How to Wear Long Skirts


As you are no doubt aware, I am a huge fan of long skirts. I love minis, too, for completely different reasons, but a flowy, forgiving maxi skirt is my go-to piece when I’m feeling self-conscious, silly, or less-than myself. Floor-length skirts and dresses are going to be popular again this spring, and although the looks I’ll be showcasing in this post are from the wintry months, I think they’ll still be helpful moving forward.

CAVEAT THE SIZE OF ANTARCTICA: These are the guidelines that have worked for me. Floor-length skirts look an absolute mess on many women, depending on proportions, height, and personal taste. And some just don’t like them or don’t feel comfortable in them. So, as always, take my advice with several tablespoons of salt and decide for yourselves!

SHAPE


For ages, I bought long skirts made from stiff materials and that tapered a bit toward the hem. These made me look like a smiley bowling pin with a mop of brown curls. It wasn’t until I started looking for extremely long skirts that FLARED at the hem, that I found my magic formula. This style of skirt works for me because the flare balances my behind. And just as bootcut jeans are almost universally flattering, skirts with a bell shape will work for the majority. A floor-length skirt with a flare is like an a-line that’s been streeeeetched out.

The only other style I can endorse is the column:


This style requires more careful styling to balance the behind and de-emphasize the tum. It’s elegant and refined, but overall I look FAR better in a flared skirt. And so do most of the women I’ve seen wearing long skirts.

LENGTH


This leather skirt is pushing the boundaries of shortness for me. I vastly prefer a skirt that is truly floor-length, about a half-inch from the ground when I’m standing. Any shorter than this and I run the risk of looking like I accidentally shrunk my skirt in the wash. Additionally, hack another three inches off this hemline, and the skirt will hit at the widest part of my calf. I mitigate length with this skirt by wearing boots in the same color. But I frequently wish it were just a hair longer.

A skirt that is truly floor-length does many things for your figure: It leaves your legs completely to the imagination, it creates a very elegant silhouette, and it balances your hips right at foot height. For someone with my shape, all desirable traits.

COLOR


I’m a huge fan of vibrant colors, but you’ll notice that nearly all of my long skirts are dark, dark, dark. Most are black, with a few grays and navies thrown in. A long, voluminous skirt is an attention-grabbing piece. And while I’d snap up a red one in a heartbeat, I’m sure it’d get worn far less than the dark neutrals.

Especially if you’re curious but not sure about this look, start with a basic black skirt.

MATERIALS


A floor-length, flared skirt in denim will weigh about 15 pounds. It will also move with grace equivalent to a greased piglet on ice, and potentially cause its wearer to move similarly. Part of the fun of wearing a long skirt is watching it flow and move around you. So I err on the side of drapey knits, heavy rayons, and the occasional cotton voile (pictured above). Obviously, this is down to personal taste, and heavier long skirts can be quite elegant. I do love my leather one … but I generally prefer lighter, more movement-prone materials.

BALANCE


I wish I had some magical formula that would help every last one of you create balanced, proportional, flattering outfits with long skirts as the base. But I cannot. Both because that balance will depend strongly on your own figures and proportions, and because I really enjoy mixing up the figure balance when I wear these skirts. Sometimes I put the waistline up by my armpits, other times down at my hips.

Which brings me to the discussion-opening questions, and I have many: Any petite women out there who love long skirts? Everything I’ve read says they shorten you up, but is that true across the board? Who loves non-flared, non-floor-length long skirts? How do you wear them? Anyone just hate long skirts with a passion, no matter their shape? What makes you feel that way?

  • Stacy

    Hi! Relatively new reader here, delurking to comment because I'm a petite woman who loves long skirts.

    I think proportion is the key for us short chicks to keep from looking overwhelmed in a long skirt. Whatever kind of top I'm wearing, I want the hem of it to hit me a little below my hip bone. Any shorter than that and I end up looking like a long column of skirt fabric with a stubby torso stuck on it, and any longer that and the hem of my top attracts attention to the widest part of me. For the same reason, I tend to wear my long skirts a little lower-waisted than I wear other skirts or pants.

