SUPERMODEL Elle Macpherson may be 46 but she is no stranger to putting her pins on show. She was recently snapped in a figure-hugging Herve Leger gold lame dress with a hemline that barely covered her bottom.
The model and businesswoman is not alone.
Even 51-year-old Sharon Stone is often snapped in a mini along with Jennifer Aniston, 40, Kate Moss, 35, Courtney Love, 44 and 34-year-old mum-of-three Victoria Beckham.
But it’s not just celebrities who dare to bare.
New research has found that British women now regard it as perfectly acceptable to wear a mini skirt up until the age of 40.
It’s a major shift in acceptable social dress, showing that women now spend more of their lives in skimpy clothing for longer than ever before, says fashion chain Debenhams, who commissioned the study.
Just 20 years ago, few women would dare to wear a mini skirt after the age of 33 for fear of being branded “mutton dressed as lamb”, the figures show.
Debenhams’ spokesman Ed Watson says: “It shows that women now have an increasing confidence in their bodies and are happy to dress accordingly.
“If this trend continues, there’s no doubt that, within the next decade, women in their mid 40s and early 50s will rightly regard a mini skirt as an essential part of their everyday wardrobe.”
The new figures emerged when Debenhams examined the latest age profile of women buying short 36cm skirts over the past six months.
Their results show that this has jumped from an average age of 36 years old at the start of millennium to an average of 40 today.
Figures from 1980 showed that on average women stopped buying mini skirts when they reached 33 years old – a figure unchanged from the mid 1960s.
Experts believe that the popularity of intensive gym culture, providing women with well toned bodies for longer may be responsible for the rise.
The increasing number of British women living on their own may also be a factor.
The Debenhams study shows that a modern woman’s love affair with a mini skirt begins at the age of 14 – but she doesn’t buy her first mini skirt until the age of 16.
Instead, they flout school rules by rolling up the waistband of their school uniforms to give the impression of wearing a mini skirt.
Skirts get shorter between the ages of 16 and 19, reducing in size from 46cms to 36cms before reaching their shortest – a mere 32cms – at the age of 23.
Skirt length increases slightly between the ages of 23 and 27, rising to 37cms, possibly due to girls being in their first stable relationship, with no desire to attract attention.
However, short skirts suddenly zoom in popularity between the ages of 27 and 34, as those early relationships break down, and new relationships are formed.
The move into longer skirts begins irreversibly at 40, when 46cms skirts – still slightly above the knee are the norm. From then on, skirt length increases dramatically, falling below the knee for the very first time since school days at the age of 42.
They grow in rapidly in length – through 63cms, then 69cms, followed by 81cms, until finally, at the age of 51, the 83cm skirt – the maxi skirt – becomes the norm.
Debenhams’ figures also shows the existence of a mini skirt North / South divide. The study suggests that Northern women tend not to experience the brief return to longer skirts between the ages of 23 and 27, but stick resolutely to short 36cm versions from the age of 19 to 33.
This small size remains extremely popular in the North throughout both summer and winter.
Here three North East women explain why they still have miniskirts in their wardrobes:
MUM-of-three Anna Foster has legs to die for so she’s not afraid to show them off.
The 36-year-old regularly wears shorter skirts when she is on holiday or for nights out though prefers a more comfy option for her job as a co-presenter on Metro Radio’s breakfast show.
Like many women, she started wearing mini skirts when she was at school but surprisingly abandoned the mini skirt throughout her late teens and early twenties and didn’t started wearing them again until after the birth of her second child.
She says: “At school we used to wear mini skirts and team them with black and white striped tights and Dr Martin boots because that is what Kim Wilde used to wear.
“Strangely enough, I didn’t wear a mini skirt again until I had just had my third baby.
“It was when I was working at TFM and I was going to an awards do. I said to my friend that I had a mini skirt but that I hadn’t worn a mini for 20 years. She told me to try it on, then just screamed at me that I had to wear it.
