Posts Categorized: reader requests

Reader Request: How to Style a Full Skirt

how to style a full skirt

Reader Marina sent me this question in an e-mail:

I’ve noticed recently how many lovely, full-skirts you rock (whether as parts of dresses or actual skirts), and I’m wondering if you might consider one of your reader request posts for similar outfits. Particularly for long-torso’d people. I’m thinking how to match full-skirts with tops that aren’t just blouses or button ups, and/or full-skirted tall dresses.

When I first started wearing skirts, pencils and A-lines dominated. My first full skirt was an orange pleated one from Banana Republic that still gets loads of wear to this day, and I remember wondering how on earth to style it when it first came into my possession. Now full skirts are my go-to style, and I’m delighted to share my tips for making them work.

But first some quick definitions: A pencil skirt is shaped to the figure at the waist and hips and generally curves in at the knees a bit. An A-line skirt takes the shape of a capital letter A when laid flat, so it flares out from the low hip. A true full skirt is A-shaped, too, but can have pleats, gathers, or other design features that cause it to have more fabric below the waistline than an A-line. This adds volume, motion, and a certain flippy-ness to full skirts. And, in my opinion, makes them incredibly fun to wear.

Now let’s look at some guidelines for wear:

Fitted tops generally work best

Already Pretty outfit featuring red cardigan, floral print midi skirt, cognac wedges, navy blue handbag, tagua nut necklace

By their very nature, full skirts have a lot of volume. To create balance in your outfits and show the true shape of your figure, it generally works best to balance fullness in one half with fitted-ness in the other. Naturally, “fitted” doesn’t need to mean “skin tight” and also doesn’t always equate to a single, thin, clingy layer. Feel free to opt for a fitted blouse, sweater, or tee with your full skirt, but a fitted, structured blazer or jacket can work beautifully, too, so long as it’s the right length. Which leads me to my next point …

Tuck or opt for short tops

Already Pretty outfit featuring plaid scarf, navy sweater, olive green pleated skirt, Frye Vera Slouch boots

Since full skirts have more bulk and flare than A-lines, it’s essential that your top not interfere with the skirt’s natural shape. So make sure to either tuck your top in (and add a belt to complete your look!) or choose a top that’s short enough that it won’t grab onto any pleats, folds, or gathers. Sweaters with short bodies are marvelous for wearing with full skirts, and offer an alternative to blouses and button-fronts. The shorter-length rule also applies to jackets and blazers: Boyfriend-style and longer jackets will cause full skirts to bunch up, so pick one that hits at high hip or above.

Some busty women are intimidated by full skirts as they have natural figure volume up top and are loathe to add outfit volume on the bottom. This really comes down to personal preference. A fitted top in a short but not cropped length and a full skirt can look absolutely marvelous on a busty woman, but she has to love the look and be comfortable with an outfit that has lots of serious curves. Also some full skirts are fuller than others, so choosing versions that sit a bit flatter or are made from thinner materials can help ease the bottom bulk. More on fibers shortly.

Separates draw the eye to where they meet, so bear that in mind here. If you love and want to draw attention to your waist, go for high-contrast colors (hot pink top, navy skirt) and a bold belt. If you’d rather not show off your waist, opt for low-contrast colors (cobalt top, navy skirt) and a belt that blends a bit more.

Mind your fabric weights

kokoon2_outfit1

Floaty, unstructured tops can work with full skirts, but you’ll need to create some balance in the weights of your fibers. A sheer diaphanous blouse with a lightweight silk full skirt may look elegant and romantic, but it also might also look a little loosey-goosey depending on the construction of the two pieces. All that floaty-ness might overwhelm your figure or create an outfit that looks somewhat droopy. If your skirt is lightweight, it will frequently pair well with more structured tops – everything from sturdy knits to stiff leather jackets. If your skirt is made from stiffer stuff, floaty lightweight tops can work beautifully in contrast. (This is my beloved orange skirt, mentioned above!)