    I'm so glad I found your blog! I've been having a lot of fun reading it.

  • Someone

    I have posted this a few times in comments on different blogs – I am petite and I definitely rock long skirts. How can a sleek column of flowy black not make you look not-shorter? It works. It's especially nice in the summer with a T-shirt style top – keeps you cooler while visually lengthening your lower half.

    The ones that are most "flop proof" (to quote Angie from You Look Fab) are black, in slinky microfiber or some such easygoing fabric. I have other colors and fabrics that also work, and long "peasant" skirts too (although it is harder to find those short enough for a petite to wear. I prefer my peasanty skirts at the knee but that's not a "rule."). My favorite long skirt is a sleek bodycon black number with fire-colored diagonal Asian paisley panels that I thrifted. Goes AWESOME with my industrial-goth-sci-fi boots…

    Legwear and footwear do matter with long skirts, as we know, but I would say to EXPERIMENT. The fashion "rule" against non-tall ladies in long skirts is clearly not all its cracked up to be, so try stuff out and see how it works.

  • La Historiadora de Moda

    I'm not opposed to the occasional long flow-y skirt with sandals in the summer, but I don't wear them often enough to have much advice to give on the topic.

  • Alyce Ann

    I'm petite (5'4") and I do like long flared skirts. I don't feel particularly shortened in them, but even if I did, I'd still wear them because I like their swishy feel and the comfort.

  • Sal

    Woo hoo! So glad to hear that you petites are loving the long skirts, too. Thanks for chiming in with these great tips.

  • Anonymous

    When I wear my long skirts, I tend to wear a more form fitted top. I think it helps to balance out all the fabric on the bottom. I usually wear a flat shoe as well.

  • Anonymous

    At 5'5", I am just at the borderline between petite and regular clothing. The thing that is actually key for me is the proportion of my torso to my legs: since the former is long, the latter can appear short if I'm not careful. Enter the long skirts, which I find much more helpful than pants in visually lengthening my lower half, especially when they are high-waisted. And in materials with a bit of structure, they often replace pants for me (which I find hard to fit).

  • Sasha Westin

    As a curvy petite, I haven't worn a long skirt since…I don't know when. That said, I agree that it's all about proportions.

    I really love the photo of you under Balance. We can see your waist and I like that we can see that you have legs and feet! I also like how the volume in the skirt accentuates your figure.

    Oh, and you look stunning in the red :)

  • futurelint

    I'm only 5'3" and I love a long skirt. I have two jersey ones that are so comfy and versatile (they both have these folded waists that allows them to be hiked up as a tube dress with a knee length hem if I decide I need to go sailing or biking mid-day!)

    One of them, seen here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/futurelint/3881656698/in/set-72157607076423878/

    And I think this might be my favorite skirt of all time, it's my total go-to skirt all spring, summer, and fall when I need a cute outfit fast:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/futurelint/3585507876/in/set-72157607076423878/

  • Kylie

    I was wondering about this topic recently. Great post! How tall are you Sal?

  • grace

    I am a long skirt fan for sure, and plan to live in maxi dresses this summer. However, I'm also OK with the mid-calf length skirt. I think those work for me because I am so tall (six foot) and because the majority of my leg length is in my lower legs (i.e. I have very long calves), so I don't end up looking stubby. I wear them in column styles or super wide circle skirt styles.

  • Anonymous

    I've recently started reading your blog and I'm delurking to comment to say, THANK YOU for this post! :-) So often people who talk about style and fashion say, "Don't wear long skirts." However partly for religious reasons, and partly because I feel so comfortable and just love them, I tend to wear a lot of skirts and it has been sad for me to find that there are hardly any tips for how to wear longer skirts stylishly! It is definitely possible, as you have beautifully proven. I wear knee length skirts too but I have two small children and sometimes it just makes me feel more confident not having to worry that if I bend wrong everyone might see more than I want them too. I enjoy seeing your style and gaining inspiration from looking at the outfits you put together. :-) Thanks!
    L.C.

