There will never be a time that you won’t find a-line skirts in the stores.  Other skirt styles may come and go, but the a-line seems timeless.  I’m not sure why this skirt is so universally embraced.  When I polled my subscribers on my Facebook Page and forum the reviews on this skirt shape were about as divided as whether or not that horrible dress everyone was talking about was blue and black or white and gold.   So, why will an a-line skirt never go out of style?  And is it possible that some women who wear them just shouldn’t be wearing them?  In today’s wear-to-work post, I am delving deeply into this skirt style, giving tips on who should wear them and who shouldn’t, how they should be worn, showing particular a-line silhouettes (because there are several), and how to make this skirt work, should it be something you are interested in.

Why are a-line skirts so appealing?

A-line skirts appeal to a lot of women because they like to camouflage the parts of their bodies they don’t like.  This is often the hips and thighs.  Throw an a-line skirt on and nobody will know you have two ham hocks for upper legs, right?  Well, not so fast.  Think about it, an a-line skirt creates the exact shape many women are trying to avoid, the triangle shape.  Therefore, there is a good chance you’re not hiding the body parts you are wishing to conceal, you’re actually emphasizing them.

But, hold on, does this mean that a-line skirts should be avoided if you are bottom heavy?  Not necessarily.  The truth is there isn’t just one a-line shape out there, there are many.  Some that can work for bottom heavy women and others that are better for women who are narrower in the hips and thighs.  There are also better choices for women with tummies, heavy legs, women who are short, tall, and more.  What this means is, there might be an a-line skirt for you out there, you just need to be discerning.   All a-line skirts are not the same.

Confused yet?

How to Choose the Best A-line Skirts for Your Body Shape

Okay, let’s break this down, slowly, step-by-step.  There is so much information to share that is hard to even figure out where to start.  The best way to do this is  through illustration as well as explanation.  Below are three different a-line skirts that have been styled into work looks.  Below each one I am going to talk about the pros and cons of each, what type of body characteristics work best with each one and how you can tweak these styles to work for you.

A-line skirt #1- The short, gathered a-line skirt

a-line skirts

This a-line skirt from Boden, that has been styled with a coral top from Mango, a navy cardigan from Modcloth, green Nine West pumps, a navy Stella & Dot necklace and gold stacked bracelets from Macy’s, looks darling and totally wearable, right?  Imagine how much of your body you can hide from the world when you wear it!  Hold on.  If this is what you are thinking, this skirt is NOT for you.

Who can wear this skirt: I am sorry say, my hippy friends, this skirt is not the best choice, not unless you have slim legs, and even then it is questionable.  Think about it, if you are bottom heavy do you really want to add pleats to this area of your body?  All this will do is emphasize the bigness you are trying to conceal.  Also, if you are pear shaped with very narrow shoulders, a skirt like this will only emphasize your shape by making your shoulders look really narrow.  To counterbalance this effect, try wearing a skirt like this with a wide neckline, like a boat neck, and don’t wear anything like a halter top.  It will only make you look narrower on top and bigger on the bottom.    The body this skirt is best for is someone who is narrower in the hips, has a slight (not big) tummy, shapely, slim legs and a decently broad upper body shape to counterbalance the bigness on the bottom.

The other problem with this skirt is that it has a larger skirt sweep.  A sweep is the circumference of a hem of skirt of dress.  This means if you are petite you have to be careful.  The wider a sweep, the shorter someone will look.  Sorry, my little friends.

Have heavy legs, like large calves and ankles?  Stay away from a skirt like this, especially with flat shoes.  When worn with a pair of ballerinas or flat sandals, your legs are going to look even heavier.  Imagine the hippos from Fantasia, if you will.  And, for the love of god, don’t wear a pair of shoes with ankle straps, that will just make it worse.  The only way to save a skirt like this if you have heavy legs is to try nude shoes with bare legs, or tights and shoes that match, all with a slight heel to elongate the legs which will make them look slimmer.

Pleats on an a-line skirt can work if you have tummy, but you still have to be careful.  A few flatter pleats can be okay, but a overly gathered dirndl style can just emphasize what you are trying to hide.  If you have a tummy and want to wear a skirt with pleats, look for styles that have the pleats stitched down a few inches over the stomach or skirts with pleats that aren’t too deep.

Yet, it’s not only the skirt shape itself that has some issues, it’s how it is worn.  The first is, no matter what your body looks like, this skirt needs to be worn with shaped tops.  I don’t care if you tuck or if you choose tops that are shaped and hit right above the pleats, either will work.  However, what won’t are shapeless tops, long styles, tunics or relaxed cardigans.  With a-line shaped skirts you want to show your waist.  If you don’t your body is going to look unbalanced, dumpy and round.

