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GREAT LENGTHS NEW SOFT SKIRTS TURN FASHION'S SILHOUETTE ON ITS HEAD

Step aside, skimpy little slip dresses. Slide over, spandex separates. Long, easy skirts have gracefully returned.

They may not be the biggest trend of the season, but one can almost hear a collective sigh of relief from women who never quite gave up wearing them anyway.

Plus, a good many of these long skirts have elastic waistbands. Bingo.

Let the supermodels wear hemlines so short that their skirts disappear under their jackets. Real women can pop into a longer, looser skirt and forget about it.

The latest styles around are swingy and billowy at the bottom. They're made from lightweight knits, rayon, linen, chiffon-like polyester or washable silk. Styles range from crinkled skirts that are especially favored by young fashionables, to circle skirts and wraps.

Long skirts play a key role in what designers call fashion's new "silhouette." The broader shoulders/narrow hem triangle that typified the '80s is turning upside down, trend-watchers say.

Now, women are seeing clothes with small shoulders, looser lines, flowing skirts and pants. The best clothes compliment rather than constrict the body.

Some women will even find the skirts to be too long. These lengthy styles look best with the season's popular tunic tops. The Far Eastern- and batik-inspired looks are not for everyone, but will be welcomed by many. All these interpretations send out the same message for spring and summer:

Keep it easy and look good in any length skirt that feels right.

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