LIZ JONES FASHION THERAPYThanks to Angelina Jolie, thigh-high slits are now hitting the shops. I tried them on for size – and warn don't try sitting down!
06:33 GMT, 2 April 2012
Sometimes I wonder whether there is a great big puppet master in the sky who comes up with new ways to torture us poor women each season. This summer we have the peplum, which manages to make any woman with hips feel as large as a hippo.
Big, too, is the exposed midriff and head-to-toe white — which only serves to make me feel like Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. And that’s before we’ve even considered the costly dry-cleaning bill.
But by far the most tricky trend to wear this spring is the split skirt. I’m modelling it here, desperately trying to hide my fat knees and praying there is no gust of wind.
Split decision: Left, tangerine dress, 499, jaeger.co.uk, strappy sandals, 29.99, newlook.com. Right, white splitfront midi skirt, 38, topshop.com, T-shirt, Liz's own, shoes, 245, lkbennett.com
Balmain was the first to come up with it, showing a silver skirt with braces, seemingly ripped to the knickers, last autumn.
This summer, Christopher Kane showed a mini skirt with many boxy splits in sea green, while New York newcomers Cushnie et Ochs showed a white skirt with a long centre front split and a black peplum, thus combining two horrors in one fell swoop.
Matthew Williamson, too, showed a centre split on a long floral floaty maxi, which is all very well if you have a model’s legs, but not so great if, like me, you feature two other awful trends: thread veins and cellulite.
Rather than being pushed by designers, though, the split skirt has really been catapulted to fame by celebrities on the red carpet.
While Gwyneth Paltrow and Rihanna both wore split black gowns to the Grammys, it was Angelina Jolie’s appearance on the Oscars catwalk in black Versace that really launched the split on to the fashion world (although as Angelina was a laughing stock, it was probably not for the right reasons in this case).
Now the style has been copied by almost every High Street chain.
It certainly has its advantages — the deep slash can transform a demure gown into something sexy and high octane. But the problems, as with most things fashion, are myriad.
LEFT: Aubergine dress, 150, coast-stores.com. Shoes, 120, kurtgeiger.com
CENTRE: Yellow dress , 69.99, zara.com. Shoes, 160, kurtgeiger.com
RIGHT: Blue and beige panel skirt, 29.99, newlook.com. Shoes, 185, lkbennett.com
First, your legs need to be prepared: they must be bare (tights look weird with a split), and hairless. The split can mean most of your thigh is exposed and, in a strong gust, your underwear.
Think hard: do you really want to do this Sitting down is also fraught with difficulty.
The chiffon lemon dress I tried from Zara (69.99), with its pale-pink slip, is not only very badly made — with unfinished seams —but becomes a mere hanky when I sit down.
I had thought this dress, with its pretty, sugary colours, could work for a wedding, but it’s far too revealing and flimsy. For me, the split only really works on a long gown in a fluid jersey fabric, such as the long-sleeved dresses by Jaeger (499) and Coast (150) that I tried on.
I loved, too, the colour-blocked maxi skirt by New Look (29.99), which would look great with flats and brown legs on holiday.
How not to wear: Angelina Jolie was mocked for the way she posed in a split Versace dress at the Oscars
stiff and made in cotton, like the white split pencil skirt I tried by
Topshop (38), has the unfortunate tendency to curl up at the edges,
which makes it look untidy.
And I doubt the Duchess of Cambridge will be wearing a pale blue chiffon dress by her go-to High Street brand Reiss (189), because it also curls at the hem and is way too short.
I feel a split works better on a longer length, giving just a hint of the knee and thigh.
I find a side split far more flattering and slimming than one in the centre, which manages to expose the chubbiest part of your knees and inner thigh. If you must expose a leg, I think the rest of you needs to be pretty covered up.
Split style: Rihanna pulled off the look better at the Grammys, right, than Angelina did at the Oscars
A far better way to wear the split is in an old-fashioned shirt dress: how much you allow it to reveal will depend on how many buttons you undo (Mango has a lovely one in lots of colours, with pretty puffed sleeves, for 34.99). I also love an inky skirt by Zero + Maria Cornejo (344, shopbop.com), with a side split that is cleverly draped and asymmetric, in herringbone twill.
Most discreet of all is a tiny split at the back, which makes a narrow pencil skirt or bodycon dress far easier to walk in.
But, for this summer, I’m sticking to my mid-calf wrap sarong by Tallulah and Hope, worn with a white T-shirt and flats, which reveals some flesh only when I sit and cross my legs, and is robust enough to withstand even the strongest of breezes.