Choosing the perfect skirt for your body!

Not in the mood for a dress today? Don't forget the wonderful world of skirts! Perfect for dressing up or down an outfit - but which style for your beautiful figure? There are so many different styles of skirts that sometimes it can be difficult to know which one to choose. This is particularly relevant if you have to buy the plain old black skirt for work, and are faced with a wide range of polyester nightmares, grabbing the nearest one just to get it over with! Don't despair! All it takes is a good look in the mirror and a little logic, and you'll be adding more skirts to your wardrobe before you know it.


  1. Identify the different types of skirts available. There are many choices out there and it's useful to know the basic shapes if you're not already skirt-conversant. The following are fairly standard skirt types from which other variations can be found:[1]
    • Schoolgirl skirt – a very short skirt style, often with pleats, can be used for sports
    • Mini and micro-mini – short skirts
    • Bubble skirt – bulges at the hem like a bubble
    • Pencil skirt – slimline, very slinky
    • Flip skirt – fitted from waist but then flares around the hemline
    • Sarong – a wraparound skirt
    • A-line – shaped pretty much like the letter A, can be any length
    • Handkerchief – tends to hang in graduated hem lengths, with a diagonal hem cut
    • Fishtail – slim waist, billows around hips, narrow around the knees, flares at the heels, like a mermaid's tail
    • Peasant – billowing, wide, layered style skirt, usually three quarter length.
  2. Select a skirt according to your figure type. The following guide is general and there may be some variations depending on the specifics of your own body shape:
    • Short figure: The best skirts for short figures are tapered straight (slim) skirts and A-line skirts but avoid stiff A-lines as they can make you appear squat. Length should be around the knee; if it's either too long or too short, the skirt can make you appear even shorter although if you have shapely legs, a shorter skirt can make them seem longer. Suitable styles include button-fronts and wraparound skirts, as long as they are not stiff. And off-center slit can help to elongate the legs. Vertical embellishments or detailing will also help create the feeling of length. Things to avoid include hem detail, mid-calf length skirts, patch pockets, and girly skirts.[2][3]
    • Thick waist: If you have a thick waist, wear skirts that draw attention to your legs and away from the waist. Wear long and full skirts or short skirts. Avoid skirts with any embellishments around the middle, as these will draw attention to the waist.[4]
    • Curvy figure: Skirts with subtle tapering are ideal, and A-lines and wraparounds are also suitable. Choose skirts with a flat front, side or back zippers, drop-waists or no waistband if you've a thick waist (or keep if you have a waist to show off), flat-textures with little stretch, and soft, fluid fabrics to float over curves. As with the short figure, an off-center slit can help draw attention to the legs and not the curves. Skirts to avoid include box styles, stiff fabrics, pleats, patch pockets, full styles, and any horizontal patterning. Don't wear any skirts that are too tight.[5]
    • Larger stomach: Wear lightly tapered pencil skirts and A-line skirts that drape. Avoid waistbands or remove them, avoid anything clinging or tight, bias cuts, pleats, wraps, darts in the front, gathered or bulky styles, and front pockets. Dark colors and flat textures are best. Don't wear sarongs.[6][7]
    • Boy-like figure: Skirts suitable for this type of figure include most styles although if you are concerned that your legs are too skinny, wear a long skirt with a slit or buttons on the front to increase the leg appeal. Pleating is good for slim hips and you can wear slanted pockets, patch pockets, gathering, belts, and thick waistbands. A small waist can be given added attention by the use of a wide belt.[8][9]
    • Bottom-heavy figure: This figure is flattered by a moderate A-line style or loose,softly draped skirts, and wraps, and the good news is that skirts flatter your figure more than pants. A tapered knee-length skirt can work if it's not too severe, and avoid waistbands. Details should be vertical, and prefer dark colors. Avoid pockets on the skirt, pleating all the way around, bias cuts or trims, Lycra fabric, hem detail, a lot of flare, or horizontal embellishment. Don't wear any skirts that are too tight and avoid any skirts that have pleats above the hips.[10][11]
    • Flat bottom: Wear Lycra fabrics, tight skirts, and bias-cut skirts.[12]
    • Long waist, short legs: Select straight skirts to give your legs length. The best length for the skirt tends to be between mid-thigh and above the knee. A belt in the same color as the skirt can visually shorten the upper body. Wear short tops or jackets, tone the pantyhose with the skirt, and rely on vertical embellishments to give a sense of length.[13][14]
    • Short waist, long legs: Look for skirts which are straight and have a dropped waist. Skirts that hip-hug or are low-rise, no waistband, and low-slung skirts are also a good choice. Tops that fall past the waistline can swallow up some of the leg-length and fluid skirt fabric can hide the short waist. Avoid anything on the skirt that interrupts the line of the top coming over the skirt (for example, pleats), belts that don't blend in, high or wide waistbands, and horizontal detailing near the waist zone of the skirt.[15][16]
    • Large thighs: This figure is flattered by skirts that are loose and drape or have soft pleats. Avoid wearing Lycra-blend narrow skirts.[17]
    • Thick ankles: If you have thick ankles, skirts are best when long and loose and with above-the-ankle boots. Any skirt with hem detail, embellishment, or flare in the lower half will draw attention to the ankles, so avoid this.[18]
  3. Understand the importance of hem length with skirts. Hem lengths change constantly but it's important to stick with the length that flatters you most. The best way to find this out is to check out the skirts in your wardrobe that you feel best in (or try a few lengths on at the store). Note where the hem falls. InStyle suggests that this will often be on the leanest part of your legs, which is usually mid-thigh or just above or below the knee.[19] Find up to three lengths that flatter you best and aim to keep with those when shopping for skirts. You can do this with ease provided you are honest with yourself about those dowdy skirts you've been hanging on to for too long; we're all born fashion-conscious, sometimes it just needs reawakening!
