Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Art of the Pencil Skirt

The pencil skirt is perfect for top-heavy women with small hips or slim thighs (i.e. upside down pear). Why? It follows a similar formula to the one behind The Power of an A-Line Skirt, but in reverse.

Classic pencil skirt

Classic pencil skirt

Essentially, if you wear something very fitted at the slimmest part of your frame, (a pencil skirt) and something looser at the largest part (a layered blouse and/or jacket), you create the illusion that the body is in fact, slim all over.

A classic pencil skirt is long (to the knee) and skinny, like a pencil. It looks best when fitted across the hips and thighs. Also, the more tapered it is at the knees, the more it reveals your curves, without showing any skin. An outline of what’s beneath the skirt is far more tantalizing than a miniskirt that leaves nothing to the imagination. Wouldn’t you rather look expensive than cheap? So, while you are completely covered down to the knees, and no-one could accuse you of being indiscreet, the va-va-voom factor is undeniable. (Yes, our mothers knew a thing or two about getting around social rules, without looking cheap.) The beauty of it is that it is both age-appropriate and work-appropriate, yet still very sexy. This is what I call women’s wear, versus girl’s wear.

To achieve an elegant look, hem it at the knee or just below: the longer and more snugly fitted the skirt, the longer and slimmer you’ll look; the shorter and looser it is, the more blocky and bland-suburban-housewife it looks. Just don’t go too tight across the thighs and rear, or you’ll start to ressemble a paid escort.

However, if what you’re aiming for is a ‘sexy secretary’ look, you can’t go wrong with a narrow knee-length black leather or suede pencil skirt. If it also has a discreet slit up the back, I assure you your exit will be as dramatic as your entrance. Note: leather requires minimal cleaning and no ironing. Just make sure it’s lined with fabric or you may get a nasty rash, which is neither comfy nor chic.

Variations

Straight cut pencil skirt

Straight cut pencil skirt

If you carry weight in your thighs (aka saddlebags), keep the skirt narrow but straight (a true pencil).

On the other hand, if you have slim thighs but a plump tummy which you’d like to minimize, you will look fabulous in a tapered-in-at-the-knee pencil skirt paired with a loose blouse that comes down to just below the belly, so that the slim, fitted thigh area is still visible, but the tummy is covered by the blouse.

Also, look for one with an interesting border print (like a sari border) that draws the eye away from the waist and down to the thighs and hemline.

For a more casual look, an all-over floral print will also hide  a thousand flaws, plus fabric wrinkles that accumulate during the day.

Straight cut pencil skirt

Straight cut pencil skirt

If your tummy is also slim (lucky you), show it off in a high-waisted pencil skirt with some stretch (i.e. 2% lycra, not the 100% lycra or jersey unless you’re planning on pole-dancing in it). These are super comfy, and will look great on you in a single block color. Pair it with a feminine loose blouse tucked inside the skirt. The looser and more flowy your top is, the more the eye will be drawn to the fitted skirt, and the thinner you’ll look from the waist down. Plus you’ll look as glamorous as an old-time movie star.

TIP: Look for a skirt with a small slit in the back or on the thigh so that you can move more easily. Or a fine wool or linen with a touch of Lycra.  You don’t want to rip a seam taking the stairs two at a time. Avoid the 100% Lycra look, especially in neon colors: it will just make you look cheap.

The Power of a Full A-line Skirt

The A-line skirt hides a thousand flaws. No matter what your shape, you will look fabulous. BUT…  but but but… it has to be a full A-Line skirt, one that makes you want to twirl just to see it move, not some timid, boxy, 2-panel thing that makes you look like you own 19 cats. (“No! I’ll look fat and poufy with all that fabric!” No you won’t. Not if you get the fabric and the waistband right. Keep reading, Sweet Pea.)

Full A-line skirt, knee length with pleats.

Full A-line skirt, knee length with pleats.

So, how does a full A-Line skirt make any woman look fabulous? It cinches at the waist—or higher if you want to minimize the tummy area—and floats away from the body, thus creating the illusion that beneath this fabric lies a slim little figure. If you carry your weight in your tummy, rear or thighs, you’ll be astonished at how flattering a full A-line skirt is. It’s slimming and appropriate in any setting as it leaves a lot more to the imagination than a tight skirt. Best of all, you won’t feel as self-conscious about your (perceived) body flaws since they will no longer be on display. As a result, you’ll have no need of that horridly uncomfortable Spanx which means you’ll be a lot more pleasant to be around. Really, you’re doing the world a favor.

Full A-line, above the knee in heavy cotton.

Full A-line, above the knee in heavy cotton.

For the most tummy-flattering look, pair a snug-fitting V-neck top or jacket with an A-line skirt. The two shapes play well off each other and create an hour glass shape. If you’re under 30, try a mini version like this one.

Fabric and Waistband

And now for a paradox: if you carry extra weight in the belly, look for a full A-line skirt in a structured (stiffer) fabric (cotton, raw silk, starched satin, damask), versus a clingy jersey or rayon. You want the skirt to stand out from the waistband all the way around your body. This may strike you as odd if you’ve tried skirts with a gathered waistline that simply make you look fatter. The key is the fabric and the waistband: if the fabric is stiff and the waistband is at least 3 inches wide and flat, and you pair it with a fitted top, you’ll see a completely different effect. I know. I was skeptical too, until I tried it. You really have to see it to believe it. If your top has cap sleeves, or you wear a bolero jacket or shrug, all the better, as emphasizing the shoulders automatically makes the waist look even smaller.

Full A-line skirt in cotton-linen.

Full A-line skirt in cotton-linen.

Why are classic full A-line skirts hard to find? They require more fabric and more labor to sew than longer hems, which cuts into manufacturer’s profits. But they are out there, and well worth the hunt. Try vintage/retro shops, and if all else fails, find a seamstress to make one for you.

Subliminal Appeal

Why does a full A-line skirt read visually as the most feminine of looks? Because the silhouette is the opposite of a straight-hipped male. The human eye interprets a silhouette with wider hips as a woman, whether up close or in the distance. A full skirt emphasizes this shape, so it reads even more strongly as “woman.” That’s also why men prefer straight-cut shorts and pants. Never underestimate the power of the subliminal.