Skirting the issue.
April 7, 2014 4:22 AM   Subscribe

Skirt advice, plus-size edition.

Yet another clothes-related question from me for all you fashionable Mefites. (I do actually know how to dress myself... I promise! But your advice on previous questions of mine has been invaluable.)

I don't really know how to describe my body. For simplicity's sake I often use "pear-shaped" which is true, but I have a tummy as well. I am also short-waisted, ie my natural waist is quite high up. I'm 5'5, a UK 18/20 (US 14/16?), and the widest part of my body are my hips/butt-region.

This woman is not me, but her body seems a close enough approximation to mine.

My problem is I can't figure out how to make skirts work for me. If I tuck in my top into the skirt, it looks odd because my natural waist is so high and the skirt band seems to sit almost right under my boobs - it also sits on top of my belly in such a way as to make me look pregnant. If I don't tuck my top in, then I look really frumpy because my body is being cut by a horizontal line way below my natural waist. I'm constantly consulting all the plus-size blogs and the Fatshionista flickr for inspiration, but all those women are rocking their skirts - they don't seem to have such wide hips or such a high waist so the skirt sits at a less awkward place on their body.

I usually wear dresses which don't create any problem because they skim and then flare over my waist and hips without creating any awkward horizontal lines, or long-line tops and trousers/shorts. My preference is for floaty, not clingy.

I would like to wear skirts because there are plenty of cute skirts out there. Can anyone suggest if there are ways to wear skirts with my body shape without looking frumpy or if this is just something that I need to accept will not work with my body type?

Thanks guys!
posted by Ziggy500 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried long tops that don't create a sharp horizontal line below the waist, such as handkerchief hems, waterfall cardigans, or shirttail hem blouses? Babydoll/empire waist styles might also work for you because they work with your natural high-waistedness.
posted by drlith at 5:01 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Actually my experience, both as a plus size woman and skirt lover, the higher the waist line to your boobs, the better.

Do you get odd looks or comments when you wear it tucked or at empire waist? Or do you just think it looks odd?

I think all of these women look gorgeous:
Knee length
Bottom Left

You might try skirts with wider bands.
posted by royalsong at 5:19 AM on April 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm also a plus-size woman with wide hips (though less of a tummy; I'm an hourglass) and most tops look awful on me. Some things that I've found to make them work:

Tops need a bit of stretch. A t-shirt or knit top is much more flattering than a button-down shirt.

Tops need to be thick enough not to cling. I like thick 100% cotton t-shirts and medium-to-fine knits.

Tops need to be as plain as possible. Anything with volume or drape makes me look like I'm wearing a tent.

Tops need to hit the bottom of my hips but go no further. This is probably the most important thing, and it's also the hardest to find, because every plus-size designer seems to think that women want shirts that cover their upper thighs and that makes me look so, so frumpy. Given we're about the same height, I suspect that may be an issue for you, too.

Also, if you want a defined waist without tucking your shirt in, have you considered wearing a cardi that buttons at waist height? I wear one of these most of the time with my t-shirts -- lightweight and short-sleeved in summer, and heavier weight and long-sleeved in winter -- and I think they're very flattering.
posted by Georgina at 5:43 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try a skirt with a bit more "fluff" to it, like the polka dot skirt that royalsong linked to. The material will float away from your tummy/midsection area, versus laying very flat against your skin and making you feel* like you look pregnant.

*btw I think this is a feeling that many women have regardless of their body shape/size and isn't likely to be something other people are thinking about you unless you go around holding your stomach like this.
posted by gumtree at 5:56 AM on April 7, 2014

My friends who have figures similar to yours wear A-line skirts. They look fabulous.
posted by miss tea at 5:59 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm you!

I do a layered thing with skirts. You just can't tuck.

I like a floaty skirt, with a top over it that hits no longer than my hip-bones, then with a belt, preferably something loose. Here are some examples of that look. I also like a denim vest/jacket over that. You can also use sweaters and other jackets, either boleros or waist length, or long and floaty Stevie Nicks-type deals. (a bit whiffy for me, YMMV.)

