Looking for an attractive, appropriate skirt
May 22, 2010 2:26 PM   Subscribe

How can I find a pencil skirt that will flatter my figure?

I run a size 12-16 depending on the brand/designer and gravitate towards a full A-line skirt to camouflage problem areas of my figure. On some occasions, a less voluminous silhouette would look more flattering. However, the traditional pencil skirts I've found (form-fitting numbers that taper towards the hem) draw attention to my large rear end and the ever-attractive roll of fat that hangs low on my abdomen. Even something like this gives the appearance of sausage casing.

If I'd like to go with a sleeker silhouette, what should I be looking for? Are there particular brands or skirt cuts that would be less heavy than the A-line I favor, but would draw the eye away from the problem areas of my lower body?
posted by pxe2000 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I think I have a similar shape to you and really the most flattering skirts for me aren't so much full A-line skirts as true A-line skirts. I think people tend to think of A-line skirts as being pretty flared out but true A-lines don't really flare out all that much. Also stay away from extremely tapered pencil skirts. From a favorite blogpost on how to dress a pear-shaped body:
"Knee length A-line skirts with vertical panel seaming are great. Stay clear of bias-cuts."
"Pencil skirts and sheath dresses can also work if you keep the side seams straight from the hip down to the hem (no tapering). It’s also best to add a little length to this style of skirt and dress, so around the knee is ideal."
Not sure if you're pear-shaped or not, but given that you seem to be having similar troubles with your skirts as I do, I thought this was worth posting.
posted by peacheater at 2:35 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're comfortable with your legs (esp. calves), those old fashioned, longer (key word) semi-pencil-y skirts can be cute. Think Julie Christie in Don't Look Now, sort of. Diane Keaton wears this kind of thing too, sort of, but less femmy versions. G'ah, I have one, but I'm struggling to describe this or find pics online--that 1940s straight-up-and-down look with a slight flip outward at the hem, in fabrics sturdy enough to keep the skirt all up-and-down-lines.
posted by ifjuly at 3:51 PM on May 22, 2010

Yeah you really want to stay away from the tapering ones. You basically want the same thing you probably want in pants, which is for the clothes to flow straight down from the widest point. So for a skirt you want it to fit the bum, and then fall straight down from there. And you probably want something with a bit of a more structured/thick fabric rather than clingy (or at least I do!).

Finding them basically just involves trying on a bunch of skirts. Sorry that's the only thing I've found to really work!
posted by grapesaresour at 3:59 PM on May 22, 2010

Best answer: So from what you say, everything is fine apart from the tum and the bum.

Make sure the skirt is low-waisted so that the waistline goes across the middle of the wobbly zone, visually cutting it in half and reducing its size.

Ruching at the center front of the skirt will also help, as the onlooker assumes that it's the skirt that's wibbly, rather than the tum underneath it.

I do think that a fairly taut or medium-taut fabric is best (denim is an example of a taut fabric). The cut of the skirt needs to follow your contours and hug the curves. With the right tailoring the fabric will corset you in.

A pencil skirt that tapers could be great on you, provided it follows those guidelines. If it doesn't, consider your underwear. It should be lycra-ful, supportive, and smooth and flat, probably in a shorts kind of cut. Your nemesis would be something like bikini panties, which will give you quadributt by digging its elastic in halfway down each buttock.

If wearing tights, the waistband should coincide with the waistband of the skirt or you'll get a donut effect with two waistbands cutting in.

A flared skirt is different from an a-line skirt: a true flared skirt will follow the contours of your bum, continue the journey down the back of your thighs, and then flare out, so that you'd get an S-shape. These should also be good. A-line skirts, like straight skirts, are the kiss of death.

If you find a skirt that follows these guidelines, but still looks bad when worn over the right underwear, maybe it's a length proportion thing; if you're wearing flats, put on heels and see if that doesn't fix it.

Finally if none of this works, there may be other factors, or else you're mistaken and your bum and/or tum aren't that big and the problem is elsewhere.
posted by tel3path at 4:34 PM on May 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

The Fatsionista flickr pool has tons of attractive, stylish women with lots of different body types, many of whom are wearing flattering skirts. Maybe the most efficient way is to browse through the stream, find women whose builds are similar to yours (no matter what they're wearing), then click through to their individual Flickr accounts to see if they may have posted any other outfit shots with skirt styles that you'd like.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:51 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love pencil skirts and I'm pretty much a solid 12-14 with hips and a not insignificant ass. For work, I have an Ellie Tahari and a Michael Kors I bought off the sale rack at Off Fifth. I've found a fair amount of functional, cute (if not exactly high quality) pencil skirts at Loehmann's, TJ Maxx and Marshalls. You can also try J. Crew (better in winter) and Anthropologie (hands down, better in summer). Of course, you have to be willing to seek them out, which really holds true for thrift/vintage stores, where I've been buying brightly colored pencil skirts in wools, tweeds, silks and lined cottons for the last decade or so. Underwear, as mentioned above, makes a huge difference. If you're short-waisted, make sure whatever waistband of whatever you're wearing under the skirt falls at your waist. High waisted pencil skirts can be very flattering on curves, especially if whatever you're wearing up top has puffed sleeves or broad shoulders. Just above/just at the knee looks good, no matter what your height. If you have stocky legs, be advised that full, short skirts worn with flats may make you look wider than you actually are. A very long shirt, if not quite fitted, worn over a pencil skirt may make you appear pregant (trust me on this one).

Gap and Banana Republic are not consistent in sizing. I have a perfect pencil skirt from BR (about four years ago) that will fall apart any day now, but I have loved it well. Walk through every now and then and try something on.

H&M has some nice houndstooth pencil skirts right now. Might be worthy of a walkthrough. The one with the drape in front looked weird on me, but it might work for you.

If you're going to be wearing said pencil skirt during the winter, try it on with panty hose. If you're going to be wearing it in the summer, make sure it's loose enough that you don't need panty hose.

My favorite pencil skirt of all time (since resigned to the trash after it literally started to disintegrate) came from Target. I paid $29.98 for it seven years ago and wore it until it I could no longer. The best skirt is the skirt that fits best and the skirt that makes you confidentally strut like Christina Hendricks in "Mad Men" when you wear it.

And this probably goes without saying, but avoid pencil skirts without slits, lest you end up borderline immobile.
posted by thivaia at 10:03 PM on May 22, 2010

single pleat A-line skirt, pleat can be in the front (quite retro, as this was popular in the seventies) or in the back. I find this is very flattering on every kind of figure, give it a try see how it suits you.
posted by dabitch at 4:21 AM on May 23, 2010

Also, I should point out, I've had good luck before at Zara with skirts, if you are able to visit a store.
posted by thivaia at 9:32 PM on May 23, 2010

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