A-line skirt #2 – The slim, narrow a-shape

a-line skirts

Next, up, the slim a-line skirt.  This style from J. Crew, that has been styled with an e-Shakti button down that has been belted with a tan belt from Brighton, pumps from Anthropologie and colorful bib necklace from Modcloth, is the polar opposite from the previous skirt.  It’s much less girly and frilly, which makes it a lot more modern looking.

Who can wear this skirt: Dare I say, this skirt can work for a lot more body shapes than the first skirt, but there are still some limitations to consider.  First, if you are bottom heavy, choosing a skirt like this, that grazes the upper hips and then flares out every so slightly, is a much better choice.  What a skirt like this does is it stays close to the body without adding extra bulk where bulk isn’t needed.  It also works for those who have narrow hips and thighs, too.  Additionally, it’s a bit longer than the first skirt, which can create a longer, leaner line.  The benefit of this for larger bottomed women is that longer lines creates slimmer proportions.

However, this skirt is still far from perfect, and there are some features that should be looked at before you purchase it.  First, the length.  While the longer, slimmer and cleaner line can can be elongating, it can also look awkward with flat shoes.  A skirt like this needs a pair of heels to look balanced, especially if you have have heavy legs.  What is also important is to look at is where the hem of the skirt lands on your legs.  If the hem cuts your legs off right at the widest parts of your calves you are going to add about 10 extra pounds to your legs.  No bueno.  If you’re petite, be careful, this skirt may only work if you give it a good hem.  And with all the hemming you may lose the a-shape.

Have a tummy?  You may feel a bit insecure in a skirt like this, which is understandable because it fits so close to the body.  However, don’t completely discount this style.  Instead of tucking or wearing a really slim top, try belting a top, to create some tummy camouflage or tops with ruching or gathering over the stomach to conceal.  You can also look for slim a-shapes that fall straighter from the stomach to avoid showing any lumps and also seek out slimmer a-lines with contour waistbands which will work better with the roundness of your stomach.

We also have to address fabric.  Beefier and more tailored fabrics can have a lot of benefits.  They contain the body better than flimsy fabrics do because they’re more structured.  However, when choosing an a-line skirt in heftier fabrics you do want to be careful to not choose a style that has a sweep that is too full in order to not look like a stiff triangle.  This can be particular bad if you have a large butt, as the fabric will start to pull away from the body in the back and make your backside look boxy.

Like the first skirt, this style also needs waist shape.  No slouchy tops, tunics, oversized sweaters or cardigans.  Not only will you look lumpy, but, with the length of this skirt, the proportion with longer tops will look weird.  Shape the waist and choose tops that aren’t much longer than your pelvic bones.

A-line skirt #3- The flippy, flimsy shape

a-line skirts

If you see me in a flippy, flimsy skirt like this it probably means I lost a bet.  Yes, this skirt from Reiss, that has been styled with a simple short sleeve cashmere sweater from J. Crew, turquoise necklace from Max & Chloe and orange flats from Softwalk, is super cute, but any woman wearing it should take a look at themselves in the mirror from behind before they leave the house.

I call it the fat in a Ziploc bag analogy (because you know I love a good analogy).  If you haven’t heard me describe this before, imagine you take fat and put it in a Ziploc bag.  Because the bag has no structure, the fat is able to jiggle around and take whatever shape the bag does.  Now, imagine putting fat in a piece of Tupperware.  The fat has no choice but to conform to the shape of the container.  If you have jiggly thighs or butt you risk looking like fat in a Ziploc bag when you wear a flimsy skirt like this one.

The good news is there are some ways around this, which is to build your own structure by wearing something like Spanx.  Ugh, I know, but it does work.  The next is to look for skirts like this that have decent lining and aren’t clingy.  Clingy, flimsy skirts will show every lump and bump.

Who can wear this skirt: Women who look best in skirts like this are usually narrower in the hips, have flatter butts, because the skirt adds fullness where there is none.  Straighter figures can also look good in this shape because it creates fullness where women like this don’t have much.  Believe it or not, if you have a bit of a booty (a bit, not a lot) you could wear a skirt like this, but only if you wear some sort of support underneath it.  What you also have to be careful of, if you have a large butt, is that the skirt doesn’t hike in the back because of the roundness of your rear. Some plus size retailers, like Lee Lee’s Valise, actually cut their skirts longer in the back to compensate for this.

Of course, not all swishy, flimsy skirts are created equally.  A lot of times it is a matter of trying them on and looking in a three way mirror.  If you are bottom heavy and have bigger legs, like I do, in addition to adding some support under the skirt, elongating the legs, through heels and shoes that match the legs, can help make this skirt look more flattering.  If you have a tummy, this skirt can work really well, as long as the gathers around the tummy are minimal and don’t add extra bulk.

I am sure I haven’t covered every single question about a-line skirts and that you might have some more to ask me.  There are just so many variables that there is no way I can cover them all.  If you are still wondering what is right for you, or if the a-line skirt is a style you’re still not sure about, feel free to leave a comment below.