Posts Categorized: tutorial

Reader Request: Modernizing the Denim Skirt

modernizing the denim skirt

Reader Courtney had this request:

For years, jeans skirts have been a wardrobe staple for me, always just above the knee, dark and pencil shaped. I have a pretty casual work environment, so they have been a 4 season staple. I wear them with t-shirts and flip-flops, with nice sweaters and heeled boots, and everything in between. My most recent one was due to be replaced a few months ago, and as I began looking for one I realized not only could I not find what I was looking for, no one is wearing them anymore! Most of my favorite fashion bloggers don’t wear them, nor do any of the stylish ladies I see on the street, and the only stores that carry them are frumpy looking to my eye. So I’m guessing that my wardrobe staple has fallen out of style. What do you recommend I replace it with, and how can I be more aware in the future of when a staple-for-me is becoming dowdy?

Several years ago I listed a denim jacket as one of my wardrobe staples and many readers raised eyebrows. But I stuck to my guns. Denim jackets have risen, fallen, and risen in popularity since back then and I’m sure they’ll continue to ride that roller coaster more or less forever. But I love them and will wear them throughout.

Denim skirts may not be trendy right now, but the kind that Courtney is describing – an unembellished, dark wash, pencil-style denim skirt – is something I think of as a “fluctuating staple.” The magazines aren’t touting it as the next big thing and that means it may not be readily available in mall stores everywhere, but it has classic design and versatility going for it. And that means it’s also got staying power. It will fall back into favor, and out of favor, and back in. I hope you’ll feel free to wear it throughout, if you love it and it suits your style.

I own the a-line denim skirt shown above – a Nic + Zoe skirt that is now sold out – and it took me an age to find it. Many full and a-line denim skirts are stiff, overly embellished, or costume-y so they are much harder to find in a classic dark wash and a cut that works with a variety of outfits instead of just casual/Western ones. Other denim skirts that don’t have classic design and versatility going for them? Denim maxis, distressed or heavily sanded, micro minis, and super light washes. If, like Courtney, you want a denim skirt that will look modern and classy for years to come, a dark wash pencil is the perfect choice. Dark wash a-line runs a close second.

Where can I buy a great denim skirt?

A few denim-focused mall brands like Gap will stock them in spring and summer, but they’ll be a little trickier to find in fall and winter. Here’s where I’d look right now:

  • Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (NYDJ) – Definitely my top pick, as their skirts are high quality, classic in design, and available in a few petite and plus sizes. Also check for this brand at Macy’s, Zappos, and 6pm.
  • Boden – Nearly always in stock in a few styles, and virtually always classic, dark-wash.
  • Nordstrom – There will be an awful lot of very short, distressed, juniors-focused options, but some great classics, too. Nordstrom stocks denim skirts almost year-round.
  • Zappos and 6pm – A great resource as you’ll have a shot at past-season skirts from various brands.

What should I wear with it?

Naturally, the answer this question will vary depending on your personal style, figure flattery priorities, lifestyle, work and workplace, and place of residence. So consider these merely loose guidelines to be used as they best apply to you as an individual.

To dress up a dark wash denim skirt, try cardigans and pullover sweaters, printed blouses and button-front shirts, and knit tops. Super structured and traditionally conservative tops like blazers and solid button-fronts may clash somewhat with the laid-back vibe of a denim skirt. You can also go for edgy accents like leather jackets, chunky jewelry, or graphic tees. Anything that leans in a super Western direction – a chambray shirt or jacket, snap-front shirts, and even some ditsy florals – may edge you over into the costume-y direction if you don’t actually live out West. Which definitely can be fun, but won’t feel classic in most cases.

If your top is long, try tucking and belting. Shorter tops will look great untucked and may feel more natural with a denim skirt. If you’re doing a cardigan, try tucking and belting your inner layer. In terms of top shape, base your decisions on your skirt’s shape: A denim pencil skirt is just like any other pencil skirt – slim-fitting – which means you can do a looser top and still create balance within your outfit. A-lines have more natural volume, so a more fitted top will help show your figure’s true shape.

How about shoes?

Again, this will vary quite a bit depending on YOU, but aside from monster snowboots and gym shoes nearly anything can work. Heels can make a denim skirt feel sexy, low-top fashion sneaks (think Chuck Taylors) will look cool and funky, ballet flats will be classic, sandals will be wonderfully summery. Tall boots can be a bit tricky – especially cowgirl-style boots if you want to keep your look neutral – but they can work, too, especially in rich browns. Pick a shoe that works with your style and activity level.

Anyone else out there a fan of denim skirts? Do you favor pencil style, a-line, mini, something else altogether? How do you style yours? Any other tips you’d share with Courtney and the rest of us?

Images courtesy Zappos

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Dressing Tips for TV Appearances and Presentations

screenshot_wanchor

I’m a ham. Happy to admit it. I landed my first lead role in a play at the ripe old age of 10 and have been performing on stage ever since. I may have shifted from drama to music and now to television appearances and lectures, but it’s all performance-related and even after all these years I still get a little jittery every time I walk on stage.

So I know from personal experience how important it is to nail my look before the audience begins to applaud or the camera turns my way. I want to be totally focused on my message and avoid fidgeting and fussing with my outfit at all costs. And, of course, I want to look my best. Here are some guidelines I use so I always look my best before an audience.

For a television appearance

Some TV spots will be filmed on location or outside, others in a studio, so it can be difficult to generalize … but allow me to generalize anyway.

