Posts Tagged ‘hemlines’

Hem Hem, High Inquisitor Decree #36

Can you tell? I hemmed my skirt by 2.5 inches so that it falls on the knee. If you look closely you can tell because with the second picture you can see where my calves start to narrow as they approach the knees.

eddie bauer denim skirt purchased at the outlet mall this summer when it was really really hot. i don't own any skirts and i needed to wear something other than my ONE pair of shorts.

eddie bauer denim skirt purchased at the outlet mall this summer when it was really really hot. i don't own any skirts and i needed to wear something other than my ONE pair of shorts. yes, i look like a ghost.

did it make a difference? i do feel smarter though because i think the skirt did feel kind of long and awkward. i have to hem pants i buy anyway so it makes sense that the skirts i buy off the rack are too long.

did it make a difference? i do feel smarter though because i think the skirt did feel kind of long and awkward. i have to hem pants i buy anyway so it makes sense that the skirts i buy off the rack are too long. hmm formatting is hard.

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For most of my life,  Vogue magazine was completely unaccessable and irrelevant to me. The fashions were ridiculous and the prices obscene. It seems to have no applicability to real life (like deathmama recently explored in Reality vs Not Reality.

But I started to challenge myself with it, and I became pleasantly surprised.  The writing is legit.  The ads are gorgeous.  And the styles — while I may not see much to wear to the Tacoma Mall or on a trip to the pediatrician’s office — the styles are absolute.  If there’s a Platonic Form of contemporary Western Women’s Fashion, it is in Vogue.  Or, since I am an Existentialist, Vogue both creates and reflects the essence of Style. Vogue has all the designers and new trends, together in looks and layouts that can be as informative as they are cryptic.  To me, anyway.

But still – Vogue is weird. I took some pages from the July issue (by the time I got around to this, August was already on the stands).  It was fun so maybe I’ll do more of it.  The red writing on the left is my immediate, cynical reaction to a Vogue fashion spread.  The green on the right are my more thoughtful and open-minded imaginings as to what I can learn from this.

It’s ridiculous, but I’m not giving up.  There are moments I look at Vogue and can almost taste the greatness. Someday I might have it for breakfast.




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Knee Length


I’m posting this as a point of reference more than a Do-and-Don’t list.  All the references I can find on “Skirt Length” describe lengths like “formal” and “tea” but treat “knee length” as if it’s a single hemline. The knee is not a line, it’s a whole area that moves when you walk. 

This used to really piss me off but instead I decided to just start paying attention and trying a little harder.  Examples:

1. Just below knee; 2. Top of knee; 3. Above the knee; 4. Mini.

1. Just below knee; 2. Top of knee; 3. Above the knee; 4. Mini.

1. Just Below Knee.  Fully covers knee, but any longer and you are in the difficult “mid/long skirt” area.  I would wear this to federal court or a funeral.

2.  “At or above” knee.  Covers the top of the knee, you can see knee poke out when you walk or sit down. As a rule, I’d say this is the go-to skirt length for all women on all occassions.  I would wear this length skirt to work or a wedding.

3. Above the knee. This is starting to get a little sassy but doesn’t raise any questions of decency.  It might be a little shorter than you think, if you sit down or drop something and need to pick it up.  So I wouldn’t just walk around in this length skirt without a plan, but if I was 45 and trying to revitalize my self-image, this is where I’d go.  I would wear this to a party or if I worked at The Limited.

4. Mini skirt.  Closer to fingertips than to knee.  Shows thighs. Nowhere near obscene, but when you see someone’s thighs don’t you ever think “hey, why are you showing me your thighs? Is it 90 degrees out? Are you flirting? Did you just grow 3 inches last night?” I would not wear this out of the bathroom.

I think there are probably workable lengths between 3 and 4, and it depends on style and fullness of skirt, shoes, legs, etc.  Ideas?


These bathroom cabinets are really working as a length reference 


Above, from left: Purple print, good length, better with tights; Gray knit, wore this a lot with tights and boots; Difficult 1998 mid-calf length; Little black dress, not too short but I can see now definitely not for funerals or job interviews.

