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I've been invited to my boyfriend's family's home for the first time to share in their holiday dinner. It will be my first time meeting the family and I'd like to wear a dress. How short is too short?

It pains me greatly to have to come down on the side of conservatism on this one. I wish I could proclaim that shorter is always better in skirts and that the mini is back and that the world is generally a more invigorating place with great distances of female leg exposed.

But that would be self-serving. In this case it's the disapproving eye of your boyfriend's mother that you want to look out for: you don't want to appear to be flaunting your youth in her face, or to be vying for the lascivious attention of her husband, who, try as he might not to stare at your opaque-black-tighted gams, is only human after all. A hem just above the knee is fine, but no real minis.

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Russell Smith's new novel, Girl Crazy, has just been published. Have a fashion question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com

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