Let's not skirt around this
Considering how irredeemably off-trend skirts were last winter - apart, of course, from the pencil skirt which has become a wardrobe classic - it is astonishing (or would be anywhere apart from the capricious world of fashion) that this year a skirt is one of the most sought-after garments.
This is partly down to the novelty factor. We have grown nostalgic for them, having worn mainly dresses and trousers for the past two winters.
And partly down to the desire to be creative. We have been saying how perfect the dress is because it is an instant fix, no thinking required. But after a while, we have a masochistic desire to return to the early-morning ritual of working out what goes with what.
And finally, because skirts perfectly channel the whole 1950s aesthetic given impetus by Mad Men, Marc Jacobs and Prada.
Happily, there are at least a half-dozen skirt options this winter. Almost certainly among them will be a shape and length that works for you.
To ensure a pencil skirt looks a little bit Mad Men rather than a teensy bit dull, you need the right top half. A ladylike blouse and a batwing-sleeve top both work: Gap has a minimalist one in taupe or indigo at £35.99.
The best pencil skirts on a budget are at Oasis (wide waistband in grey, navy or black) and Marks & Spencer's (panelled tweed with embossing, £39.50).
Slightly pricier ones include Gerard Darel grey tweed with leather trim, £119 Fenwick, W1; MaxMara grey wool with flounce at the back, £185, Fenwick, Brent Cross; black with diagonal zip from Alexander McQueen's diffusion range, McQ, £155 at Matches; cream wool with chain belt by Milly at £265; Malou Sander with bold back zip (£105, Wild Swans) and at Joseph, St John's Wood sleek, grey or black flannel (£165) or charcoal with pinstripes (£175). The most indulgent is a butter-soft brown leather with gold zips by Michael Kors, at £2,260, and at Joseph, St John's Wood.
If you are opting for the draped or tulip shape, French Connection, MaxMara, Banana Republic and M&S are all bang-on for business use, while Dolce & Gabbana and Reiss both used an animal print, making their draped offerings perfect for out-to-dinner and party-season wear.
A draped skirt competing with a frilled and bow-bedecked top half can easily turn into a car crash, so keep the top half streamlined.
A little edgier is the 50s-influenced full skirt, which has been done astonishingly well by M&S in leather at £99 or in a grey printed silk at £45. Reiss has done it in grey with pocket detail (£120), and in a more voluminous version in black (£89).
Other great full skirts are at Warehouse in a very 1950s red and by Betty Jackson in her Betty Jackson Black range for Debenhams. The bell skirt from Marc by Marc Jacobs that sits just on the knee, perfectly works the Mad Men trend without any risk of tipping into fancy dress.
Top among the crop of minimalist, polished A-line skirts is a grey wool on-the-knee by Almost Famous (£90, Fenwick, Brent Cross) and bottle green leather with military buttons at Wallis.