  • Erin

    I'm guilty, I like a tapered long skirt, but then again my favorite skirts are my pencil skirts. As a rectangle shape I need all the help I can get when it comes to creating a bum and hips :)

  • Sal

    Kylie: I'm 5'6"

  • eek

    I love all your posts with different advice for different looks. I love long skirts but it is so dang hot where I live that I rarely wear them.

    Thanks for all your sweet comments. I left you a little award on my blog :)

  • Rosie Unknown

    I have been admiring your amazing floor length skirts all winter, and have decided that I need at least one. My only hesitation is that a long black skirt will make my legs look TOO long, they are already rather long compared to my torso, so I worry that I would look like I'm walking on stilts.

  • Anonymous

    I am 5'1" with short legs and a long torso, and I think longer skirts make me look like I borrowed someone else's clothes. An almost-floor-length skirt might be flattering. However, trying on long skirts is hard when you are very short, because they are usually 6-8 inches too long and look ridiculous in the fitting room, and it's hard to imagine what they would look like when hemmed to a proper length. You can roll up pant legs, but a super-long skirt just flops on the floor like a big fabric puddle. I tried on a maxi dress last summer, and I looked like a little girl playing in her mother's closet.

  • Anne

    Sal – do you wear your long skirts for work or play? I bought a long black skirt last summer that's flared and even has a ruffle on the bottom, but it still feels too casual for the office to me. Maybe it's because I was pairing it mainly with t-shirts and flip flops, but I wanted your advice on where you would wear long skirts.

  • Sal

    Anne: For both! I definitely wear my long skirts to work. If yours feels super casual, you should trust your instincts … but a tee and flip flops will dress down just about anything. Maybe a button-down shirt over it, belted? Or a lightweight sweater, preferably with a cool neckline?

  • Unravelled Threads

    Hi! I just came across your blog.
    I always thought pulling off a long skirt was next to impossible, but you have proven me wrong.

    unravelledthreads.blogspot.com

  • Drisana

    Sally, I'm so glad you made this post! (: I recently had to but a long black skirt for an orchestra performance at Lincoln Center and, as a petite girl, I was reluctant as to how it would look…but I loved it! Can't wait to try out your tips.

  • Cary

    My last long skirt got ruined after my land lord gutted fish in the laundry room when it was hanging up to dry. The poor thing stank to high heaven and hand to be put in the bin eventually.

    I'd like to try the look again so I'll see what my Easter thrifting trip uncovers.

  • daddylikeyblog

    Hey Sal! I think the first time I tried on a long skirt was in high school when those ruffly peasant skirts were really popular. It was also the last time, because the skirt made me look very literally like a peasant, circa 19th century Italy. But I loved all the info and great examples in this post, and you've inspired me to try the look again! Wish me luck…

  • Indy

    Wow, I love the second one the best! This is such an inspirational and unique post! I love it!

  • Charlotte

    I'm 5'6, too, and I love long skirts. For years, that's all I wore. Then I discovered above-knee skirts & realized they made me look taller, thinner & just lighter overall. But in summer, sans tights, I still love me a long skirt. Best is one not gathered at the waist too much, in a light to medium weight fabric, with a nice swirl involved at the hem. A lot of "fashion over 40" articles & books make it seem as if you're doomed if you wear a long skirt & you're not 21, but I think they can look very elegant. I'm glad to see folks not chained to one length.

