Friday, March 2, 2012

So you want to wear a midi skirt?

What is a Midi?
Midi is the term used for a skirt or dress with a hem falling anywhere from just under the knee to the ankle. Not a mini, and not a maxi. People aren't very consistent with the definition. I've noticed some catalogs using the term for just about any length. But I'm going to try to talk about the hems that fall between the knee and mid-calf.

Why do we love them?
This is easy. They are twirly delights of swirling fabric, that make you think of Audrey Hepburn, Christian Dior and the glamour of the 40s and 50s. So pretty, so feminine. Bonus: you're less likely to display 'the goods' getting out of a car, more fabric = warmer, and they don't show VPL....  


And there's also Carrie...

Pat Fields and Sex and the City changed the fashion-scape, inspiring and encouraging whimsy and adventure. (And the love of Manolos...) Carrie wore some crazy outfits, but she also wore beautiful vintage-inspired looks with longer hemlines.

And now there's Urban Outfitters...

In the past year or so, midi hemlines are everywhere. They aren't as full as New Look Dior, and also tend to be paired with other pieces that counterbalance the feminine, such as chunky or masculine-influenced shoes. Urban Outfitters didn't start this trend, but they're definitely involved.

Why are they so hard to wear? 
Midi length skirts tend to hit right in the middle of the widest part of your calf, which can make you look wide, short and dumpy. Just what every girl wants. I'm not sure why the brain makes that leap, but it does. A fuller skirt would help, but a lot of the trends out there now aren't very poofy. 

I feel personally that vintage dresses can be easier to wear than some of the current styles. The 50s looks included a very defined waist (you would definitely have been wearing a girdle), and dresses were built to include structure such as boning and princess seams to accent the waist and the curve of the body. Separates were also often designed as a unit with a matching top/bottom, so there wasn't as much stress to mix and match as we have now.  

My personal midi saga...
I was pretty excited about the midi trend when I first started seeing them show up. I even found a great vintage wool skirt that was really on trend, but I struggled trying to make it work into an outfit. ANY outfit. Nothing. It was time for the sewing machine. When I can't make something work, I turn to alterations. I can sew a bit, and fix a few common issues. First I nipped in the waist so it would land right under my rib cage. That helped.  It raised the hem by about an inch, which was better. But not quite. Next, I attacked the hem itself. I raised it by about an inch. Then another. Then another. Until it was above my knee and not a midi skirt anymore. Oh well, I tried. I have dresses that I love that hit below the knee, but for some reason, skirts are harder.  

How can I wear that?
I was asked by my friend Amna for some tips on how to make a midi skirt work, she had the same problems I did. But she also had some qualifiers: no belts, no tucked in shirts, no high waist. Hmmm. I may have to break some of her rules, but here's my attempt. :)

I found some outfits that I liked around the interwebs:

This is probably my favorite of the looks I found. How amazing is that skirt? I'd feel like a ballerina and spend all day twirling. 

Why is she so cute?
- Heels (height helps)
- Defined waist (BELT)
- Tucked in shirt (sorry!)
- Natural waist, not low-slung
- Denim menswear shirt + frilly girly tulle
- The skirt isn't really a midi. But I think it would look cute even a couple inches longer. Tho it would start to look like a ball gown.

My next favorite, which I think is more of a match for the skirt Amna has. It's also more of the true midi length that is in style right now. 

Why is she so cute?
- Defined waist (belt)
- Tucked in fitted top (baggy would not work with a skirt like this) 
- Leather blazer + frilly girly knife pleated skirt (are you detecting a theme here? Hard plus soft.)
- Heels (these ankle booties happen to work, but they also present their own set of challenges... more on that in another post...)

This is a really fun outfit, with more pleats. The striped boat neck 3/4 sleeve tee is really cute, and is more casual, so it tones down the very strong fuchsia of the skirt.

Why is she so cute?
- Defined waist
- Belt
- Tucked in fitted top
- Heels (I don't love those shoes, but they have height, and match her belt)


Here's an example with a less frilly skirt, but is still working the trend. The top has kind of a ballet leotard look to it, which I think works nicely. 

Why is she so cute?
- Defined waist
- Skirt has a built in belt! (or she matched colors exactly...)
- Tucked in top
- Heels

Now here's a different take. My personal styles tend to lean toward more girly, less rocker. Usually, if it's not Stepford Wives, I'm not that into it. But I really like this outfit.

Why is she so cute?
- Defined waist (can't tell if there's a belt, I don't think so)
- Tucked in top 
- Heels
- Black color repeats, tying it together
- Rocker shirt + girly skirt (hard/soft)

Amna already vetoed bustiers, due to the laws of physics and general public safety. But I'm including this just to prove a point. The bigger the skirt, the slimmer the top should be. 

Why is she so cute?
- Defined waist
- Belt
- Fitted top
- Heels (omg, do not buy these shoes. Or these.)
- Hard + soft (she's doing 'video vixen meets Heidi of the Alps', but using the same concept.)

Bottom line
To make this look work, I really think you'll want to tuck in your top, and belt it if you can. Even if you don't think your waist is skinny enough for it, try it anyways. A belt can cover some of the bunching from tucking in your blouse. I personally have problems with belts because my posture is terrible; the buckle continually stabs me in the stomach. Belts have a tendency to end up in my purse by the end of the day... 

And keep your top as slim and fitted as possible. It will look better and also be easier to tuck in. Keep your jacket streamlined as well - this would be a great opportunity for something kind of cropped. I am perpetually cold, so most of my jackets need to cover the hem of the cardigan I'm inevitably wearing underneath. But I do have a couple shorter length jackets that I never wear which would be perfect for this! (and I discovered cropped cardigans. Godsends!) But a completer piece like the fitted blazer in the second look above could really put this together, and might help if you aren't comfortable creating a line across your midsection.

(But really, what's wrong with shorter hems?)
Aren't these cute? Above the knee.... Just for the sake of argument....? :)

ASOSCute or Not

I'd love to hear what you think. I know everyone has a different take on things, especially when it comes down to body shape. So, if you have a favorite midi skirt, let me know how you put your outfits together. :)

Thanks everyone!


  1. One of my fav posts ever on midi-skirts! You are amazing. I'll take your advice and promise to send you pics - sounds like a shopping trip is in order. I personally love pairing a boyfriend or leather jacket with the skirt...can hide some of my flaws (but not all).

    Thanks Emily. Hopefully I'm one step closer to being cute :)

    1. Thanks for the inspiration! This was a really fun post to write. :) And I want to see a pic of what you put together.

  2. Love the looks! I think that midi dresses are the way to go. The skirts are hard to pull off particularly if you are short. You really broke down the science of it though! Keep up the great posts!

    1. Thanks Erika! I know, shawties kind of get screwed with some of these trends... Ttys!


Thanks so much for commenting!