Do a touch more makeup than usual, but just a touch: Lights and cameras can be harsh on many complexions, but we are also living in an HD world, friends, so no need to apply with a trowel. I recommend using something to even out your complexion – be it foundation, BB/CC cream, or tinted moisturizer – as well as undereye concealer and powder to lighten and brighten. If you wear these daily, apply as usual and don’t add extra layers or a bunch of bronzer – better to look a little washed-out than overly made-up, in my opinion. Blush will prevent you from looking ill, so do include it. Sweep on a tiny bit more than usual, but make sure it’s well blended and not too streaky or obvious. Shadow, eyeliner, and mascara will make your eyes pop, but sticking to neutrals and smoky colors is wise since bright eye makeup can be distracting. Definitely add lip color but avoid super bright and super dark shades like firey reds and deep purples. Instead try pinks, berries, and dusty corals or anything that is just a bit brighter or darker than your natural lip color.

Clean lines read best: Anything with lots of ruffles, embellishment, or volume will likely look a bit messy. Blazers are better than cardigans, ponte is better than fluid jersey. Structured garments with clean lines will make you appear professional and pulled-together. (Also do your best to be wrinkle-free, but understand that you’ll be moving around and some creases are totally natural.)

Jewel tones are always a good idea: This palette works for virtually all skin tones from pale to dark brown and reads beautifully on camera. Jewel tones are rich without being bright and add color without being overbearing. And you can do multiple jewel tones in a single outfit! Find the shade that works best for your complexion, and wear it next to your face, ideally in a solid. If you want to add a neutral to the mix, go for gray.

Avoid small, regular patterns: Although issues with moiré are more common in still photography, tiny, regularly patterned clothing can be a little dizzying on-screen, especially in black and white. I generally prefer solids for television, but if you opt for a pattern, try for a medium-sized one and ideally one with blurred edges, a watercolor feel, or an abstract design. This creates a more natural overall look.

Black and white sparingly: Neither is particularly flattering for most complexions, and both can cause odd contrast issues with certain equipment. Black can work in a skirt or pant, but try for jewel tones and grays instead if you can.

Minimal accessories: Long, dangly earrings and clattering bangles can be very distracting, as can oversized scarves, wild hosiery, and piles of necklaces. Make one accessory your focal point and keep others to a minimum. Feel free to do a scarf or statement necklace, but pair with studs and a simple watch or bracelet. The fewer shiny objects and moving parts, the better.

For a large group presentation or seminar

Guidelines are mostly the same if you’re presenting to a live audience instead of speaking on-camera, but a few important differences to note:

Pattern in small doses: If you’re pacing back and forth on a large stage in front of dozens of people, an outfit that is mainly solids will be less distracting than one with gobs of prints. Patterned shoes or a scarf will work beautifully, as will a patterned blouse peeking out from a suit jacket. But now is not the time to show off your print-mixing prowess.

Bolder accessories can work: Don’t go overboard, but you can be a bit more adventurous than you would be on-camera, especially if your audience is both large and physically distanced from you. Statement necklaces are great and you can venture into cuff bracelets and larger earrings if you’re so inclined. Careful, though, that you don’t overdo the sparkly: If your accessories glint in the stage lights as you move, that can be irritating.

Be comfortable: You’re gonna be the main attraction for quite a while, so don’t wear a stiff, confining blazer or a dress that makes you self-conscious about your butt. Pick clothes and accessories that feel good. Anything that pulls, pinches, or subdivides won’t be flattering or comfortable, and anything fussy will just distract you.

For a small group presentation

With a smaller audience, more tweaks can be made, including:

Regular makeup: For TV and large groups, kick it up. If it’s just you and 6 colleagues in a conference room, regular makeup is fine.

Wear your favorite colors and patterns: Much looser guidelines with small groups, so feel free to be a bit more creative. However bear in mind that structure and clean lines will always help you look authoritative and that wearing a color that works with your complexion is always wise.

Do your nails: With a smaller audience, your hands will be visible as you gesture. Don’t feel like you need to get a professional manicure, but make sure your nails are neat and tidy. Either freshly polished or polish-free, clean, and trimmed.

Test your outfit noise level: Necklaces, bracelets, and earrings can all jingle. Some shoes squeak. Walk around the room once and make sure you aren’t making any distracting noises with your wearables.

For any professional appearance

Assemble and try on your outfit the night before: Dressing for a media appearance or presentation takes some serious planning and forethought so don’t leave it till the morning of. Pull the pieces together and try them on, down to shoes and accessories. Photograph the outfit if you’re not sure and get a second opinion. That way, once you’re on stage or on screen you can focus 100% on your performance and forget all about what you’re wearing.

Wear comfortable shoes: Doesn’t matter if you think you’ll be standing stock still the entire time. Foot discomfort can be incredibly distracting, so pick a pair you know will keep your toes happy.

My weekly TV spots require me to wear something related to the topic at hand, so I can’t always follow my own guidelines. For instance, in the screenshot above I’m in mint green because we were talking pastels. But you’ll notice I did simple but interesting accessories, clean lines, nothing jingly, and gray as my neutral. My makeup is simple but flattering, I opted for solids instead of patterns, and stuck with structured but comfortable clothing.

Presentations and media appearances are great for your resume and can be incredibly fun and exhilarating, but figuring out what to wear can feel stressful. Hopefully these guidelines will be helpful as you plan for future TV spots and seminars. And, of course, I’d love to hear additional tips from you presentation pros! What would you add? How do you dress for television, large group, and small group appearances?

This post first appeared on Corporette.

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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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