Can a mummy wear a mini?
Hemlines have gone two ways this season - very long or very short.
Received wisdom says only teenagers and the very slim should wear minis, while maxis remain the preserve of older ladies.
But what if you want to break the rules? ALICE SMELLIE asked former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond, 56 - presenter of BBC2's The Great British Menu - and her daughter, Emma, 17, to swap skirt lengths for a week.
Standing in the village shop, I am positively squirming with embarrassment. Behind me someone is sniggering, muffling the sound with their hand.
I remember that excruciating scene in The Witches Of Eastwick when a sexily dressed Susan Sarandon goes to buy groceries and the disapproving local women stand behind her muttering. Scroll down for more
The long and the short of it: Jennie Bond roadtests miniskirts while daughter Emma tried out a few maxis
Perhaps a woman over the age of 40 should keep her knees covered after all. Or possibly these women are not so silently laughing at the psychedelic colours of a dress which comes from the teenage section of a High Street store.
Still, a few unfavourable glances are not going to be enough to put me off the challenge of wearing miniskirts for a week.
After all, I remember wearing them the first time around.
When they were first in vogue in the Sixties, I was young and had reasonable legs. I used to wear pastel-coloured minis and flowers in my hair.
I'm rather more conservative today, however, and I wouldn't dream of wearing the short skirts that are in the shops this season, especially since my legs are a bit on the chunky side these days. Scroll down for more
How the pair dressed before the swap
I'm not usually afraid to ignore whatever unwritten fashion diktats there are on what one should wear at what age, but I'm willing to challenge the rule that only young girls and size zero stars should wear miniskirts.
A bit of research soon shows me that High Street stores are overflowing with them, and my first choice is an £85 gold sparkling dress from Warehouse which stops a terrifying four inches above my knee.
On the plus side, it has a wonderfully flattering low-cut neckline. I slither it on along with some killer heels.
When I walk - rather nervously - into the sitting room to show my husband, Jim, he does a double-take.
"You look really nice," he exclaims, surprised. "You look so young."
His mouth doesn't even quiver, so I have to assume he is being serious.
I am thrilled by his compliments, which give me the confidence to climb tentatively into the car - knees firmly together - and drive to a restaurant to have lunch with my daughter.
Fuelled by Jim's admiration, I sashay into the restaurant and sit down carefully, gently tugging the skirt down to something close to a decent level. I seem to be causing a bit more of a stir than usual - with appreciation, I hope, rather than horror.
I had forgotten that miniskirts ride up when you move. It doesn't matter so much when you're a teenager, but perhaps over the age of 50 one feels the need to be covered up a bit more.
We order lunch, and perhaps it's the glass of wine or just my imagination, but I swear the waiter tips me a wink when we ask for the pudding menu. So far, so promising.
The next day I wander up to the village cafe for a cup of tea. I'm wearing a little green skirt, also from Warehouse.
I love it, but it is very short. As well as being about five inches above my knee, the design means that the material floats around my thighs, and as I walk out of the house I pray there is no sudden gust of wind.
As I walk into the cafe, I am greeted by a spontaneous round of applause from a group of holidaymakers for "her off the telly" in an outfit they'd never have expected to see me in.
I guess I do look pretty different to when I used to report for the BBC from outside Buckingham Palace.
Well, so far, miniskirts are turning out to be rather fun, which is something of a surprise. I thought I might feel more self-conscious or perhaps receive more negative reactions.
When we run out of milk, I throw on a dazzling silk minidress in vibrant green and turquoise which hangs around six inches above my knee for my foray to the village shop.
Chris, the owner, who usually sees me dressed in a pair of old jeans, greets me with a "Wow!" I know I look ridiculous, but I feel cute. Sadly, I suspect the look is quite preposterous, and the sniggering customers behind me appear to agree.
Apart from the constant possibilities for ridicule, it's getting boring not being able to move freely. Much less stressful to wear something a bit longer and not wonder what people are saying about you the whole time.
And yet, while most of my instincts tell me I should shy away from wearing a miniskirt, I really like some of them and I'm damned if I'm not going to wear them.
I think that when you get to your mid-50s life should be as much as possible about having fun. And wearing clothes that are a little bit skimpy - even when I probably shouldn't - comes under that big heading of 'having fun in your 50s'.
It's much more of a fashion crime to wear them if you have mottled calves and thighs covered in cellulite - whatever your age.
Mind you, I might keep mine for the hottest of summer days, and even then wear them only in the seclusion of the garden. Don't want to start a riot now, do we.
I am walking through our paddock leading one of our ponies. The setting is beautiful. The fields are green and the hedgerows bright with bluebells. The only thing spoiling this romantic vision is me.
Although my dress is floating around me, lending me a flavour of some latter-day pre-Raphaelite heroine, it is so long it has tripped me up three times.
I finally resign myself to holding it up, at which point I start to resemble a giant yellow watermelon.
The ponies are intrigued by my brightly coloured riding gear and keep nibbling my skirt. Even worse, the bees think I am a large flower and are hovering hopefully around me.
I know all about the fashion for miniskirts, and I wear them all the time. But somehow the maxi-dress look has eluded my friends and I.
I am quite short - 5ft 1in, and I have big boobs. While a short skirt makes me look taller, I'm worried that a maxi-dress will swamp me. Also, I usually wear dark colours, and I notice that maxi-dresses tend to be very bright.
My fears are far from quelled by a trip to the pub, when I wear a halterneck blue gown by Warehouse. It is very tight under my boobs and I have the odd sensation of feeling exposed, despite wearing a full-length dress.
When I walk into the pub, the drinkers all stare in amused curiosity. The barmaid can barely pour my drink, so hysterical with laughter is she, and the owners pop out to say hello and join in the mirth.
I feel very silly. Everyone else is wearing jeans or hiking gear, so I look most incongruous.
However, there is a secret part of me that loves the dress. It is very flattering because it clings in all the right places. In fact, though it is supposed to be a day dress, it would be perfect for a black-tie event.
The following day I decide to lie low and select a stunning £79 orange and cream dress from
Marks & Spencer for lounging around the house.
Like yesterday's offering, I would look brilliant at a ball, but trying to watch telly with great folds of material swamping the sofa feels rather silly, and tidying my bedroom nearly cripples me as I trip repeatedly over my skirt. Things don't improve when I go shopping for the day in a Topshop maxi.
Driving in it is life-threatening when the hem keeps getting caught up in the pedals. Eventually, I hoist it up over my knees.
When I arrive at the shopping centre, I feel self-conscious - and with good reason. Everyone is staring at me. Maxi-dresses may be de rigueur in Soho, but in a sleepy Devon market town I stick out like a sore thumb.
On the last day of the challenge, I walk back from school wearing an amazing £38 bright blue patterned dress from Topshop.
It is truly gorgeous and I am determined to buy it after the skirt-swop experiment is over. I love the colours. I ask two girlfriends what they think of it.
"You look all wrong for school - and you'd really stand out," they said.
They agreed that I looked fine for a party, but totally wrong for A-level classes. Yes, there is a time and a place for these dresses.
If I go to any festivals this summer, you can bet I'll be sporting a maxidress - and any black-tie events will find me putting on my highest heels with the Marks & Spencer maxi.
But for daywear, I'll stick to miniskirts. I loved Mum's look. I think she's got great legs, so I don't see why she can't wear a mini.
I suppose there will be plenty of people who think women her age shouldn't wear them, but I was pleasantly surprised that she looked so good. However, she would have looked better on a beach in Barbados than in the middle of our village.
Can a mummy wear a mini? | the Daily Mail