    • Hems should sit straight when on, with no dipping front or back. If not, try on another skirt.
  4. Select a 1950s style full or half circle skirt for most figure types – the full circle skirt is almost one-shape-suits-all. The 1950s glamour girl look comes from the flowing, flirty shape, making this skirt perfect for both work or a night out. Not only that but this skirt works for basically every figure – giving a cola bottle silhouette to a Twiggy figure, and coasting over the lovely bumps of the fuller figured lady, this really is the Little Black Dress of skirts. All you need to worry about is length and fabric.
    • Too long and it's a granny skirt, too short and you get that 1990s look heavily inspired by Empire Records, or the late 1960s. This is all well and good if you've got thighs that like being out and about, but if you're a little more shy, one bend over and the whole world's your audience! Generally the perfect length is just on or over the knee, as the curve of the hem subtly complements your lower leg by 'cutting off' the knee.
    • If you're a vintage fan, this is a great skirt to hunt out in vintage stores. You can often get a beautiful 50s cotton skirt, perfect for holidaying, and often in a kooky, unique fabric. But don't forget the power of eveningwear - you should be able to find sheer, layered fabrics, perhaps with glittering details at the hem. And don't forget: for the perfect 50s shape, pull in your waist with a wide belt, and slip a full petticoat underneath the skirt!
  5. Choose a pencil skirt carefully if you have curves. A great little slinky skirt, particularly prevalent in the pin-up style, this is a great way of looking sexy whilst covering up. Find the right fit, and these slinky delights will make you look and feel very sexy indeed. But some words of warning – underwear and fabric. Be sure to choose smooth underwear underneath and go for a heavier gauge fabric. This way the fabric coasts over your curves without illustrating them.
    • Make sure you buy the right size skirt. You should be able to fit a finger between yourself and the fabric, comfortably.
    • If you love your waist, have a look for the nautically inspired high waisted numbers that have been out and about lately.
  6. Wear a mini skirt with confidence. The mini is great fun, and essential for a 1960s party. But it really comes down to confidence, no matter what size you are. If you're slim, you can go for any shape of mini, and may particularly enjoy the flared, flirty style that's popular on and off. If you're a little curvier, a straight mini in a heavier gauge fabric (denim that isn't too elasticized is a good example, or basically anything lined) may be your best bet.
  7. Choose an A line skirt if you have an hourglass or Twiggy sort of shape. The A-line is a bit of a 1970s style but really it's a very simple, unfussy shape, which can be perfect for smart casual work wear. Just be careful with it, as occasionally it can give a never-ending widening look.
  8. Choose the trumpet skirt if you're an hourglass lady, pear shape or a slim lady, as it creates soft curves. The trumpet skirt is usually a floaty in and out, rippled hem skirt (it's the one your aunt always wears to weddings with a suit jacket). In the right fabric, with the right lining, it can really float over your figure, giving the idea of an hourglass (especially when cut on the bias). But if you have a big hip and upper thigh region, it may accentuate this region, and can really draw the eye to the flaw, so avoid in this case.
  9. Wear the tulip style if you have curves. This skirt style was a big hit in the 80s and now is found in even more stylish fabrics. Depending on the length and quality, this can be a really good way of showing off your figure by exaggerating it – it's a trick of the eye that Escher would have been proud of. These tulips often have a wide band around the base (which just about stops it from being a puffball) so it's not recommended for the slimmer ladies, as it's designed with curves in mind, and if there's a gap there, you won't have that sexy wiggle look at all!
  10. Pick the puffball (bubble) skirt if you're not too sensitive about thighs, bums and tums. An eighties nightmare for those that had it the first time around, the puffball can really be seen as a fun wardrobe item! If you simply have to wear one for that 1980s party later, bear the length in mind. Often the waist can be very high without the necessary concession in length, and soon all Queen and country knows your secrets! And if you buy one on a whim and end up hating it - why not turn it into a funky handbag by sewing either side of the waist together and attaching a handle to the top?
  11. Pair the straight skirt with with a simple white t-shirt for a clean day look. The pencil's roomier, more sensible cousin, a straight skirt can look subtly glamorous. Not too easy to translate to the evening but wonderful for a slim lady about town.
  12. Wear a maxi if you're a straight up and down kind of gal. A stretchy fabric maxi skirt can look super cool, especially with clunky boots and a denim jacket. But if you're a little curvier, look for a denser fabric that doesn't cling (even go up a size, if you can bear it!) or even a staggered, silky gypsy style. Watch out (especially in maxi dresses) for hidden in and out shapes around the hips. And don't get one that's too long because nobody likes to fall over.
  13. Pair the fishtail and the mullet. They're both stars of the 80s, both beloved by drag acts, and also, both a bit fishy. If you look back at some of the amazing 1950s evening silhouettes, you'll see the occasional fishtail, and depending on how it's carried out, it can look okay. But if it's too tight and you look like a mermaid that's tied at the knees, you'll be uncomfortable, annoyed, and need cutting out at the end of the evening. However, it can balance the width of your hips, in much the same way as flared trousers, drawing the eye elsewhere.


