Monday, April 4, 2011

Tips & Tricks: Skirt Length Rules FAQ's (Part 1)

Wow, is it ever true that time flies.  This past weekend I got an e-mail notice that a new comment had been made at my two-part post entitled "How to Decide Your Ideal Skirt Length" (Part I here and Part II here).  Imagine my surprise at discovering that those posts were published 18 months ago!

Since some of the best skirt-wearing times of the year are just around the corner, I thought that over the next few days I'd post some FAQ's about the "skirt length rules" and related topics.  If you haven't read my original posts, peek before you read on so that "short shinner" and "long shinner" are terms you'll understand!  And y'all, listen -- what I'm going to tell you is based upon my fairly extensive experience and education in the garment trade, but these are my opinions, and you're entitled to decide that you disagree.  I only ask that you do so respectfully. :-)

1.   Question:  “[F]or the top [leg] measurement, are you talking about [measuring from] the top of the hip above the bellybutton or lower down? I'm coming up with 21" on top and 14" on the bottom which seems crazy!?!”

Answer:  Those measurements aren’t crazy at all for a short-shinner!  Measure your upper leg length from the middle of your kneecap upwards to the protruding (you can feel it even you can’t see it) part of your outer hipbone that is just below your bellybutton.  To put it another way -- see on this illustration how your pelvis is shaped kind of like an abstract pair of Mickey Mouse ears?  You’re measuring from the upper-outer corner of either one of the Mickey Mouse ears (right around what's labeled -- and misspelled -- here as the "spina ilaca"), down to the middle of your kneecap on the same side.

2.   Question:  "How does the "skirt length rule" apply to wearing shorts?"

Answer:  Use the same skirt length rule to determine your optimal shorts length. Short-shinners will look better in shorter shorts.  Long-shinners are born to be Bermuda shorts girls.

3.   Question: “Is there math to the right length of capris/crop pants? I have never -- as in, ever -- had any idea how long they should be on me...”

Answer:  Yep, the same "visual proportioning" rules and some related concepts apply for wearing capris.

Capri length:  To visually correct your proportions, you’re gonna want more of your lower leg to show.  So hem or roll your capris so that they stop at the fullest part of your calf, leaving a nice “swell” of calf and showing.  Try on a pair of your J. Crew café capris, roll the leg to the length I'm suggesting and look at the difference 2 - 3 inches makes!

Capri leg width:  I realize this is mildly controversial, but I promise you, short-shinners, you're going to look better in narrow-legged capris even if you're a girl with some hips.  Why?  Because the more closely the hem of your capris hugs your legs, the more it appears that your capris and your legs are one nice, elongated visual unit.  A wider pants leg visually chops up the line of your leg, much like a skirt hem does. 

Capri length:  Your thighs are longer than your calves, so you want to visually shorten your lower leg by having less of it showing.  Therefore, your capris are going to look better in a lower-hitting hem -- one that ends between the smaller tapering part of your calf and no less than about 4 inches above the "knob" of your ankle. 

Capri leg width:  Surprise!  Long-shinners, you are ALSO going to look best in a narrower capri leg, but you can successfully carry off a bit more width than your short-shinned friends (say, a stovepipe-shaped pant leg).

And let me just say this to everybody -- again, perhaps igniting a flame war, but I'm sticking to this opinion like Custer's Last Stand:  A wide-legged cropped pant is simply not an optimal look on any woman.  For that matter, cuffs on a cropped pant of any width aren't great, either -- they add bulk at just the wrong place, unless they're skinnied-up in that mysterious folding trick that J. Crew uses.  Promise me that if you're just jonesing to wear wide-legged capris, you'll at least pay close attention to where they're hemmed.

4.  Question:  "How does your [hemline] rule apply to wearing longer skirts?"

Answer:  Just like it applies to capris.

To hem a below-the-knee skirt, apply the "capris rules".  Allow as much of your lower leg to show as you can without significantly altering the "look" and flow of your skirt.

Apply your "capris rules".  Stop the hemline no lower than about 4 inches above the "knob" of your ankle.

That's it for now, y'all.   Part 2 coming tomorrow.  Stay tuned!


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the updated FAQ's. I stumbled across your blog through JCA in December- found your skirt length rules and had an "aha" moment! Shared with my teenager daughter who then had her own moment! Thank you so much for helping this "closer to 50 than 40" mom and her "15 going on 20" daughter :)

  2. I think I've pretty much given up on true cropped pants. Maybe a little skimmer pant or maybe a pair of slim fit pants rolled at the ankle, but anything above the ankle just is not working for me anymore. I think I've heard Stacy London from WNTW say it's shortening one too many times.

    I love this segment and all this info! So useful! Thanks for the update.

  3. I'm so glad that you are continuing this!!! I love it! Thank you!!!

  4. Suzy, Pamela and Karen, thanks for the thanks :-)! These are the kind of tidbits of info that, I think, make a huge difference in how well your clothes work for you, so I'm happy to share!

    Pamela, I hear you. Don't give up on cropped pants yet until you re-affirm your leg proportions and play around with pants leg length, width and shoe choices (more on that coming up in a post soon!) I know Stacy London from WNTW doesn't like cropped pants at all, but I suspect -- JMHO -- it's because 99% of the time women just wear their cropped pants at the garment manufacturer's "standard" length (don't we all love pants that we can "wear home" without hemming?), and since most of us are short-shinners (statistically), the result is that most of the time, most of us are wearing our cropped pants too low on the leg -- presto change-o, we look like we're standing in a hole, and Stacy's right, the "look" is all wrong. Heck, I KNOW this stuff, and I've been guilty of the same conduct.


Welcome! Your comments are invited and I look forward to seeing you here!