  • AsianCajuns (Lar)

    I'm a petite lady, Sally, and I do love long skirts! They usually do make me look shorter- and my dream skirt would be a column of gorgeous,drapey black jersey- I haven't found it yet, but I think that might actually be flattering. I love how you wear yours- always chic without being stuffy ;)

    • mary elizabeth

      Try the skirt outlet on line.They have reasonable prices and a wide selection.I found them about a month ago and have ordered a few and just love them. StyleJ is another goodone also on line.

  • K.Line

    I am amazed by how well you wear the long skirt. I am a short girl who doesn't have the same degree of moxie. I would wear a fitted shirt, were I to wear a long skirt. But I don't generally go longer than the knee – if that.

  • CompassRose

    I know I've said this before. I'm five-three in thick socks, with long legs and a little short hourglass-shaped torso, and I LOVE long skirts. AND wide, full, billowy pants. People who make inflexible clothing rules can suck it.

    A long skirt tends to give me a bit of a retro look (roughly a hundred years retro, since I also favour the A-line and gentle flare, which with my figure puts me somewhere between 1912 and 1919). I also really like the look of a somewhat fitted, A-line tunic or shorter dress or long blouse over a long skirt – again, a very historical outline, and what am I gonna do, I'm that kind of figure and it suits me, but one can certainly pick stylings and fabrics that make the outline look simultaneously deeply modern, and it's a juxtaposition that works for me.

    I just hate skirts that fall anywhere between just above the knee and about three inches below (they make me look eight apples tall, and about the same width) and… I'm starting to get the feeling, to my horror, that being 41 has really rendered any part of my thighs better covered, either with tights or with fabric, so I'm seeing a lot of long skirts in my future this summer, so I can be barelegged underneath.

  • lisa

    Most of my skirts are of the knee-length ilk, but your post makes me want to consider the dramatic possibilities of a long skirt. Maybe this will be the year I finally try out the maxi dress trend!

  • Jean

    Great topic, Sal! This was the very question you graciously answered for me when I first found "Already Pretty."

    And I've been enjoying both column-sleek skirts, along with more flared maxi-lengths. Also do the boots in same color to ensure balance to my 5'4" frame. One of my fav looks is a column skirt with a wrap sweater.

    :-)
    Jean

  • Fashion Court

    i'm a hairline under 5'2 and long skirts are definitely not my friend. i'm not sure if it's because i'm petite (i mean, nicole richie is about my height and she looks awesome in longer dresses, etc) or the fact that i have a large bust + tiny waist + bigger hips and a kim kardashian bootay. LOL. i think my curves are more of the problem.

  • FC88

    HI, I have been reading your blog on and off for a long time, but never really left any comment here. Today was the first day I got back on reading blogs again. Just want to say you are such an inspiration for us petites. Thanks for sharing with all your knowledge with us, I particular like your tutorial or DIY, so fun to watch them. Great job!

  • The Waves

    I am tall, and even though I love the long-skirt-look on others, I often feel like I look really dressed up when wearing a long skirt or dress. Nothing wrong with looking dressed up of course, but the times when I would like to wear long skirts, it is all about comfort and not standing out per se. Don't know if this makes sense. Love your leather skirt, it is perfection! :)

  • Mar

    I am quite short, with petite-proportioned legs but a normal-person torso. So most things put me in the Stumpyville town square, but I have to say that floor-length skirts are great for my figure because they let me make my legs as long as I want. Also, a lot of what makes me look short and stumpy is my proportions rather than my actual height, and a floor-length skirt hides my weird, petite legs (long thighs, short calves, and I have a high waist so my stomach goes on forever) and makes me look like Shakira. And by that I mean, like a person who is just petite instead of half-petite.

  • Audi

    Sal, I think the way you style these long skirts is actually just perfect for shorter ladies, especially those with curves. Personally I feel very awkward in long skirts because I don't have enough curves to bring shape to that long column of fabric, so they make me feel like a little girl with no hips.

