How to choose the right skirt shape
Are you skirt savvy? Do you know which skirt style is best for your body shape?
What’s the best length skirt for you?
Whether you like it or not, the following factors should come into play when choosing what skirt length is best for you: skirt shape, your shape and then governed only a little by the fashion of the time!
The right hemline for you will depend on the shape and cut of the skirt. Age shouldn’t matter but many women will draw the line at wearing a mini skirt over a certain age or wearing if they’re a plus size or have chunkier legs or like us hate your knees (although a thick pair of tights can often solve problem!).
Choosing a skirt style
The length of the hemline constantly changes with the times, but it’s important to stick with a length that flatters you the best. The best length is often where the hem hits the leanest part of your legs – usually mid-thigh, just above or below the knee. Hems should sit straight when the skirt is on, without dipping front or back, if they don’t the fit isn’t right for you.
Pretty obvious but worth a mention, pattern size is important. If the skirt is too tight, it will feel uncomfortable & pull in all the wrong places but if too lose, it will look frumpy & hang off you. Both can alter how the hemline looks on the final garment.
Always wear heels when measuring a hemline & check in the mirror to see how it looks all round.
Petite – choose a knee length slim fitting skirt such as pencil, wrap or A-line. Make in a lightweight to medium weight fabrics. Skirts with slits either centre or off-centre are great for making your legs look longer. Stay clear of frilly bits and embellishment as these can also make you look dumpy.
Apple or pear shape – choose a skirt shape that shows off your legs and draws the attention away from your lack of a waistline. Choose a skirt pattern with a drop waist or no waistband such as A-Line and pencil skirts. Bottom heavy figures should avoid any frilly styling around the middle such as pleats, darts and front pockets.
Top heavy shapes: skirts should aim to even out your top and bottom so choose A-line skirts and skirts with volume such as tiers, dropped waists and pleats.
Hour-glass curves – choose skirts with more subtle shaping like A-Line and other styles that have a defined waist such as a yoke or tulip.
Skirts with subtle tapering and flat fronts look understated and stylish. Select more fluid fabrics to skim over curves. Avoid boxy style skirts and stiff fabrics. Adding peplums and flounces to accentuate your curves like the Charlotte skirt from By Hand London.
Boyfriend straight up figures – Anyone this shape needs to choose a skirt that will create a defined waist. Choose skirts with high waists like this Anémone skirt from Deer & Doe or detailing such as pleats, slits, belts, panels, wrap around, slant pockets, and skirts cut on the bias. Maxi skirts also suit straight up and down kinda gals too.
Short mini length – best for petites (5ft 3” or less), short/slim legs. Not good for women who have a little bit of a tummy and perhaps not professional enough for wearing to work.
Just above knee length – universal length that is flattering on most body shapes.
Mid-calf length – hemline that hits around here can make legs look short so best suited to taller women and can also be tricky as this length falls at the widest part of your leg.
Maxi length – choose a maxi skirt that doesn’t have lots of fabric around the waist, a length that sits at the ankle and wear with a semi-fitted top. Gypsy style and flooring skimming skirts leave for the tall folk, if you’re short or small framed avoid at all costs this length as it can make you look even shorter.
A-Z of the most common shapes
The A-line is a simple, classic shape that is shaped like an A from waist, skims the hips and flares to hem. They can be knee, calf and ankle length.
Lisette brand is being released this spring with Butterick and one of the patterns Butterick 6182 features a safari-inspired A-line skirt with wide waist band – that works well with shorter tops– and has side front pockets and show-stopping deep centre-front pleat.
This skirt style has made a real comeback recently and looks great in stretch knits and is commonly shorter at the front and longer at the back but could also be asymmetric from one side.
Shown below is Simplicity 1695 which features pull-on skirts with elastic waist that can be made in straight maxi length or in two lengths with hi-low asymmetrical hems. Great patterns for beginners.
A memory from the 1980’s that I’d rather forget it but it can be great for those who are slim or haven’t worn it the first time around. They usually have an elasticated or fitted waistband and the bulk of the material is sewn into a narrower hemline to create the puffball look. Usually these have an above the knee hemline and look best made in satins and silks.
This skirt style will suit most body shapes. Reminiscent of the 1950’s glamour, it’s full circle shape suits lightweight fabrics. For extra volume, wear it with a full slip petticoat. Can be worn just below, above the knee and mid calf.
This type of skirt is full and fitted at the waistline and is essentially two rectangles sew together, gathered at the waist to allow it to flare out toward the hemline. Best results with lightweight fabrics.
This flared skirt is similar to the A-line skirt but has a bit more flare in the hemline. Can be made with 4, 6, 7 and 8 gores.
Gypsy/ Peasant skirt
This is perhaps a skirt style that is more widely worn in the summer in lightweight fabrics. It can be worn full, knee or mini length and usually featured a series of three tiers or more depending on the length.
This is a favourite in summertime but becoming popular in winter too and covers all. It’s the same shape as the pencil or can be slightly A-line but make sure you make it ankle length and not longer so you can walk in it! McCalls 6931 shown here with princess seams, elasticated waist and side pockets.
The casual mini was an essential in 1960’s. Curvier body shapes can wear a straight mini but make it in a medium to heavy weight fabrics like denim or corduroy.
This skirt shape hugs your body and is usually worn mid-calf and made from stretch fabrics and slims down the figure. Made in a woven fabric it’s a more practical solution for other body shapes.
Made from fine fabric and a beach classic for covering up and tied into place.
The same shape as the pencil skirt but with slightly more room and looks stylish when finished with a knee-high hemline. Any shorter this style of skirt can be a bit of the revealing side when you sit down. Made in a longer length and side slits it can look very elegant worn with heels.
Tulip by name and tulip shape by nature. This style of skirt exaggerates any curves and has a slimming effect.
A wrap skirt is fastened around the waist. Wrap skirts are suitable for most body shapes.