You may wonder what these pictures are doing here in these politically correct, gently feminist times.

You may wonder if these teeny-weeny skirts and this fluffy-bunny cutesiness is yet another plot by misogynist male designers to make women look silly. You would be wrong. This is not about being sexy and fluffy. It is about being sexy and fluffy and strong all at the same time.

One of the principal apologists of the Honey-I-shrunk-my-wardrobe look is Bella Freud, a powerful woman in control of her own business. 'Sex kittens are hypnotic, instinctive, supple, alluring. They have an instinctive baby animal allure that draws other people to them,' says Freud. And once they have hypnotised whoever they want to, they use all their charms to get what they want. It isn't just Freud who has reinvented baby dolls; every designer from the mainstream Calvin Klein to the off-the- wall Anna Sui have said 'short for spring 94' or 'think pink]'.

Of course, kittens are nothing new. As well as being sex symbols for men, they have been role models for women since Hollywood helped to dream them up in the Forties. Diana Dors, Carol Matthau, Tuesday Weld, Britt Ekland and Eartha Kitt were all sex kittens. As are Patricia Arquette, Vanessa Paradis and the Bardot-esque Claudia Schiffer. Betty Boop is the cartoon kitten, and Cicciolina, the Italian porn star, and the artist Jeff Koons recreated the kitten in their own unique style.

The difference in the Nineties is that kittens expect to make it to the boardroom and they are ready to subvert the baby-doll image to get there. According to Candy Pratts Price, accessory and shoe editor of American Vogue, 'women have arrived. They have done their struggle to the top. The power suit is out] You can be sexy and still command the boardroom.'

The grande dame of Nineties kitty-cat dressing is Vivienne Westwood, who thinks nothing of wearing a top with a keyhole cut out right over her cleavage. 'Women who wear sexy clothes are not influenced by what is politically correct,' says Westwood. 'They have the confidence to flout society's conventions and wear what they want.'

Kitten films

Sex Kittens Go To College (1960), B movie directed by Albert Zugsmith, starring Tuesday Weld

Cactus Flower (1969), directed by Gene Saks, starring Goldie Hawn

Betty Blue (1986), directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix, starring Beatrice Dalle

And God Created Woman (1957), directed by Roger Vadim, starring Brigitte Bardot

Valley of the Dolls (1967), directed by Mark Robson, cult kitten film

True Romance (1992), directed by Tony Scott, starring Patricia Arquette

Baby Love (1968), directed by Alastair Reid starring Diana Dors

The Wicker Man (1973), directed by Robin Hardy, starring Britt Ekland

Shampoo (1975), directed by Hal Ashby starring Goldie Hawn

(Photographs omitted)