Perhaps one of the most iconic depictions of the midi-length skirt in popular culture comes from the film Bonnie and Clyde. In the 1967 movie about the notorious 1930s bank robber lovers, Faye Dunaway is the definition of kick-ass glam in her fitted shin-length tweed skirts paired with tight little knit sweaters.

With a silk scarf around her collar, a pistol in her fist and her bobbed hair topped off with a sassy beret, Dunaway’s whole look is put together and subversively sexy but, more importantly, it is actually based in comfort and functionality.

Though calf-skimming skirts have long been associated with bookish librarians and the go-to garb for women of the ultraconservative set, winter 2010 sees a new dawn for the midiskirt. Fashion designers ranging from the überfeminine Chloe and the preppy Ralph Lauren, as well as chichi brands like Prada, have embraced this more traditional skirt style in recent months.

In fact, the demure midi was the standout garment in Louis Vuitton’s ’40s- and ’50s-inspired fall 2010 ready-to-wear collection, where the skirt was heralded by the fashion world as a “breakthrough.” The formerly out-of-favor frock has also popped up on the Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Jacobs runways as a major trend to watch.

The last time the midiskirts saw this much mainstream popularity on the catwalk was when Gerald Ford was president. Following the overwhelming rise of the miniskirt in the late 1960s, the 1970s were all about longer lengths like the midi and maxi. Many women owned at least one polyester double-knit calf-length midiskirt during the disco era.

More recently, the 2000s have been all about the ruffle-mini and micro-miniskirt, though the pencil skirt is hot again, too, thanks to the Mad Men craze. Now that the decade is reaching its end, the fashion pendulum is swinging back once again in favor of more conservative feminine garment lengths.

Considering the sometimes old-fashioned aesthetic attached to longer hemlines, midiskirts have long been favored by women who are more concerned with maintaining modesty than following what’s on trend. That said, that doesn’t mean this style has to be frumpy. Think the style of “Nicki,” Chloë Sevigny’s character on the hit show Big Love.

By the third season of the HBO series, the conniving sister-wife’s fashion sense evolves from prudish to long, fitted ladylike skirts paired with wispy calico tops for a subtly sexy appeal (though it’s probably best to avoid Nicki’s signature Victorian front hair bump).

Fortunately, this autumn-going-on-winter is a great season to try out the latest midiskirt trend. The fact that these skirts hit midcalf instead of higher means they can be worn with or without tights on a cold winter day.

Furthermore, the midi is vastly more comfortable to wear in comparison to skirts that hit mid-thigh or higher. Unlike the mini, which requires constant vigilance on how one sits to ensure one isn’t flashing one’s underwear at innocent bystanders, the midi allows women to spread out a bit.

That said, the recipe for looking good in this trend is making sure that the extra length on bottom doesn’t add to one’s bulk in general. Many designers on the winter 2010 runways paired voluptuous circle midi-length skirts with bulky fur coats and boyfriend blazers.

All the same, unless one is built like a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, wearers should take heed to not overlayer when rocking the midi this holiday season.

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