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Train Is Right on Track for Elegant Look

September 27, 2002|Jeannine Stein

Dear Fashion Police: I attended a social event recently where women wore beautiful gowns. One had a train, not very long, but it did drag along the ground. I thought it looked silly. What do you think?


Dear Train: Call us a hopeless romantic, but we actually like the look of a train on a dress. There's just something about the elegant, elongated line and the gentle sweep of the fabric--traditionally seen on wedding dresses--that we find appealing. We love them on evening gowns as well.

The practicality of a train is another thing altogether. Should someone step on it, not only could the dress rip, but also the wearer could pitch backward when she tries to walk. Dragging the train on the ground is inevitable and will result in a dirty hem, but if the wearer is willing to sacrifice cleanliness for aesthetics, then by all means she should go for it. Those who do decide to go for it should pick up the train while walking on the street.

Where did the train originate, some of you may be wondering? It seems to date back to 14th century Europe, although the specific country of origin is unclear, according to Sharon Takeda, senior curator and department head of costume and textiles at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

"Trains were introduced along with other features," she explained, "such as set-in sleeves and dagging--a way of cutting the edges of a garment so they were jagged--that were wasteful in terms of the amount of fabric required for construction. The conspicuous waste was something in which only the wealthy could engage, so details such as trains would convey the wearer's wealth and status. It follows that the longer the train, the higher the status, so the queen's train would be longer than the princess'."

Dear Fashion Police: Help! Hemline emergency! Although the stores are still full of long skirts, every time I go out I see only shorter hemlines--below the knee or mid-calf. I feel so uncomfortable in my long skirt that I want to go home! Where are hemlines this season? And what should I do with my long skirts?


Dear Hemmed: For goodness sake, wear them! Where are you going that all you see are shorter skirts? A flood region?

Hemlines are available in every length, and it has been that way and will be that way. A few decades ago women had little or no choice as to how long their skirts were. We fondly recall old photographs of women of all ages in the 1960s in miniskirts.

Today, thankfully, it's a different story. Women have a plethora of lengths to choose from every season, from micromini to down to the ground, available in department stores, boutiques, online retailers and catalogs. Granted, certain trends in lengths do catch on, so you may be seeing a lot of minis one season, but there are always alternatives.

For fall, we're seeing many daytime looks just at or below the knee. This doesn't mean you have to wear that, though. When choosing a length that's right for you, consider what is most comfortable and flattering. Everyone's body is different, and some women love to show off a great pair of gams, while others prefer to keep them completely hidden. Some women simply like the long, fluid line of an ankle-length hemline, whether in a narrow or full silhouette.

Also, consider where the skirt or dress will be worn. Funerals are bad places for ultra-short skirts, and beach parties probably aren't the best places for long skirts.

Don't run home; wear your long skirt proudly. We certainly are.


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