When we shop for clothing, we seek out pieces that will both fit and flatter our figures. I mean OBVIOUSLY. We look for skirts that optimize our gorgeous gams, sleeves that flatter our arms, dresses that skim our hips without pulling. We examine drape and construction and detailing and color. And, of course, we consider matters of length: Are these pants long enough? Does this skirt hit my legs in a funny spot? Will this tee cover my belly if I reach for a jar of pickles on a high shelf?
But one lengthy matter that is often overlooked is how top length will relate to bottom length. I used to buy tops that were cute and flattering without giving much thought to how they’d work with my bottoms. I learned relatively recently that there is an optimum length for tops worn with skirts, and an optimum length for tops worn with pants … and that these lengths are quite different. And this one key piece of information has transformed how I shop and dress forever. Not exaggerating, I SWEAR!
Here’s a little photo tutorial on shirt length that will illustrate what I mean and give you tips on how to make your torso appear disconcertingly short or alarmingly long, should you ever need to create such an illusion.
See this shirt? It’s SHORT. Mad short. I bought it about eight years ago and just can’t seem to give it up, despite its undeniable shortness. Worn here with pants, it looks positively weird since the hem of the shirt sits right where the waist of the pants ends. One wrong move and we’ve entered Exposed Abdomen City. Not only that, but it makes me look as if I have a teensy torso and disproportionately long legs.
Shorty McShortersons also almost works worn with a skirt. As you’ll see throughout this tutorial, shorter tops generally work best when worn with skirts … but this shirt is still just a tad too short for skirt wearage. I mean, it’s passable, but not great. And who’s got time for passable?
Now let’s visit the opposite end of the spectrum. This shirt is MAD LONG. (You might’ve gleaned that on your own. Maybe.) It’s really stretchy and I’ve yanked it waaaaaay down to illustrate my point. And my point is that a superlong shirt worn with pants has the opposite effect as a supershort shirt worn with pants: My torso looks freakishly long, and my legs are instantly stumpified.
Since I’ve already hinted that shorter shirts work best with skirts, you may have guessed that this ultralong shirt would look odd here. However, since my legs are clearly visible in this outfit, the overall effect is less discombobulating than the long-shirt-with-pants option. However, if you yearn to pair a tunic-length shirt with a skirt, why not try …
… this? Stolen directly from the pages of Lucky, this ensemble is more about style than figure flattery and can be tough to pull off. I definitely don’t look my best in it, but it’s an interesting enough pairing that I don’t much care.
If you want to give the long-shirt-long-skirt look a try, I recommend utilizing similar elements to the ones shown here: Drapey floor-length jersey skirt, figure-skimming tunic, and waist-defining belt. If you opt for a loose, voluminous tunic you might lose yourself in a flowy mass of fabric and never find yourself again.
This tee is just about the ideal length for pairing with pants. It divides my rear end in half, sits about two inches above the crotchpoint, and elongates my figure without giving the impression of mile-long-torso.
The same tee worn with my skirt, on the other hand, looks considerably less flattering. Mile-Long-Torso Woman returns! It’s a mild illusion created by the visible-shirt-to-visible-skirt proportion. Mild, but annoying. Try this instead:
The same shirt paired with pants looks innocuous enough, but a few more inches of length would make this combination flattering instead of inoffensive. If I had a yen to wear this top with these pants, I’d likely layer a slightly longer shirt or tank beneath the purple top to give me that extra length.
There! I have PROVEN that longer shirts work best with pants, and slightly shorter ones work best with skirts. However, there are no hard-and-fast rules in the world of style, and this one is meant to be bent and broken. Additionally the guidelines I’ve outlined here may not work for your figure AT ALL, and you should adjust or discard accordingly. Use your eye, call on your personal taste, and utilize only what flatters you.
Hope this was helpful! For more photo-heavy how-to’s, take a peek at:
Avoiding Artificial Cankles
Know Your Necklines
Skirt to Leg to Shoe Ratio part 1, part 2, and part 3
How to Look Awesome in a Photo part 1, part 2, and part 3
Universally* Flattering Styles part 1 and part 2
Easy Throw-on Outfits
Big ups to Husband Mike for another fab photo shoot. He’s such a rock star.