04 January 2007

Skirt rules for the littl'uns among us

In my opinion, the easiest and most effective way to compensate for having short legs, a short torso, or a big anything, is with a pair of 3.5 to 4.25 inch stilettos. To the left is a gratuitous picture of a pair of patent leather Manolo Blahnik d'orsay peeptoes ($565 at bergdorfgoodman.com) I've been crushing on for a few weeks. These are only the latest in a 10 year string of break-the-bank temptresses that have made me wonder if finding true love really is what would bring me the most joy in life.

Added height is tantamount to work-free weight loss -- instead of 150 pounds on a 5'4" frame, you have the option every morning to be 150 lbs on a 5'8" frame. Even sneakier would be to hide the heels under a pair of wide-leg floor-sweeping trousers. I have a good friend who's been doing this her entire career - professional and social - and it wasn't until very recently when I stopped by her apartment unannounced and caught her in flip-flops and pajama bottoms that I discovered she was but a wee little thing. She was not pleased.

Getting back to the woman I saw today. She was not only short but extremely pear-shaped. The kind, like my 7th grade English teacher, that look like a size 6 from the waist-up but from the belt down, WHA-BAM, explode into a 14-16. At 11 years old, I remember sitting in class with my hand propping up my chin, absolutely transfixed by her backside. I remember wondering why God would do that to a woman who had chosen to dedicate her life to good grammar. I felt such sincere pity for her, and that was saying something, because I was totally that bitchy popular girl with Girbaud jeans and no conscience.

Unfortunately, if you're one of these women, one who falls both into the short and bottom-heavy categories, the reality is that you have fewer options than most women as far as skirts are concerned. But you're not completely devoid of choice -- just follow these few simple rules.

First, stay as far away from thin, clingy fabrics as possible. And NEVER buy a skirt that isn't lined. Even with control-top hose, your lady lumps will find their way to the surface. They always do. Stick to thick knitted materials, and in the cooler months, go for tweed and wool.

Second, I would dress to take the attention away from your pear-ness and highlight your smaller-by-contrast waist. This high-waisted cotton/spandex Charles Nolan flared skirt ($258 at saks.com) does just that. The looseness of the full skirt successfully masks even the widest hips, and because of the stretch the spandex affords you, you'll be completely comfortable with and without hose. As I wrote in an earlier post, high-waisted pants and skirts are stunning on those with small waistlines but devastating at the first trace of tummy spillover. Be honest with yourself about what you look like before investing in one of these.

The third directive I have is to stick to muted colors. Even if you've chosen the right size, nothing says "look at my fat ass" more than a loud color or print. If you're a person who needs a color fix, get it in the way of a bright top, pair of heels, or hair accessory. On the bottom, though, stick to grays, navies, dark greens and reds, and of course, everyone's friend - black.

My fourth piece of advice for petite women is to avoid anything below the knee. At the knee is as long as you should take it. Show as much leg as you can without crossing the line. During work, that is. Come 6 o'clock, feel free to trash it up Camelot style.

Fifth, don't wear a shoe with any kind of strap across your ankle. A low-slung Mary Jane like this one from Delman ($298 at zappos.com) might be okay, depending on how petite you are. That few inches of leather cuts your leg length dramatically, though, so if you're below 5'3", I'd swear it off completely.

And finally, if you have squatty calves or Lynne Cheney cankles, I'm not going to sugarcoat this: avoid the skirt altogether. It's for the best.

Who knew Au bon Pain, my loyal purveyor of seasonal pumpkin pastries, would turn out to be such a gold mine of style wrong?

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