  • Becky

    I'm a pretty new reader. Delurking because I love long skirts! (I'm 5'7", for the record, so the slightly taller side of average.) I have to admit that my style has a definite boho leaning, and long flowy skirts fit right in. Especially in the summer, though sometimes I'll wear them on the rare occasions that I wear skirts in the winter since they cover more leg and therefore keep me a bit warmer. I usually like to pair them with flat shoes and a more fitted top, and like my skirts at least down to my ankles. And I love that you're writing about long skirts, since it seems most fashion bloggers favor the shorter ones! (I like a good knee-length skirt too, but still.)

  • Alissa

    I've been reading for a while and thought I would de-lurkify myself. I gotta say, I love the idea of a long skirt, but at 5'6" with lots of curves, I always look like I'm drowning in material or ready to head to prom. I may have to try again with some of these tips, though…

  • V

    it's about proportions, not curviness. if you have long legs and a short torso you can wear a long skirt easily.

    — 5'6" extremely curvy hourglass with every scrap of my height in my legs, rock the shit out of a maxi skirt.

  • Pattern Junkie

    I love long skirts! For summer, I rock the bright colors — with a plain black or white top and simple shoe, they really can work. (Seriously — I have 3 vintage maxi skirts: one royal blue & white, one red & white stripes and polka dots, and one bright green, bright pink & white flowers, stripes and polka dots!) I say put on that long skirt and go swooping into the room with panache…

  • Jo

    I'm short (5'2" on a tall day), squatty, muscular, and short-necked. I look kind of like a bulldog with a red wig on, frankly, except for the jowls.

    And I wear long skirts to the exclusion of almost everything else in the summer. They keep me cool, clean, and covered, and they're easier on the eyes than shorts when you're forty.

    Two tips for short or squatty women on the long skirt thing:

    Proportion is huge. I have tried buying regular skirts that were meant to be mid-calf and wearing them long, and it has not worked. They bind in weird places and flare in weirder ones. Go for the petite skirts or make your own; it's actually quite simple.

    Also, avoid anything with horizontal tiers. Peasanty skirts are cute on women who are thin or tall or both, but if you're already rockin' the weightlifter's back, they can make you look even broader than you already are.

    And a final tip: Avoid frippery. All of my long skirts are one color except for one with a diagonal wide stripe of pattern (not unlike the short skirt you showed the other day, Sal!). All of them have plain hems, low-rise waists (because that's normal on me), and a lack of visible seaming. Construction should stand in for glitz and detail unless you're wearing a sari.

  • jennine

    oooh long skirts… I've been trying to see if I can do it, but it's always so hard… you did a great job with the calf length skirts in particular, so its definately worth a shot!

  • virago

    My favorite long skirt is black, a flowing, thrifted rayon/wool/acetate blend from Banana Republic. My favorite black-skirt-based outfit includes stack-heeled black leather boots w/silver buckles or my beloved black patent Dansko Marcelles (I prefer the boots); a long-sleeved, fitted tee; and a black, lacy wool sweater I bought at a sample sale from the woman who made it.

    I'm 5 foot 4, with big breasts, a relatively short waist and long legs, so I wear the tee untucked so as not to look like a pillow tied in half.

    My sister, who is 5 foot 0, with more of a pear shape and relatively short legs, says she would wear a long skirt with high-heeled boots so as not to look like "Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman."

    P.S. "A smiley bowling pin with a mop of brown curls." You always make me laugh!

    P.P.S. I love the photo of you by the lilacs under the "Materials" section of your post. The blouse plus the pensive expression equals a lovely Victorian look …

  • sisty

    I love long skirts, so glad they're back — they were all over the April vogue in all kinds of shapes, mostly long columns with fabric with some body to it.

    But I agree about the flared hem — where did that black skirt of yours come from in the first photo, Sal? That is exactly what I've been searching for!

  • Sal

    sisty: Ah, it's from Express two years back … and they haven't carried it since. Sad!

