In a female body with ideal leg proportions (like the cute gal at left), the length of the upper leg (top of hipbone to mid-kneecap) and the length of the lower leg (mid-kneecap to mid-ankle bone) would be identical numbers. But this body type -- we'll call her the "neutral-shinner" -- is pretty rare. Almost all of us have some significant difference between our upper leg and the lower leg measurements. The most common "leg type" among American women is long upper leg-short lower leg, which is what I have. Call us "short-shinners". The less common leg type is short upper leg-long lower leg ("long-shinners").
The result of our varying leg proportions is that we don't all look equally fabulous in the same skirt lengths, and you're about to understand why.
Don't assume you know your leg proportions just because of your height, by the way. Whether you're short-shinned or long-shinned is not connected to how tall you are. Go grab your tape measure and take your leg measurements (with a helper, if needed). Here's how to do it:
- First, place your fingertip right on the protruding knobby outer part of your hipbone just below the navel. (If you're having trouble finding this spot, think of your pelvic bone and hips as being shaped like a pair of "Mickey Mouse" ears, and now put your fingertip on the top outer edge of the Mickey Mouse ear.)
- Next, take your measuring tape, and measure precisely from the place where your fingertip is resting on your hipbone straight down the outside of your leg to the middle of your kneecap. This is your upper leg length. Mine's 17 inches.
- Now place your fingertip onto the middle of your kneecap -- right where you ended the upper leg measurement -- and slide your fingertip out carefully from there, in a straight line, to the outside edge of your kneecap. Starting from that exact place, measure straight down to the middle of your ankle bone. That's your lower leg length. Mine's 13 inches. I have 4 inches less leg on the bottom than on the top. I am a classic short-shinner.
I'll use myself as an example to illustrate how to use the formula for figuring out how long your skirts should be:
- LONGER leg length (for me, that's the upper leg at 17 inches) minus SHORTER leg length (for me, that's the lower leg at 13 inches) = DIFFERENCE (for me, 4 inches) -- This is the "discrepancy" between your leg proportions.
- Half of DIFFERENCE (for me, 4) = YOUR MAGIC NUMBER. For me, the MAGIC NUMBER is 2 inches -- In other words, if my shins were 2 inches longer and my thighs were 2 inches shorter, my upper and lower legs would be perfectly proportional.
- To VISUALLY correct your leg proportions if you're a short-shinner: Raise your skirt hem ABOVE the middle of your kneecap exactly the same number of inches as your "MAGIC NUMBER."
- To VISUALLY correct your leg proportions if you're a long-shinner: Drop your hemline BELOW the middle of your kneecap by exactly the same number of inches as your "MAGIC NUMBER".
Once I understood my "MAGIC NUMBER", I applied it to all of my clothes. Miniskirts and 5"-inseam shorts became my friends for life. (And by the way, this little mystery was forever solved for me: Why I Look Like Crap in Bermuda Shorts. ;-)) I do keep a couple of business suits hemmed just a shade longer because there are certainly situations in which we need to err on the side of conservative clothing.
Try these tips for yourselves, everybody. I promise you it will change the way you strategically view your entire lower-body wardrobe. Short-shinners, pin up some of your knee-length skirts. Long-shinners, put away your 5" shorts and minis and try on a pair of Bermudas or a pencil skirt. Now look in the mirror at the difference. Hem your skirts to your "correct length" if they need hemming. Pay for it if you don't sew. I'll tell you what I told my clothing customers for years: If you pay top dollar for a great skirt and it looks mediocre on you, you've wasted every nickel. But if you spend an extra $15 to have that skirt hemmed to the perfect length for your body, your off-the-rack great skirt will look like a $1,000 custom-tailored skirt.
That's the basics, y'all! If you have any specific questions feel free to comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope this has been a fun and helpful read, and happy measuring!!