Friday, November 12, 2010

The Psychology of Wearing a Skirt

by Jackie Walker
Fact: 98% of all women are trouser driven. That means that they wear pants more than skirts.

As a young buyer of couture clothing, I remember a conversation with my divisional manager. I was delighted to show him a new concept in double knit that I had purchased for my department. It featured a double-breasted jacket and the ensemble came with a pant and a skirt. A three-piece outfit was new and exciting at the time. I mentioned to Mr. Spector that I was going to purchase one and wear it on my next buying trip and that I would have the duo of both foundations pieces to stretch a wardrobe while away.  

As long as you work for me you will never wear pants to the New York market,” he exclaimed loudly, “You will always wear a dress or skirt!”

Katharine Hepburn helped popularize trousers for women.
I recall those words with fondness and a bit of humor as I view the New York market today. Pant! Pants! Pants! Thank you, Katharine Hepburn for giving us the image of elegance and comfort.

Fact: Women wear trousers more today because they hate to wear pantyhose! As I make that statement in presentations around the country I get total confirmations from my audiences. I do believe there are other reasons that woman “skirt the issue” of wearing a skirt.

When we wear a pant the fabric is wrapped around the ankle or a bit higher in casual lengths. As we walk we control this fabric and take it with us. When we stand we pull the fabric in as we pull our legs together at the ankle. This creates a slimmer feeling for all women. We always want to be wider at the top and slimmer at the bottom. In wearing a skirt the fabric drops from the hip line and is not controllable or brought in so it adds visual weight to the bottom of your body. If it features an a-line look or a fuller skirt it also adds more visual weight. Depending on where you drop the horizontal line of the hemline against the leg it can reverse the desired image and make you look wider at the bottom. The petite torso can also take away inches from a woman’s height by the fabric going out at the bottom. This is especially evident when a woman is wearing a jacket.

“I haven’t worn a skirt in years,” said Lynda. “I just feel dowdy and fat. I want to wear one. I try them on and take them right off. There are occasions where I feel like it is more appropriate and yet I still can’t do it! Another issue is my shoes. I love the newer lower heels but they also feel better with a trouser and will not work with a skirt.”

I stood Lynda in front of a full-length mirror the next day. I placed her in a jacket that was the correct architecture for her stature. Then Lynda tried on that all too unfamiliar skirt. I kept Lynda from seeing the finished image until I corrected the too-long sleeve length and then raised the hemline to the right horizontal line. I turned Lynda around and reached for the hemline of the skirt, while I gently pulled back at the hemline just a bit, creating the image that the skirt narrowed in at the bottom. 

“I feel taller and slimmer,” cried out Lynda. “I am amazed at the difference and yet it is such a simple alteration.” 

The answer to feeling better in a skirt is pegging. Each woman just stands with her arms at her side. She places her palms inward. From her middle finger down to the hemline of the skirt she has it eased in just a bit to offer the illusion of what trousers have given her for years…a taller and slimmer appearance. Heel heights can be lower because the slimming of the bottom of the skirt along with the right horizontal hemline works well with a lower heel.

I never cease to be amazed and elated at the words my clients and audiences relate to their clothing. The word “feel” always replaces the word “look.” Just this simple alteration will make you feel more comfortable and confident and that is the answer to “dressing from the inside out.”

Jackie Walker is the author of the best-selling book I Don't Have a Thing to Wear: The Psychology of Your Closet. She is also the Vice President of the PDNA here in the South Loop. If you have any questions, you may ask it here, or e-mail the author at or visit her Web site.

Ms. Walker is a South Loop Connection guest blogger. If you have something to share and would like to write a guest blog, please e-mail your ideas(s) to

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