Winter Fashion Focuses Around Legs (January 23, 2004)

The city is full of young women walking the streets in miniskirts, despite the cold. Tweeds and checks are the top choices in fabric, and the skirt length averages about 40 centimeters. The favorite footwear to go with these skirts is over-knee boots. Interest in leg warmers has carried over from last winter as well, thanks to their warmth and fashion appeal. Chanel and other brands matched miniskirts with leg warmers in their 2003-4 fall/winter collections, and leg warmers are becoming a must-have fashion item.

Mostly Mini

At the main store of Hankyu Department Stores, located in the Umeda district of Osaka, the assortment of skirts sold in the clothing department for young women between the late teens and early twenties turned mostly mini in fall 2003. In addition to tweed and checked skirts that give a traditional British feel, also popular are pleated skirts and skirts that come with belts and other accessories. Products priced at slightly over ¥10,000 ($91 at ¥110 to the dollar) are in highest demand. Since September, miniskirt sales throughout the store have grown by more than 50% compared to the previous year. Likewise at Daimaru's Kyoto store, which has tripled its skirt selection from last year, skirt lengths are mainly 45 cm or shorter, and popular fabrics include denim, wool, and tweed.

In October leading apparel maker Onward Kashiyama came out with six new miniskirts in its popular flagship Kumikyoku brand, which targets twenty-something women. For the past several years the company had been shying away from selling miniskirts due to their unpopularity. But this year, a sales representative explains, "Miniskirts were taken up at international fashion shows, so we've aggressively introduced them to our line."

The women's boutique Le Ciel Bleu in Kobe is cashing in on the trend as well. It is offering miniskirts in as many as 50 different designs, among which flared types are particularly favored. Many customers shop for skirts that match the tights and boots they already own.

From Hem to Toe

Fashion-conscious women pay just as much attention to how they look below the hem. In particular, extra-long boots that come to above the knees are in vogue. One merit of these boots is that they make the wearer's legs look long. At the Printemps Ginza department store, overall sales of boots (including over-knee types) have tripled over the previous year.

Leg warmers, meanwhile, were already in fashion last winter among young people in their teens and early twenties. The style then was to wear them loosely around the ankles. This winter leg warmers have won more fans and have increased their repertory to include above-knee designs that fit closely around the legs. Like long boots, close-fitting leg warmers make the legs look slender. The bestselling color is black (which also has a slimming effect), and small polkadots are a favorite pattern. They retail for about ¥1,500.

The boom in leg warmers can be attributed to the comeback of miniskirts, as well as to the proliferation of the layered look. Another theory has it that women in their early twenties, who as high-school girls created the "loose socks" craze in the mid-1990s, have come to seek products that allow them to make their own fashion statement.