ARE WASHINGTON WOMEN scared of miniskirts? Lately, when I've traveled to New York and Los Angeles, knee-baring hemlines are everywhere. But along K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington women are still hiding their legs under calf-length skirts.

Fortunately, today's miniskirts are about 24 inches long -- much more modest than the thigh-high hems of the '60s. Unfortunately, though, skirts hike up four to five inches when you sit down. That just means you'll have to work a little harder if you want to bare a little more leg.

Women aren't the only ones who need to work on their legs. Men can use the same exercises if they want to turn a few heads at the health club or just develop more muscular legs.

Exercise can help firm up calves and thighs. Your basic bone structure is genetic, but there's always room for improvement ./ ./ . so let's get to work on those legs. Just five minutes every day will give you shapelier, firmer legs in just six weeks.

First, let's unpack those saddlebags. You can do this exercise just about anywhere, all you need is a desk or any other sturdy surface for support. Stand straight and tall and rest one or both hands on the sturdy surface. Keep your hips steady while you raise your right leg directly to the side. Lift your leg as high as you can while counting to five. Hold for one second. Then lower your leg. Make sure that your muscles are controlling your movements and you're not letting gravity swing your leg. Do 20 leg lifts on each leg. This Saddlebag Slenderizer will trim your outer thighs and give you a sleeker look.

Now it's time to work on your inner thighs, which are among the most underused muscles in the body. Even if you're a three-mile-a-day runner, your inner thighs can still be flabby. One great way to get them in shape is sit up straight in a sturdy chair, straighten out your right leg so that it's perpendicular to your body. Turn your knee and leg so that the instep of your foot is facing the ceiling. If you're doing this exercise correctly, you will only be able to raise your leg four or five inches. Then slowly lower your leg. Do this 20 times on each leg.

For your quadriceps (the front of your thigh) and the muscles surrounding your knee, sit up straight in a chair or on a table (your feet should not touch the floor). Flex your feet together so that you can rest a book on your feet or use one- or two-pound ankle weights. Now, slowly raise your feet until your legs are straight and then slowly lower them. Do this 20 times. This exercise is similar to a leg extension on a weight machine.

Here's a great exercise to shape your calf muscle. Stand on a stairway and hold on to the railing while you position your feet so that the balls of your feet and your toes are on the step and your heels are hanging off the step. Now, stand on your tiptoes, while keeping your heels in mid-air, and then lower your heels. Continue lifting and lowering your heels for 20 times.

A similar exercise also can help to relieve aching and tight calf muscles. Most American women wear high heels regularly. Even though high heels complement short skirts (and also can make your legs look shapelier), they can cause your muscles to tighten from heel to calf and can in turn lead to aching, tired legs. Place the ball of your right foot at the edge of a step. Press your right heel downward until you feel a stretch in your lower right leg. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Release, switch legs and repeat 3 times on each side.

You have to work on these exercises every day. But if you're diligent, you should see a difference in your legs in about 6 weeks. And while you're working on your legs, remember these tips:

Any increase in leg work will shape up your gams even sooner. So, walk up, don't just stand, on the Metro escalators. Better yet, get off a stop early and walk a few extra blocks.

If you suffer from painful varicose veins, sit in a chair with your left foot on the ground and your right foot extended. Flex your foot, then point. Do this 10 times. Now, rotate your right foot 10 times. Rotation will increase circulation and that's important for varicose vein sufferers. Repeat the sequence on your left foot. Also elevate your legs as often as you can and wear support hose.

Stretch your legs whenever you can. Whenever I do a lot of walking, I take a few minutes to stretch and then my legs don't get tired and achy. Stand facing a wall. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder level. Extend your right foot well behind you, bending your left leg at the knee. Place your heels flat on the floor. Slowly lean forward until you feel a good stretch in your right calf. Don't bounce and make sure you aren't bending at the waist. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then release and switch legs.

Walk, walk, walk!

Keep it up.