By  on June 1, 1994

NEW YORK -- Who will wear it?

Sharon Stone won't. Neither will Amber Valetta, who swears it's for "old geezers." Bianca Jagger says it's neither here nor there and besides, you have to worry too much about shoes. On the other hand, Diane Von Furstenberg thinks it's chicer than chic, and Naomi Campbell has already asked Marie Anne Oudejans, hip new designer to the model set, to whip her up a few pieces in time for summer.

It's been called everything from the wave of the future to the lambada of fashion, and it's hitting the stores this fall -- accompanied by more than a few retail jitters.

It, of course, is The New Length, hovering around the knee, from just above to just below. While its most overt enthusiasts are Miuccia Prada and Calvin Klein, numerous other designers are in on the act: Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Vivienne Westwood, Isaac Mizrahi, Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester and Helmut Lang among them. Even Ghost, which thrives on baring nearly everything, had a few knee-flirting skirts, see-through though they were.

"As a designer, I needed a new way of expression," says Donna Karan, who showed knee-length, short-short and countless hanky hems that went both ways. "Do I think it will sell? It's creative. A small, limited group will wear it."

How limited? Some say most young women won't wear it, and most not-so-young women shouldn't wear it. "Anything can become curious and fun on young, hip women," says Giorgio Armani. "But it's another thing to see it on a 40-year-old woman, who merely becomes bourgeois."

As for the stores, an excellent barometer of what they really think of a runway trend is how quickly they jump in with their own versions. For example, in New York, Versace-esque vinyl has been spotted everywhere from hole-in-the-wall SoHo storefronts to Macy's. Both Bloomingdale's and Barneys New York are testing the waters with knee-nearing silhouettes this summer. But Lloyd Singer, president of the contemporary firm ABS -- ever quick to turn out a knockoff or two -- says that, except for the occasional 22-inch "flirt skirt" and basic career clothes, "the stores just haven't been asking for anything long."

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