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
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
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
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
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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