A British company that has been monitoring hemlines since 1929 says you can tell the state of the economy by the lengths at which women wear their skirts.
"In an economic downturn, the hemlines are longer, which is now the case," reported Hemline Index, noting that Victoria Beckham, Katie Holmes and Christina Aguilera are among the celebs who have been spotted recently in skirts as long as 33 inches.
But shoppers don't have to feel restricted to one style, say local retailers. Skirts are in stock to suit any frame, based on lengths ranging from mini to maxi and styles that include slim pencil cuts and A-line flares.
"The options related to lengths are many," said Arlene Goldstein, Belk vice president of trend merchandising and fashion direction. "Contemporary and junior departments will continue to opt for the shortest lengths. Other departments will showcase hemlines that go from hovering around the knee to floor-sweeping maxi lengths to everything in between."
Chattanoogan Caroline Johnson favors a tailored pencil skirt with a hemline that falls just above the knee.
"It's professional and yet, when the outfit consists of some really great heels and a pretty top, the look goes out at night, too," she said.
The pencil skirt is a "figure-flattering winter trend," according to Glamour magazine's website, glamour.com. The body-skimming tailored pencil skirt accentuates the shape of a body without clinging or adding bulk.
Grace Reynolds, manager of Alice Blue boutique in Riverview, recommends a pencil cut "for women with a straighter figure."
Also "all the rage," said Glamour, are retro-inspired ladylike silhouettes. "A knee-length A-line skirt, in a charming print, will make nearly anyone look like she has a great hourglass shape."
Determining who can wear what often depends on the designer, Reynolds said. "We carry sizes up to 12, and we try to fit every person to a particular style that looks best on them."
Many younger women prefer short skirts, she said. But even skirts defined as "minis" can vary in length from mid to upper thigh.
Local chef Deborah Anziano, 37, said she recently purchased her first miniskirt.
"I haven't gotten the courage yet to wear it," she said. "I will definitely do so this winter with some leggings."
Area resident Donna Morse said she likes the shorter lengths too. "The legs are the last to go, so I like to show a little leg at 64," she said.
Goldstein cautioned that older women "might consider avoiding extremely short skirts," there's no reason mature women shouldn't wear shorter styles.
"Why not continue to show a little leg as you mature as long as you feel comfortable?" she said.
Many women still opt for the coverage of a maxi-length skirt, Reynolds said. "It never really goes out of style because it's an easy throw-on style," she said.
Reynolds said she's also seeing a lot of high/low skirts, which are shorter in the front and longer in the back.
"This length is appropriate for any age and most body types," she said. "Length, though, is a personal preference. There's no certain age for a certain length. Be conscious, though, of your age but, more importantly, be comfortable in what you're wearing and what looks good on you."
Goldstein said ankle boots are ideal to wear with skirts of all lengths. "If that's too daring for you, add opaque hosiery the same color as your skirt," she said.
She recommended knee-length skirts for work. "For the more structured workplace, the most professional length is hovering around the knee."
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/karennazorhill.