Lovely reader Jenni (from Helsinki!) sent this question via e-mail:
I’m thinking about a subject, which I think you haven’t covered yet (or at least I don’t remember): how to wear coats with skirts and dresses and especially how different hem lengths and silhouettes work together. The climate here in Helsinki must be pretty similar to what you have there in MN, which means winters are COLD. Therefore it would be great to read more about coat lengths compared to skirt lengths. Example from my life: I was wearing a lovely felt A-line skirt, that hit below the knees, then realized all my trench coats were considerably shorter and my nice outfit was totally ruined after I added a coat. I had go out and couldn’t change the skirt but I ended up feeling stupid the whole day… As the winter is approaching it would be great to hear your thoughts and how you’ve solved these kinds of problems.
Much of Jenni’s question was covered in this post about selecting a coat to work with your outfit, which definitely covers skirts and dresses, but I wanted to explore the specific question of matching lengths a bit more.
Even though the rule itself has been around for decades, I wasn’t even aware that matching your skirt hem to your coat hem was a “thing” until relatively recently. And I just don’t worry much about it. I know that some women may consider this to be a grave style faux pas, and I can definitely see how matched hems create a marvelously clean look. But I feel like there should be some leeway in how closely those hems align.
This is not to say that I’ll do any coat with any hemline. For instance, if I’m wearing a super long cardigan, I wouldn’t put a cropped bomber jacket or super-short coat over it. (Again, specifics on my preferred coat/clothing pairings here.) But any coat that falls within a few inches of the cardigan hem? Works for me!
My main issue with the coat-dress hem question is that it may cause women to feel like they must either purchase a coat to match each and every skirt length, or limit themselves to a single skirt length so that their coat will always look appropriate. You end up with a system that’s either too expensive or too confining. Every woman must do what works for her style and pleases her eye, but I think that roughly mismatched hems are perfectly acceptable.
Over the past few years, I’ve seen several magazine articles stating that the matching hem rule is now obsolete. Other bloggers and style experts hold a variety of opinions on the subject:
- Angie says matched hems are best, but longer and shorter can work.
- At least for petite figures, Imogen says shorter is better.
- WSJ contributor Teri Agins holds to tradition by saying that same length or longer is the way to go.
As always, style “rules” are really just guidelines, and even the loosest guidelines are being bent and broken by the most stylish women in the world on a daily basis. Wear what makes you happiest, and you’ll look radiant every day. And that goes for mismatched skirt and coat hems, too!