“I was saying ‘but I’m a mother of three’. I did wear it though and when I walked down the stairs the lads in the office were saying pwoar!
“I’ve worn them ever since.”
Anna, who lives near Shotley Bridge, County Durham, with her husband and three children, says her good pins are down to her earlier years practising ballet.
“They are the only part of my body that are still thin,” she laughs.
“I think there is a prejudice against women of a certain age wearing miniskirts.
“I’m going to be 37 soon so maybe I am getting too old. No, I think I can manage another year.
“I think it all depends on the woman.
“I have seen some 40-year-olds and they look amazing in them. It’s all about how you wear them.
“For work I might team them with flatter shoes and tights and I think it’s best to be covered up on top with just your legs on show rather than everything all together.
“I did have a very short denim mini that I recently gave to my next door neighbour’s teenage daughter, I thought it was way too short for me to wear now, it was bum-skimming.”
“I think women take more care of themselves these days and if your body is standing up to the test of time then why not show off your legs in a mini?”
NICKY Harrison was a late starter and didn’t start wearing mini skirts until she was in her thirties.
Now aged 47, Nicky, of North Shields, regularly wears a mini for work or a night out.
“I didn’t wear a mini skirt at school as I went to a strict all girls school so we were made to wear longer length skirts so it was not until I was in my thirties that I started wearing them,” says Nicky, who is co-owner of White Hot Communications, a PR agency based in Newcastle.
“I always hated my skinny legs and I was self-conscious about them.
“It was not until I was 30 and I felt more confident that I started making up for lost time.
“Now I want to wear them until I’m too decrepit to carry them off.”
Nicky, who has a son, 15 and daughter, 11, wears mini skirts for work but teams them with black opaque tights. She is slightly more daring if she goes on a night out.
She says: “I think mini skirts are quite liberating, as long as you feel good in them and you are not under pressure to wear short skirts.
“They help you stay young and if you feel confident enough to wear them and they look good, why not?
“There is so much on offer now, brighter colours and different cuts.
“I think women over 40 do get frowned upon if they wear mini skirts and people think you should have more sense.
“There’s still a bit of that around but it’s more the older generation. The younger generation are a lot more open-minded now.
“My children certainly don’t mind me wearing a short skirt.”
IT’S hard to believe that businesswoman Linda Hitman is well into her fifties.
The 57-year-old, who has a 24-year-old son, has been a keen ice skater for years and credits the sport for keeping her figure in trim.
And despite being middle-aged she has no qualms about showing off her legs in a mini skirt.
Linda, who runs Alternative Solutions, an advertising company specialising in digital media, says: “I was 16 when I got my first mini skirt and I’ve never looked back.
“I would never wear hotpants, I hated them, but mini skirts were fine and I always wore them. The age thing had never bothered me.
“I ice skate and I think my legs are one of my better features.
“Normally in the workplace you tend to wear longer lengths but if I wanted to, whether they were fashionable or not, then I would. I’d wear them on holiday too.
“ I tend to wear mid-thigh minis and I would never wear one so short it’d show my knickers. I normally wear bare legs but in winter would wear tights.
“I never follow fashion. I wear what I feel comfortable in.”
Linda, who lives on the Quayside, Newcastle, believes a prejudice still exists about older ladies wearing short skirts but she believes it depends on the individual and how they look, rather than their age.
“It depends how the rest of her looks,” she laughs.
“It’s down to the individual. I think with women nowadays age is a very difficult thing to gauge.
“I was saying to a friend the other day that I get up in the morning and look in the mirror and think what am I supposed to look like at 57.
“I don’t look or feel anywhere near it. I feel better now then I have ever done. I feel reborn.”
Linda believes women such as Twiggy, who turns 60 this month, are positive role models.
She says: “You look at Twiggy modelling for Marks & Spencer and she looks fantastic.
“Women are looking better as they get older these days.
“I have no plans to hang up my mini skirt just yet.”