This time last year, British women were walking around in ankle-skimming skirts, looking demure in the heat and hiding their knees at the same time. When the long skirt swamped the catwalks, women at first were reluctant to abandon their short skirts, but they did in the end since there was little else available on the high street.

Now, skirt lengths have risen again, this time to micro levels. But that does not necessarily mean long expanses of bare leg: ankles have become a new modesty zone. No matter how short the skirt, girls in London's Soho, Covent Garden and King's Road are still wearing their winter boots and thermal socks.

In southern Europe, short skirts and skimpy sandals show off well- toned legs. Here, legs are sturdy and ankles are, it seems, to be covered at all times, by whatever means - biker boots, cowboy boots, socks, stockings, tights, or last year's hiking boots. The shorter the skirt, the higher the leg cover.

At last week's haute couture shows in Paris, thigh-high boots featured strongly, a taste of things to come. By next summer, the gap between boot and skirt will be down to half a centimetre.

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