hip.

* The fuller the skirt the leaner the bodice should be. Think about a top as spare as a dancer's leotard paired with a circle skirt that nearly brushes the ankle. A good rule is never to mix a full skirt with a top that has shoulder pads. The big square-shouldered camp shirt has had it. Rip out the shoulder pads and wear it for at-home chores.

* A very narrow tailored skirt needs an important belt and a blouse of substance to keep it from looking dowdy.

* A full skirt looks equally graceful with a flat or a strippy sandal with a heel. A narrow skirt looks best with some heel to keep the body from looking bottom-heavy.

* Structured belts look and feel heavy in the summer. Consider wrapping the waist in a pretty cotton scarf,a woven ribbon or some light chains.

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