Alison Post: Long and Lean

Even at 5’10”, my legs are abnormally stumpy. To illustrate: my high school coxswain, standing in at 5’5″, had longer legs. So even at my thinnest, my thighs thunder on. While I flip-flop every now and then on just how confident and comfortable I am in this mixture of genetics and love of Bojangles, I will admit that I am somewhat predisposed to favor long, camouflaging skirts.

So believe me when I say I was an early converter to the sweet, summer maxi dresses that debuted a couple years back. Ah yes, the prints and the ruffles and the bohemian romance of it all, draping my body from shoulder to toe, was a wonderful escape from the ever-present “shortness” of it all. And how happy I am to see this trend reincarnated with a dramatic and edgy twist for the fall.

Today’s maxi look, however, is much less reminiscent of the Summer of Love. Instead, we’re offered a sleek, modern take: a minimalist take on a maximal style.

Maxi Dresses from Splendid, Sparkle & Fade, and Bassike on Refinery29 

To wear this look, you have to be completely aware of your own physical proportions and the proportional weight of your garments. If you have wider hips, opt for a modest a-line , but remember to keep the volume minimal to avoid losing the element of modernity. If you’re shorter than average, make sure to get your skirt or dress hemmed, unless you want to look like a bag lady after a couple of wears. In fact, petite women may want to consider trying on maxi skirts as dresses, or even shorter dresses as maxi skirts; this obviously only works with elastic-banded casual wear, but it will open up your options. And when pairing a top with your maxi skirt? Do your best to avoid looking like Esmerelda the gypsy by sticking to sleek lines and avoiding superfluous volume.

Michael Kors Fall 2010 RTW

Remember, whether you have killer legs or not, you’re hiding them all up, so you’ll want to emphasize another part of your body that you’re comfortable with. Great shoulders? Show them off with a racerback maxi dress. Enviable cleavage? Pair a maxi skirt with a deep v t-shirt. Perfectly pinched waist? Duh – belt it. If you’re afraid of getting lost in all that fabric, try contrasting the top and bottom with different colors, and keep accessories to a minimum.

This look should be worn in a solid color, my own preference skewing toward black or dark grays. The jury seems to still be out, however, in the appropriate shoe pairing. There were a lot of flats on the runways, but many street looks feature booties and wedges. I think the shoes shouldn’t take away from the beautiful, long skirt you’re wearing, so avoid anything too flashy. Then again, depending on how long you wear the skirt, it may not even matter (although rule of thumb is for the skirt to skim the top of your shoe). I like the idea of a flat sandal or ballet flat for the day and a pair of matching booties at night.

Seam Detail Maxi Skirt (ASOS, $43.81)



L’Agence Crepe Maxi Skirt (Net-a-Porter, $400) 

If you’re worried about the longevity of this look, opt for a lighter color – nude or cream – in a gauzy fabric: you can mix it with fall-appropriate knits in the same color for a stunning start-of-fall look, then stash it away until spring, where it will be just as trendy. If you’re worried about the hemline theory of economics, well, let’s just cross our fingers that this is a reactive trend that took too long to catch on. 


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  1. LPU says:

    What a great post, Alison! I, too, have the height without the legs. So, that begs the question — do you have any words of wisdom for those of us with a disproportionately long torso? That has been my greatest clothing struggle; especially during the height of Britney's reign.

    September 22, 2010/Reply
  2. Allison says:

    Love. It.

    September 23, 2010/Reply