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Response to “Looking Your Age”

rr is right, I can’t seem to post pictures into the comments section so here are my comments.

In general, I think that some people can wear spaghetti straps, but most shouldn’t.  Here is a good example of why not to wear spaghetti straps, needing a bra that fits, and not showing your bra straps (among other things she should be dinged for).


Also, minis on younger kids can be “cute” but really only in theory.  What happens if a gust of wind blows by?  And when you sit down, do you sit down on your underwear? These are important questions to ask yourself.



Comment added by raisa:

Maybe you should ask Jennifer Aniston what she sits on. I think she has a great body and usually shows it well, but I don’t think she can pull off a mini like someone 20 years younger can:

Yes she looks great, but seriously, a little more skirt length would have gone a long way

Yes she looks "great," but seriously, a little more skirt length would have gone a long way


And I think this DOES work: skirt is sheer but the overlay gives good thigh coverage.  It’s balanced out by thicker straps and more coverage on top.  Heels are crazy but crazy cool, and isn’t that part of her character?

Mary Louise Parker on Weeds, looking great.

Mary Louise Parker on Weeds, looking great.

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Trying to look young can backfire

Trying to look young can backfire

Growing older is great. You start to command authority from young people.  You can run for Senate without being mocked for your youth.  You did not die young.  So I’m not down on age, but I do want to look “good for my age” – and that means “not older than.” The right clothes can keep you from looking frumpy and even take about five years off. But be careful aiming lower than that, because trying too hard backfires.  It’s easy to spot when other women make this mistake, but it’s a trap any of us can fall into. It’s the same trap that seduced Ponce de Leon to his death by the poisoned arrow of the Calusa  in his search for the Fountain of Youth.  And it can seduce any of us into looking desperate and . . . middle-aged.

This is a reason for anyone over 30 to avoid the Juniors Department, or any stores for teens (you can tell by the odd-number sizing).*  I am often tempted: the clothes are cheaper. They look cute on the hanger and they carry an imprimatur of “current fashion” (teenagers wear them!)  It’s a risky shortcut: the clothes are cheaply made and too trendy to stay in style for long.  They’re cut for young women with immature hips, so the pants don’t fit and the skirts end up short in back.  The tops tend to be tight or don’t have room for real bra straps, you will be annoyed because the XL is too small for you, and you risk showing too much boob.  Not in a cute way.  In a Blanche Devereaux kind of way. 

And don’t think you’re better off shopping in the men’s department.  A Tomboy Teen look (baggy jeans, old tennies, logo T’s) doesn’t do a woman any favors, either.

If you gravitate toward teen clothes, figure out why and go find those elements in age-appropriate fashions.   If you crave a bargain, do some research and wait for a sale.  It’s actually easier to focus on shopping when you’re not distracted by the nagging thought that the Fountain of Youth is right around the corner in the Brass Plum.

I’m sure not everyone agrees, but I will argue for avoiding these if you are over 35 (this includes “Looking good for 36 = 36-5= 31”)

Troiing too hard

Troi'ing too hard


  • Mini-skirts
  • Spaghetti straps and tube tops (you probably need a supportive bra)
  • Slogans on your shirts
  • Words on the seat of your pants
  • Actually NO ONE should wear words on the seat of their pants
  • Ripped jeans
  • Pants with a rise so low in front that you must give specific waxing instructions
  • Your boyfriend’s sweater on purpose (not just if you get stuck somewhere cold — I won’t deny the timeless romance of that).
  • Platform shoes
  • Cleavage that exposes actual sides of actual breast


After thirty, it’s time for classy, it’s time for chic (yes even in jeans and yes even on a budget).  It’s time for elegant and confident.   It is time to find your personal style.  It is not time for what dmama calls “hootchie cougar.”

*And I can only quote from Nora Ephron: “If anyone young is reading this, go right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.”  Also, never show your bra straps.  Also, Sunscreen!

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Finding Clothes that Fit

Clothes must fit.

All of them. If your clothes don’t fit your body well, it doesn’t matter if the color looks great on you — or what an amazing bargain you got.  No one looks cute if their clothes don’t fit. There is no good reason to compromise on this.

