What? What’s that you say? You are already at peace with maxis? Or, wait. You hate this silhouette with every fiber of your being and have no intention of reconciling? Well, as always, you are the author of your own stylistic destiny. But in case you’re curious about my thoughts on diplomatic overtures to floor-sweeping skirts, read on.
I was born in 1977, so I have no preconceptions of maxis. I believe I thrifted one for myself back in middle school while I was neck-deep in my Arthurian legend phase and wore it despite its incongruity among the low-slung jeans and prep-wear of my peers. It felt good on my legs, I liked how it moved, and I didn’t much care if it was stylish or not. I saw plenty of my college cohorts in patchwork maxis and long, tiered, crushed velvet skirts in the mid-90s, too, and thought nothing of it. Wasn’t my speed at the time, but I still understood the appeal. It wasn’t until I began consuming fashion-related magazines, blogs, and other media that I became aware that this piece of clothing is incredibly polarizing. And, even now, the comment I get most when I wear my own maxis is, essentially, “That looks great on you, but I could never pull it off.”
And again, there’s no reason to force this piece into your closet if you loathe it. But if, instead, you merely feel confused or intimidated by it, here are a few ways to dip your toes into the maxi skirt waters:
Hit the thrift store
I always offer this advice for experimental pieces because virtually no one wants to spend big bucks on an item that might not gel with her existing wardrobe. And yes, you can certainly try on maxi skirts in various high-end stores, but the real test will be to see if it works well with your other, already-purchased clothes. Thrift stores are typically lousy with maxi skirts and dresses, so consider starting there. (Plus-sized women, I believe, will have a harder time thrifting appropriately sized maxis but both Target and Avenue typically have options for under $30.)
Experiment with length and silhouette
Length may seem like a strange consideration when contemplating maxi skirts, but you’d be amazed by the range of hem lengths deemed “maxi” by manufacturers. More importantly, though, each woman’s leg and torso lengths, hip and waist ratios, and personal proportion preferences will be impacted by how long her maxi is. I prefer mine to be as floor-sweeping as possible without acting as actual dust mops on my hardwood floors, but some women prefer to let their shoes peek out and others may even show a bit of ankle.
Silhouette choices are fairly limited, but important to explore. My experience is that most women with curves prefer flared maxis that bell out at the hem, since this design balances hips and butts. The slimmer, tubelike versions are marvelously sleek and sexy and can work beautifully in body-conscious ensembles or when paired with a loose, oversized top for balance. If your trepidation about maxis stems from seeing a certain silhouette that you just know won’t work on you, explore other style options. (And, if I might nudge, give the scarier silhouette a go, too. You just never know until you’ve got it on your bod.)
Does every tutorial I ever publish include this bullet point? I feel like that’s the case, but there’s a reason! Shoes make a huge impact! Since maxi skirts hit lower on your leg line than any other skirt style, it’s especially wise to heed your footwear choices. Although I don’t adhere to this guideline with any sort of strictness, I know intellectually that like-colored shoes will help create a more natural-looking silhouette. A black maxi with red shoes peeking out will look edgy and fun, but a black maxi with black shoes will make many women look a wee bit taller. This is especially relevant if your maxi is below ankle-length and/or if you’re doing boots. This is only relevant if a long leg line and/or the impression of height are among your figure flattery priorities.
Play with layers
As you can see in the photo above, I’m wearing a long cardigan over a long skirt. I’ve added that skinny belt to mitigate some of the proportion play that is naturally occurring between the two pieces, but it’s still a bit unexpected. Since maxis are, in and of themselves, a bit out of the ordinary I think that makes them great candidates for layering experimentation. Try short tops. Try short tops over long tops. Try a crotch-length top with a vest. Try a long duster. Add a belt or a scarf and see how it affects the mix.
Now, a quick overview of the most common maxi-related fears:
- They’ll make me look short: They sure might!
- They’ll make me look wide: Definitely possible.
- They’ll make me look showy/dramatic: Could be!
If looking short, wide, or dramatic will make you totally miserable then I can understand your trepidation. Maxi skirts are undeniably challenging and, on many frames, create silhouettes that diverge from the approved norms. They are eye-catching pieces that probably wouldn’t fly at most law offices and might draw comments in many industrial environments. But they can be incredibly fun, they are fantastically comfortable, and they offer a great way to mix up your looks, should you be interested.
Furthermore! Maxi skirts are WARM. They’re a great pants alternative for those living in cold climes because you can layer tights, leggings, or long-johns underneath plus a pair of tall boots. The skirt basically acts like a leg-mitten, keeping your gams close to each other and trapping their heat. I’ve even been known to layer two maxis over each other, which can add extra length if the top skirt is a bit short, plus extra volume and extra warmth.
Maxis are much maligned and certainly not the most universally appealing style of skirt, but my experience has been that they can be fun, flattering, and surprisingly versatile.
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