The Perfect SkirtThe skirts that have vied for our attention over the past few seasons include the pencil, the mini, the trumpet, the peasant, the balloon, the dirndl — and so forth and so on. Yes, it’s good to know about all the latest trends, but you need to edit your options to the shapes that look best on you. "The cut has to be appropriate for your body type, lifestyle, what you do, and where you do it," says fashion coach Susan Sommers.So what is the perfect skirt shape for you? If you think I’m going to say the A-line, I’m not. In my opinion, it’s not the universal flatterer it’s touted to be, but a straight skirt fitted to show off curves looks fresher and more sophisticated on just about everyone. Joseph Ting, of Dynasty in New York, the fashion editors’ go-to tailor, alters A-line skirts — a lot. "If you want to make it sexier, you just taper the bottom to make it a straight skirt," he says. Or try a fit-and-flared trumpet skirt, which is trim as a pencil but widens just at the bottom to slim hips without adding bulk to the legs. The fluidity — the sense of movement in the hemline — makes it easy to cross your legs and stride. If you’re afraid of feeling lumpy in straight skirts, the answer is a powerful tummy smoother, not a full skirt with a voluminous amount of fabric.Here’s my take on some current styles, and others languishing in your closet.
- Balloon or tulip Full and gathered at waist, curved toward the knees, this shape can look good on someone with a flat rear end that needs a boost. If you have an hourglass shape, you don’t need this skirt.
- Long skirt Whether it’s casual or black tie, mid calf to ankle can be dowdy and shapeless, especially on petites. Evaluate your proportions carefully before going longer than knee length.
- Full or circle A voluminous look that’s tricky on anyone but Audrey Hepburn. I’d leave this very girlish 1950s shape to the girls.
- Dirndl "I would say that this is the one skirt almost no one our age should wear; there’s so much puffiness at the waist," Sommers says. "It’s so hard to wear, but it comes back perennially."
- Denim Jeans are young; jean skirts are not. They’re usually too casual, too stiff, too short — too Daisy Mae or too cowgirl to be truly flattering — except for denim pencils.
How short can your skirts be? Most women our age are wearing skirts too long. Even an inch or two makes a dramatic difference. The perfect length is that spot on the back of your knee that curves in slightly, where your upper and lower leg meet. From the front, it’s just above the knee. If you are more conservative, have your skirts hit the middle of the knee. That way, you’re still revealing the entire calf for an elongated look. Finally, how tight can your skirt be? It’s too tight if:
- It curves beneath your bottom.
- It whiskers in front (which means the fabric is pulling).
- You can see the outline of your pubic bone.
- It’s a challenge to walk, sit, or bend in it.
And that’s the long and the short of it.Flared Trumpet SkirtYou’ll strut easier in a "fishtailed" skirt. Arden B’s is princess seamed and also comes in pound-paring black ($78). The classic black silk wrap sweater by Sonia by Sonia Rykiel nips in your waist ($300). Add spring’s hottest hue — yellow — in AK Anne Klein’s patent peep toe pumps ($89).Bright Pencil SkirtNothing says spring 2008 like Milly’s classic straight pencil with perfect proportions for petites ($239). A tight-to-the-body ribbed cotton scoop-neck by Michael Kors keeps the silhouette sleek ($375). With color this vibrant, stick to a neutral shoe like Marc by Marc Jacobs brown slingbacks ($485).Soft Pleated SkirtPlease choose sewn-down pleats like these in a silk satin skirt by Strenesse — so floaty it won’t add pounds to hips and thighs despite the extra width ($440). Team it with a thin belted sweater — not a jacket — for a newer French look, like Tibi’s cotton-silk cardigan ($330). A low or flat shoe, such as Simply Vera’s buckle peep toe, provides the right balance ($60).A-Line SkirtCynthia Steffe’s tweedy stretch blend skirt is modified in shape and has a tummy-smoothing yoke ($195). Add contrast with a bright top like D&G’s viscose knit polo ($235), then satisfy your craving for a fashion accent with Giuseppe Zanotti striped peep toes ($595).High-Waist SkirtFlaunt a trim midriff with Norma Kamali’s stretch poly gabardine skirt ($450). No annoying cummerbund, just an extended silhouette that molds comfortably to your rib cage. The center zipper and angled pockets provide more shape-whittling illusion. The Petit Bateau tee tucks in trimly to maintain the long, lean fit ($32). Skin-tone wedges — Tory Burch’s in patent ($328) — lengthen legs.This month, Charla Krupp’s column is adapted from her style manifesto How Not to Look Old, just published by Springboard Press.How Not to Look Old Originally published in MORE magazine, February 2008.