You can do an optical illusion, long skirt, shirt, and a vest. I use knit shells because they're light weight and easier to find.

Another option is a peplum over a straight skirt.

Depending on how busty you are, you might be able to pull off a high waited skirt. If you have big boobs, this may not work, although it might with a crisp, white cotton-blouse.

Don't let anyone tell you you can't wear a skirt, it just takes finesse. I only wish I had known earlier how terrible and weird I looked trying to tuck things into my skirts.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:59 AM on April 7, 2014

On a side note, a good bra keeping your boobs well supported will make a huge difference to how good you look in high waisted skirts. I always look like a frumpy matron in high waisted skirts if my bra is not up to snuff, and I'm not particularly hippy.

Using broad belts, vests, jackets and cardies drawn in at your natural waist will help too. And I don't know about you, but a good layering of quality clothes always makes me feel a bit fancy.
posted by Jilder at 6:00 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm kinda that shape, but fatter. I've found that an A-line skirt in a stiffer fabric that holds its shape (i.e. denim or thick cotton twill) and sits at my hips works well when worn with a softer (jersey or knit) top, left untucked.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 6:21 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Belts. A wide belt at your natural waist makes all the difference.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:30 AM on April 7, 2014

I would recommend tops that come down over the waist of the skirt as opposed to blouses tucked into the waistband.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:37 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm shaped similarly to you and I've recently decided that skirts that are more narrow at the hem than the waist are really flattering on me. Think of it as working with your shape instead of against it. This is me rocking that sort of skirt Also, since it sits so close to the body a thin shirt of moderate length still works to create the illusion of a lower waist.
posted by Saminal at 6:39 AM on April 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Just want to reiterate Jilder's comment about a good bra. If you haven't been fitted lately, go get fitted again, just to check. It could make all the difference.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 6:45 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might want to look into some better foundation garments. One thing I have learned doing historical reenacting is that having the right underthings on makes such a difference in how clothes look.

If you want to have a silhouette reminiscent of the 1950's then look for the kind of underwear they'd put on under their skirts. A good girdle and a nice slip can really effect how a skirt will drape. (I only mention the 1950's because that's my favorite era for skirts. Poofy or pencil, they all looked so nice back then!) Think of what shape you're going for and then look for the foundation garments that will help you achieve that look.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:57 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Add a belt when you tuck in your shirts - especially wide ones. It will help create a strong separation between top and skirt and will add some waist definition.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:54 AM on April 7, 2014

Pear-shaped here, and I agree with the comment above about skirts whose hems are narrower than their hips. Pencil skirts and trumpet skirts work well for this. You do need to watch where the hem hits--there's a point somewhere mid-calf that ends up reading "frump", so you have to go higher or lower than that.

I also find that empire waist tops work well on me, so if I am not wearing an empire-waist top with the skirt, I fake one by using a belt and making it sit a little higher than my natural waist. Aditionally, I tend to keep my skirts neutral and fairly plain in color, style and texture and let my tops be the attention-getters, which draws the eye up and away from the lower half of my body.
posted by telophase at 12:01 PM on April 7, 2014

I'm sure the amazing Girl With Curves is on your blog list but if not, I find her style really inspiring and very useful when I'm trying to figure out things like this. Even though I'm not her exact shape and size, having a stylish reference point that's working with curves is really important for me.

I second the encouragement to try a pencil skirt (or a lot of pencil skirts, until one works!), as scary as they can be, because the usual thing about fitted-but-not-too-tight being the most slimming applies. Also, on wider skirts, I'll sometimes wear the top tucked in and the waist high but add a cardigan on top to bring the line down a bit - for one particular striped skirt, I button below the bust and let the cardigan cover the top/skirt line.
posted by carbide at 11:33 AM on April 8, 2014

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