Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tips & Tricks for Short-Shinners: Skirt Length Rules FAQ's (Part 2) - Shoes & Legwear

Today's edited Parts 2, 3 and 4 in the FAQ's about the "skirt length rules" will take a look at the often-overlooked importance of how your choice of shoes and legwear affects the visual proportioning of your body.  We'll focus on short-shinners first, because they (I should say "we", because this is my category) are the majority of women out there.

By the way, to you lucky and rare neutral-shinners out there who have a balanced measurement in your upper and lower legs:  Do read on, but know that you can experiment with both the short-shinner and long-shinner "looks" and probably carry most of them off beautifully!

Question: "I feel like my shoes really change the way my skirt lengths look on me.  Am I right, and if so how do I pick shoes?"

Answer:  Footwear and legwear can make a huge difference in how the proportioning of your body looks in your overall ensemble. 

Shoe and Legwear Guidelines for:
(1)  Shorter skirts and dresses(remember what "shorter" means for you!)
(2)  Narrow-legged capris
(3)  Narrow-legged full-length pants, and
(3)  Narrow-skirted mid-calf skirts and dresses

Guiding words for you: Low Vamp Shoes, Low Contrast Legwear

My thanks to the Mothership for this image!
Footwear:  A shoe that shows a lot of the top of your foot is known to shoemakers as a “low vamp” shoe.  And short-shinners, especially with these strong-horizontal-lined categories of clothing, this is YOUR footwear because a low vamp shoe adds visual length to your lower leg -- perfect to promote your visual goal of "more you, less shoe"!  Classic low vamp examples:  Ballet flats -- the most extreme low vamp of which are the infamous "toe cleavage" ballet flats -- and the J. Crew Juliet-style mid- to high-heeled pump.  The "more you, less shoe" effect is even more powerful in tall low vamp heels, because the top of your foot's visible in the semi-vertical position.

Legwear:  Minimize the contrast between shoe color and leg color.  Aim to blend or match the color of your legs (socks, tights or full-length pants legs) to the color of your shoes.  Shoes that contrast too much with the color on your legs will increase the appearance that your legs are weirdly cut off too soon. 

The only no-fail exception to the short-shinners' low vamp-low contrast guideline is wearing a low vamp, high-heeled pump with a nude leg.  That's an exceptionally pretty look on a short-shinner because it so dramatically elongates the lower leg. 

High vamp shoes, of course, are just the opposite of low vamp shoes -- they're footwear that comes up high onto the top of your foot.  Examples are shooties, booties, oxfords of every heel height, and most sneakers.  The worst visual-proportioning offender for short-shinners (with any clothing, actually) is the high vamp shoe worn with high-contrast legwear.   If you just looooooove and want to wear high vamp footwear (and I do, too), choose a high vamp shoe that matches or closely blends with your leg color.  Or wear low-contrasting socks and full-length pants in a color that "blends" with the shoe.  Remember, your goal is to make your leg and foot disappear into each other -- "more you, less shoe"!

I mentioned that sneakers are almost always a high-vamp shoe.  So, with "more you, less shoe" in mind, short-shinners, are you having an AHA! moment?  Now you know why the reason why most women -- because most women are short-shinners -- instinctively prefer the way sneakers look worn with no socks (or no-shows).  See, your brain's telling you how to visually correct your proportions and you didn't even realize it!

I encourage you to see how these simple guidelines work for you.  Of course, how you wear your own wardrobe can't simply be dictated by a set of math-based visual proportioning tricks.  Only you can decide how all of this jives with your own tastes.  So use what helps you feel and look like your best YOU, and toss the rest.  Compromise is A-OK because the most important rule is this: You should love it if you're gonna own it and wear it!

Please e-mail me at jcauncmom@gmail.com if you have more questions about any of the concepts I've discussed, other wardrobe "fit" questions, or requests for future wardrobe tips & tricks posts!


  1. So, I think we'd get along great. I'm also mid-50s (double ugh) born 1955, from the South (even farther south than Atlanta, Gulf coast Louisiana!) and I teach at a university (English, Latin). So I have a reason to dress every day; I must be comfortable, but also stylish, but definitely age appropriate. I'm trying to break the mold of frumped out English professors (I too am an empty nester) since I have a daughter (25) who still says, "Oh Mom!" (I also have a son, 31, who is married with a baby. I haven't decided what that makes me -- ha! I love JCrew, and struggle with skirt length etc. I work out before school, and well, life. Barb Wyman

  2. nice to see you visiting here! for SURE we're cut out of the same mold, girl! E-mail me anytime -- let's chat! :-)


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