The Fitting Room: All About Hemlines

The Fitting Room

This weekend marked the biggest snowstorm New England’s seen in years, so naturally, I’m in full-on spring-dreaming mode. I’m just waiting for that moment I can put my wintery boots in under-the-bed storage, pack away the mittens, and whip out the very essential spring standby: the skirt.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s review some essential skirt rules. Because, after all, there’s potentially nothing worse than winter-pale legs and a too-short hemline. Except a spring snowstorm. Of course.

In terms of length, I’m a firm believer in Grandma’s golden rule: if you put your arms down straight and your fingertips are longer than your skirt hem, your skirt is too short. Regardless, this look is best for nighttime. To err on the side of caution, wear with opaque tights. And if you do end up with a too-short skirt? Peep these what-to-do tips.

Above the Knee
If you ask Project Runway guru Tim Gunn, a skirt or dress that hits just a few inches above the knee is the most versatile of the bunch – this look works anywhere from dinner with the boyfriend’s parents to your 9-to-5. It’s also one of the most widely flattering. Wear with flats for day then transition (with ease) to heels for night.

Knee Length
Perhaps the most conservative of all hemlines, the knee-length skirt is best for fancy midday affairs and boardrooms. Stay away if your gams aren’t your best asset – the length can cut them off at an awkward point – and choose instead a look that falls an inch or two above or below the knee. (I love this petite-friendly guide to finding the most flattering hemline length.)

Floor Length
Maxi dresses aside, this floor-sweeping hemline is best kept to black-tie galas, proms, and your (fingers crossed) red-carpet debut. When choosing length, pick a gown that hits an inch off the floor when you’re wearing heels. Not ready to take the long-dress plunge? Go tea length, which hits between the knee and ankle and can be just as fancy when done right.

By Joanna Berliner, Editor 

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February 11, 2013