  • Alison

    Sal, you've inspired me. I always love your posts with the long skirts. I found two at a thrift store this week. I purchased the black flowy, rayon knit, I cannot wait to style it. Weird thing about it though is it has petti-pants built in. I might have to go back for the Navy one as well, it was more structured, but oh so pretty with a cute slit toward one side.

  • Anonymous

    Hi sal,

    Am a girl from India, happen to see your column. gr8 work.Keep going. Can you tell me how to dress up, in long skirts cos am very fat with short frame( 5.5 ). I jus love long skirts and love to wear them.

  • Sal

    Anonymous(5): You can drop me an e-mail at sally@alreadypretty.com … but I'd say just wear them. If you're concerned about looking taller, long skirts are a bad choice for someone your height and shape. But if you don't care about that, just embrace the style!

  • http://www.longskirtusrus.com maria

    Love your great style…modest and all so cute!!!! Thank you for these great tips on wearing long skirts!

  • Anonymous

    how long should a full length skirt be when wearing a full crinoline [2 hoop] and comfortable heels? [the shoes will not be seen] I have guessed 42-44 for 5’7 and up– 40-42 for the shorter women– Victorian era-
    good lengths?

  • Lucky

    I am a confirmed petite at just 5″, and have a slightly curvy figure as well. I love long floral swishy skirts in spring and summer. They don’t make me look short.
    I wear them mostly with fitted boat neck / wide neck plain tops, in a color that is contrasting with the skirt. I usually add a matching scarf, and tie up my hair with it, in a loose ponytail. And, I match them up with strappy sandals.
    These combinations usually work well for me.

  • mary elizabeth

    I just found you blog and love it!!!!!!!!!! Thankyou for any help in advance.I just love long pencil skirts (ankle length) And I’m 5’7″ inches tall.My biggest problem is I broke my neck 4 years ago and cannot wear any type of heel anymore.I need a cross between a tennis shoe and what looks like a dress shoe.Does anyone have any ideal where or what to look for?I live in northern Michigan and our shoe stores are very lacking for people like me.Thanks again.

  • Shorty

    I’m petite and I LOVE wearing long skirts. Many people have often told me that they are surprised that someone my height (5’2”) can pull off the look. For me, I nearly never wear my shirt OVER the skirt. It’s always tucked in and above my belly button. I usually wear flats, too. Also, I tease my hair to give it a lot of volume which also helps make me look more balanced and slightly taller….
    I also stick to black most of the time, but often throw in other neutral colors and simple prints.

  • Emily

    Oh those outfits are fantastic! I have the brightest prettiest long skirt but I can never find anything to wear it with :(

  • Sharon

    I started wearing skirts 5 years Ago. At first I felt like everyone was looking because most women was wearing pants. Now if I have to wear pants I’m uncomfortable. It’s long skirts for this 4’11 woman

  • Yvonne

    Even though I am only 5’3,” I LOVE to wear maxi dresses and skirts, and I wear them often. I don’t choose the trendy, teen styles, of course, but I suppose that I am still breaking the rules of the “fashion police” to wear maxis at all, since I am in my mid-70′s. (Oh no! I should be clothed in something more sedate and elder-appropriate!) However, I feel elegant and happy when I’m wearing something that is long, beautiful, and distinctly feminine, so why should I listen to the dictates of other people?

    Since the beginning of time, people have wanted to control other people and mandate to them how they should eat, what they should wear, and how they should act. If we let other people control us, even in clothing choices, we allow them to live TWO lives, theirs and theirs. That’s not a fair shake. I don’t want to reach the end of my life, mournfully looking back and wishing that I had turned a deaf ear to all the fashion “Do’s and Don’ts,” rather than simply enjoying life in my own way. My advice: Life is very short, so have the chutspa to make your own decisions, as long as your choice harms no one.

    • Yvonne

      Woops, I meant “…we allow them to live TWO lives, theirs and OURS.

      Can you change this?