How To Choose the Right Skirt Length on Howcast

  • If you're confident enough to wear something, nobody's going to care much (except your mother, and if you're in the mass media, well, everyone). So if you find it and love it just wear it regardless! This particularly goes for vintage hunters; sometimes the fabric is just too good to walk away from, even if it does mean you're wearing harem pants to a wedding. But don't forget - snip snip! - you can always make do and mend. There are millions of online tutorials to help you with your customized designs.


  • If you make a mistake with a skirt, don't sweat it. Give it to a friend with the right figure and go and find one that does work. Take your friend with you even so you don't make the same mistake twice.
  • Don't wear skirts that are too flamboyant, lest you attract honey bees.

Things You'll Need

  • Skirts according to your body type
  • Skirt storage space (folded or hung with skirt hangers)

Sources and Citations

  1. Show Me How, 500 Things You Should Know, p. 174, (2008), ISBN 978-1-74196-327-4
  2. InStyle, Secrets of Style, p. 62, (2003), ISBN 1-932273-04-2
  3. Chic Simple, Women's Wardrobe, pp. 202-203, (1995), ISBN 0-500-01681-X
  4. Chic Simple, Women's Wardrobe, p. 203, (1995), ISBN 0-500-01681-X
  5. InStyle, Secrets of Style, p. 62, (2003), ISBN 1-932273-04-2
  6. InStyle, Secrets of Style, p. 63, (2003), ISBN 1-932273-04-2
  7. Chic Simple, Women's Wardrobe, p. 204, (1995), ISBN 0-500-01681-X
  8. InStyle, Secrets of Style, p. 62, (2003), ISBN 1-932273-04-2
  9. Chic Simple, Women's Wardrobe, p. 203, (1995), ISBN 0-500-01681-X
  10. InStyle, Secrets of Style, p. 63, (2003), ISBN 1-932273-04-2
  11. Chic Simple, Women's Wardrobe, p. 204, (1995), ISBN 0-500-01681-X
  12. Chic Simple, Women's Wardrobe, p. 204, (1995), ISBN 0-500-01681-X
  13. InStyle, Secrets of Style, p. 63, (2003), ISBN 1-932273-04-2
  14. Chic Simple, Women's Wardrobe, p. 203, (1995), ISBN 0-500-01681-X
  15. Chic Simple, Women's Wardrobe, p. 203, (1995), ISBN 0-500-01681-X
  16. InStyle, Secrets of Style, p. 63, (2003), ISBN 1-932273-04-2
  17. Chic Simple, Women's Wardrobe, p. 204, (1995), ISBN 0-500-01681-X
  18. Chic Simple, Women's Wardrobe, p. 204, (1995), ISBN 0-500-01681-X
  19. InStyle, Secrets of Style, p. 65, (2003), ISBN 1-932273-04-2

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