In dresses, make sure the waist hits correctly

brownboden_outfit

If you’re doing a dress with a full skirt – and many fit-and-flare styles will feature full skirts – you’ll want to make sure the waist hits where you want it to. An inch can be worked around with clever belting, but if a full-skirted dress has a waistline that hits well above or below where you’d like it to, your proportions will be thrown way off. In most cases you want the dress waistline to hit at your natural waist – the smallest part of your torso. This means the skirt nips in where you’re smallest and flares out over your hips. If you have pronounced hips and try on a full-skirted dress that hits BELOW your natural waist, the fullness will be exaggerated when it gets pushed out by your hips. Regardless of your proportions, a full-skirted dress that hits ABOVE your natural waist may add gobs of volume below your bustline making you look bigger than you actually are.

Now, Marina was specifically interested in tips for long-waisted gals, and here’s where some exceptions come in. If your natural waist falls low on your torso and you’d like to play around with proportion a bit, full skirts or full-skirted dresses that hit above your natural waist can help. They’ll move your waistline up, visually speaking, and make you look like your waist and hips fall higher on your frame. If you’re tall and long-waisted, make sure your hemline is still long enough for your preferences; Higher waists often mean the entire dress shifts upward, so consider exploring full midis as needed. ASOS has dozens. If you have a long waist and a large bust, moving the waist of a full skirt northward may cause your bust and hips/waist to visually group, making you look bigger. Be aware of that possibility.

As always, none of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.

How many of you are full skirt fans? Do you have preferences for which tops to pair with them? Anyone long-waisted and have other tips to share for making this style work? Do tell!

Image courtesy Nordstrom.

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Reader Request: Writing Helpful Customer Reviews

writing helpful product reviews

Reader Andrea e-mailed me this question:

Just wondering if you’ve ever done a post on how to write helpful product reviews for clothing or makeup sites? I do a lot of shopping online, and finding a helpful review for an item I’m considering is so great — I’ve noticed more and more women include many of their measurements which really helps to give a good idea of how a piece will fit. Makeup is a bit more subjective, I realize, since color perception can vary (as does how one describes one’s own coloring). But I still see so many “reviews” that are along the lines of “Wow! This is a great sweater! I love it!” So. Not. Helpful.

Confession: I have found many customer reviews to be helpful and informative, but have never written one myself. I KNOW! For shame. My excuse is that I just plain forget to do it. And also that very few things I buy either dazzle me with their superior quality or anger me with their shoddy workmanship, so I seldom feel motivated to share my feedback on vendor sites. However, like Andrea, I am able to scan through the online reviews I see and dismiss the ones that I know won’t be helpful. So here are a few tips from a consumer of customer reviews:

Be specific

Seems obvious, I know, but it’s ever so important. Just saying something didn’t fit or wasn’t made well doesn’t give other customers any idea of WHY. Tell them it didn’t fit because the arms are cut narrow, or that it wasn’t made well as evidenced by pilling under the armpits and frayed seams. Explain what you loved or hated and give detailed reasons. While it’s true that a string of 50, “I love these pants!” reviews may sway a few potential buyers, it’s not the meaty information most of us are hoping for.

Tell a bit about yourself

Some feedback forms request personal information, which may seem invasive, but I’ve found it to be tremendously helpful. Anthropologie’s reviews include age range, height, body type, and style, all of which tell you if the person writing the review is similar in shape and preferences to you. If you’re not asked, tell anyway. A dress that fits poorly on a narrow, straight figure might look smashing on a curvy one. And if you say something looks too old or young to you, the reader needs some context – meaning, how old YOU are. And if you’re not asked, definitely mention if you’re petite, tall, very long- or short-waisted, or in possession of other traits that consistently affect fit.

If you are a regular, mention comparisons

Some of the “quality has really gone down in the past X years” comments can be a bit grating, especially if you’re new to a brand. On the other hand if a line typically runs true to size but a particular garment or shoe is really off, that can be good to know. Saying something like, “I usually take a size 20 from this brand, but in this dress I needed a 22 because it’s cut small across the shoulders” can be incredibly helpful to another customer.

