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Helen Mound discovers how to be discreet when the car door opens
Exiting a car - how it should be done
Jade Jagger has flashed them, Minnie Driver has let slip a peek, Kylie cant keep them out of the public eye and Farah Fawcett once famously forgot them. Knickers, that is.
Summer is here, hemlines are up and once again a girls thoughts turn to how to climb out of a car gracefully without revealing her smalls.
Its a common mistake among celebrities, says Judith Kark, of St Jamess & Lucie Clayton College, the finishing school which in its previous incarnation was famous in the 1960s and 1970s for teaching girls how to become thoroughly modern ladies. They think about the dress, the shoes, the car and how they will look on the red carpet. But they forget to put all the bits together, most important of which is stepping out of the car in front of the cameras. One wrong move and the whole image is ruined.
A lesson Michelle Heaton of the pop band Liberty X learnt the hard way recently when she was snapped by paparazzi stepping out of a taxi knickerless. She was mortified.
Lucie Clayton discarded its training chassis last year. The unit was used to teach girls how to get in and out of a car correctly, but it was very old and worn it had had a hard life, says Kark. A sure sign then that girls still want advice on how to alight cars properly? Yes, some still ask for instruction, says Kark. And we have in the past given advice to brides who are using awkward classic cars. But people dont demonstrate the same level of modesty they did 40 years ago.
So were not concerned about flashing our knickers, then? Not true, according to Volvos female focus group, which helped develop the new XC90 SUV. Volvos designers took their complaint seriously and lowered the suspension on the XC90 to a more standard car height.
Range Rover has discovered that women in the lucrative Hong Kong market have similar concerns. Research found that because they are typically smaller than western women they found it difficult to climb into the big new Range Rover with dignity so the air suspension system was modified.
Honda has also identified the problem, referring to the knicker matter in its design department rather charmingly as ladies modesty. According to Hondas designers, when it comes to ergonomics, pants or rather the lack of them on show is as much a priority as comfort.
But if the Honda S2000, Volvo XC90 and Range Rover are female-friendly, the Lotus Elise is best described as male-friendly particularly if theres a girl in a miniskirt struggling to get behind the wheel. Few cars are more difficult to get in and out of.
To be honest, I always take a walk round the back of the car when a female customer is getting into an Elise, claims the exceptionally gallant Guy Munday, a Lotus salesman at the Stratton Motor Company in Norfolk. Lesser men would stand back and grin.
Munday admits there is probably no way of climbing into the little sports car in a skirt without showing your knickers. Of course it depends on the length of the skirt and how agile the girl. It is easier in the Mk II Elise because it has a smaller doorsill, he explains. But women are the most common reason for my not selling the car to couples . . . perhaps because they dont want to flash their knickers.
Even the professionals are careful not to show off more than they should.
I make certain I dont have a skirt on when were filming road tests, says Vicki Butler-Henderson, a presenter on Fives Fifth Gear. There have been a few bra-flashing incidents, courtesy of a tight- fitting shirt, but Ive managed to keep my pants to myself.
Celebrities, on the other hand, show no such restraint. Dave Jester, picture editor on the News of the Worlds Sunday magazine, says its a weekly occurrence. But he has his suspicions about how much of an accident they really are: If its the difference between getting noticed and not, theres no doubt they will give a flash.
If, however, you are more of a modest Lucie Clayton type than an Im a Celebrity . . . Look at My Knickers sort of girl, the ladies college has some advice for you. Dont climb into a car holding bags, use your arms to push up and sit down, and take your time.
And the correct way to get into and out of a car? Face the windscreen, put your bottom in first, sit down and, keeping your knees and ankles together, lift your legs in last. Do the same in reverse to get out, and if you have to do it one leg at a time, keep your hips facing towards the windscreen at all times, not the door.