Knee-length skirts are not likely to sweep the fashion world the waist.


Q: I am a baby boomer, born with the bumpiest, knobbiest knees on the block. For years I've hidden them under pants, waiting for longer skirts to come back. I don't mean ankle-length florals. I mean the simple below-the-knee suit skirts that most women of my generation consider dowdy.

Have longer skirts come back? Are we at last going to see women dressing as conservatively as men?

A: At some designer shows, skirt lengths took a definite plunge toward the knee. But it's not a "conservative" look. The skirts are soft, flared, gathered or pleated for movement.

New York designer Isaac Mizrahi sums it up this way: "I do skirts in different shapes and lengths for different women, their different moods and the different roles they play in their lives.

"There are skirts of all lengths, some full, some narrow. The only real news is the knee-length skirt. It looks fresh to me. I like it as a softly gathered dirndl with a high waistband.

"But that doesn't mean I expect it to sweep into fashion and that women will wear it across the board."

So there you are. I'd say hang on to your pants for at least another season.

Q: Watching a birthday tribute to Alfred Hitchcock's films, I became fascinated by the glamorous, timeless fashions. Did Hitchcock have a particular interest in fashion design? I was especially taken with the pastel green suit and backless blouse that Grace Kelly wore in "Rear Window." Where can I find that style today? I'm a size 4 and can find nothing to wear but square blazers with unprofessional miniskirts. Please help! I'd throw away my entire wardrobe if I could dress like that.

A: The legendary Hollywood designer Edith Head created the clothes for "Rear Window" and a number of other Hitchcock films.

Author Donald Spoto, who has written extensively on the life and art of Alfred Hitchcock, quotes Head as recalling Hitchcock was "extremely clinical in the preparation of the clothes the actress would wear. There was a reason for every color, every style, and he was absolutely certain about everything he settled on.

"For one scene, he saw Kelly in pale green; for another in white chiffon; for another in gold. He was really putting a dream together in the studio."

Mr. Spoto says that Hitchcock used the green suit you mention as a device to link Kelly's character to the other women in "Rear Window," who are only seen in the neighbors' windows.

As for finding similar fashions today, you're in luck. This season both glamour and color are back in style. I can't guarantee you'll find a suit quite the same as Kelly's, but there's a good chance you will find something equally pretty.

Q: My problem is my small hands and my tiny fingernails. I work behind the jewelry counter at an exclusive department store, so they are constantly on display. The way some customers stare at them makes me feel as though I am deformed. I've asked my friends in the cosmetics department what color nail polish I should wear, but everything from red to sheer looks silly. Please tell me the best nail color for tiny hands.

A: Jessica, the Los Angeles manicure specialist who has done the nails of several first ladies and looks after a number of other celebrity fingertips, says color alone is not the solution to your problem.

"Nail shape is equally important," she says. "All nails must be the same length, and for tiny hands an oval or round shape is best. Keep nails at a medium length, and they will help elongate your fingers."

In choosing a color, Jessica says, find the shades that flatter your skin tone. Cool pink, alabaster or a sheer with just a glimmer of white are possible pales. With reds there are three possibilities -- a true red, a coral or a deep rose. "Since you are so unhappy about your nails, invest in a weekly manicure. That will make you feel much more comfortable when your hands are on display."

Q: I prefer stockings or pantyhose and -- though this may seem a little out of the ordinary -- I like open-bottom pull-on girdles like the ones worn during the 1950s.

I can get them in pink, but I also need them in black. When I tried to dye them, the artificial fibers made them turn a funny gray color.

Can I order them by mail in black? Or do you have another suggestion for a foundation garment that is similar and easier to find?

A: A company called Bodyslimmers, in New York, will probably have what you want. It makes girdles to wear under body-hugging knits, low-back garments and plunging necklines. The fabrics come in firm, medium and light control. All three strengths come in black. You can even get medium in silver, chocolate and navy. Call (800) 426-SLIP.

Q: My new boyfriend is really into trying out restaurants. Whatever the trendiest spot, that's where he wants to be. My problem is that he expects me to be dressed up when I go with him. He says that otherwise we won't get a good table. I don't have the money to start a new wardrobe, so I've decided to buy jewelry to make the clothes I have more interesting.

What should I buy?

A: I'd say big, important pieces. If you want to stand out, the last thing you need is lady-like classics.

New York designer Stephen Dweck agrees: "Start with a multicolored bead necklace that will go with several of your outfits. This is a big season for beads, so there are plenty available.

"If it has an important clasp, you can wear it in front for a change. Or try wearing your hair up for a different mood."

Mr. Dweck adds that "innovative" is the word you should keep in mind when you go looking for new pieces. "Innovative" can be applied to earrings and rings as well as necklaces.

"Drop earrings can be very glamorous worn just by themselves. And so can one big ring that flashes on a well-manicured hand."

Elsa Klensch is style editor for Cable News Network.

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