Wait, wash, wear, review

For some reason, lots of Zappos reviewers feel compelled to review their shoes before they’ve been worn for more than 45 seconds. And since I’ve admitted to having virtually no memory capacity for writing reviews myself, I understand the instinct: Do it now, don’t forget. But especially with shoes – which often need breaking-in or can seem comfy initially but be torturous after a few hours’ wear – reviewing after  several uses will be most helpful. Honestly, this goes for clothes, too. How does it wash? So glad it fits, but does the fabric wrinkle after an hour of wear? The most helpful reviews are from folks who’ve worn, washed, and worn again.

Mention any differences from the photos

Tricky, right? Especially when it comes to colors, which can look drastically different from monitor to monitor. But, for instance, say a patterned dress has a long sash that just looks like ruching in the photo. If your dress arrived in the mail and you were surprised as heck by this detail, mention that in the review. In all likelihood, someone else will make the same visual error.

And that’s all I’ve got! Who out there is consistent about writing online reviews? Do you find that the reviews for certain brands are more helpful than others? What else would you add to this list of tips?

Screen cap from Boden

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Reader Request: Rut vs. Signature

 

signature style or rut 2

Reader Brenda sent me this fantastic question:

I’ve been considering the difference between a style rut vs. developing a signature look. I’ve read, for example, that Anna Wintor routinely wears a variation on a sheath dress. She’s found what works and sticks with it. Is that a signature or a rut?

I sew a lot of my clothes and have a standard fit & flare dress pattern that I use. I vary the fabric, color, sleeve length and details, and neckline shape, and I get compliments from people. Now there’s a niggling in the back of my head that I’m in a rut, but the competing thought is that this is working for me. I’d love your thoughts on this!

Seriously, isn’t that a good one? As a person who loves being eclectic, I hadn’t given it a ton of thought before Brenda posted the question, but here are my initial thoughts:

How do you feel about it?

This is the main point of differentiation, if you ask me. A rut feels bad, boring, frustrating, and difficult to get out of. You’re in a rut if you’re wearing the same things over and over again and cannot think of anything else you’d rather wear. A signature feels natural, aligned with your inner vision of yourself, freeing, serene. You’ve developed a signature if you’re wearing the same things over and over again and feel pulled-together and perfectly like yourself.

Does it suit you?

Many of us get stuck in ruts wearing garments or outfits that are more easy than appealing: Jeans and a tee, trousers and a cardigan, the same style of dress. They’re on-hand, they fit, they’re comfortable, they’re washable. We may wear them constantly even though they don’t make us feel good about ourselves. Part of the rut is identifying that your routines aren’t necessarily working for your figure or style, and feeling helpless to change. A signature, on the other hand, is a style or garment that you gravitate toward or even collect specifically because you love how it works for you. You’ve actively chosen it because it suits you and made it central to your personal style.

Do you employ variations on your theme?

Our girl A.W. is definitely a fan of the sheath, but she mixes up her choices. We see cap sleeves, half sleeves, no sleeves. Colors and neutrals. She definitely gravitates toward prints, but there are a few solids in her closet, too. And she varies her accessories: Sometimes there’s a belt or necklace, she switches out her watch occasionally, and gorgeous and varied shoes. If she were in a rut, she would probably stick to a single sleeve style and palette, and style her sheaths the same way every time.

Do you mix in other options?

Naturally, if you wear the exact same thing every day, you’re in uniform territory. And nothing wrong with that, especially if you FEEL great in your uniform. If you wear extremely slight variations on the same combinations every day and never introduce other outfits or styles – and especially if doing this makes you feel trapped, bored, or stuck, as mentioned above – that is more of a rut situation. But if you have a style of pant, shoe, dress, or necklace that is your sartorial touchstone but still occasionally wear and enjoy wearing other styles of pant, shoe, dress, or necklace, you’ve likely developed a signature.

That’s my take, anyway. What are your thoughts? What do YOU see as differentiating a style rut from a style signature?

Images courtesy E Online, Style Bistro, Upscale Hype

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