Clothes that are baggy make you look larger.  Clothes that are tight make you look larger.  Also, they embarrass other people by subjecting them to your pantyline. Also, what if you are driving with your pants unzipped because they are too tight, and you get out thinking you can zip your fly real quick in the parking lot because you parked behind a van, and then you realize that the van is full of teenage boys? This happened to someone I know recently.* Do not leave the house in anything that doesn’t fit you.  If you’re not looking in the mirror because you don’t care, it might look worse from the back than you think. 

If your clothes fit in three critical ways, everything else starts falling into place:

Shoulder Fit.  Since women’s clothing is sized by bust/waist/hips, it’s important to try things on to find the right shoulder fit.  Shoulder seams should line up with your actual shoulders: The sleeve should connect where it’s still pointing to the sky, not out to the side. This is the problem with wearing “boyfriend sweaters” that belong to your actual boyfriend: with any luck, he’s got broader shoulders than you. Clothes that are too wide in the shoulder do not make you look petite. They make you look like you are slouching.  Proper shoulder fit ensures good sleeve placement and the correct alignment of the side seams — critical if you don’t want to look wider than you are in the torso.  If you are broad-shouldered you know that it’s hard to find a fit, but it’s worth it.  It’s worth shopping around (Lands End has started carrying three “cuts” of women’s tops, each of different width). For more permanent pieces, buy to fit the shoulders and alter the sleeves and side seams.

Boyfriend sweater with properly fitting seams (left)

Left: Boyfriend sweater with properly fitting seams; Right: Person who would look cuter if their sweater fit

Bra fit.  You are not the same bra size as you were 15 years ago.**  Especially if you have had a change in weight and/or children recently, you need to go get measured for a bra. Give yourself time to do it right. Do not bring anyone under the age of 16 in the dressing room with you. Wear a “difficult” shirt and try it on over each bra you think of buying .  Some bras look okay by themselves, but under a t-shirt they cut the bosom in half (“bifocal boob”) or cling to the back straps and give them impression of fat rolls when really it’s just pinched skin.  Buy bras to fit you on the loosest hook setting; that gives you room to tighten them over time as the band stretches out.  If your straps tend to fall off your shoulders, try a smaller band size.  If the middle of your bra does not lay flat over your breastbone, try a larger cup size.  Check the quality by looking at the stitching along the wires: the more stitching between and along the seams, the longer it will last.  I love to find bargains on department store sale racks -(Macy’s has additional discounts for their Saturday morning One-Day Sales — sometimes up to 70% off just for being an old color).  Without the right bra fit, none of your clothes can look their best.

Bottoms fit.  You need to pants that fit in the “seat” (as my Grandma used to say, while I stood mortified in the dressing room as she pointed at the crack of my jeans).  “Petite” trousers usually have a shorter rise and less hip room; if you shop in the petite department simply to save yourself the effort of hemming, they might be too small and ride up the crack of your seat.     

If you are apple-shaped (wear a bigger size around the waist), lower-rise pants might fit better in the hips without giving you a “Tweedle-Dee” shape.  If you are pear-shaped (bigger around the hips), a longer rise might emphasize that smaller waist of yours (do I sound jealous? I hate my waist).  Sit down in pants before you buy them. If the waistband gaps in the back when you sit in the floor, you need to either not have children (so you never sit on the floor) or get the waist taken in.  This is simple and usually costs under $20 (if there’s not a tailor in-store, you can find one at most drycleaners). Hem pants so that they barely touch the ground in the back when you have your shoes on; they should break (fold in at the ankle) over your instep. If you can see your socks when you are standing up, your pants are TOO SHORT.  If your pants drag on the ground when you walk, they are TOO LONG.

When your clothes fit well, it becomes hard to look truly bad.  This is true no matter how dressy you want to be, or whether you care what you look like.   If your current favorite clothes “break” the fit rules, be happy! You are about to lose 15 pounds (visually) as soon as they fit. 

Any other fit tips?


**I risk generalization because, if only one person gets fitted just to prove me wrong, that is one more bra fitting in furtherance of the greater good.

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