Watch the Hem: Shoes Aren’t Always Readily Interchangeable

The January 21, 2019 issue of People magazine recommends an ensemble inspired by Princess Kate as “the perfect work outfit”:  “a classic, easy-to-wear ensemble for whatever is on your agenda.”

The ensemble consists of bootcut trousers (“a flared leg elongates your figure”), a layering tee in basic white, and a polished blazer, accessorized with hoop earrings, a classic wristwatch, a sleek clutch (recommended for after work activities), and kitten heel pumps. The look is a genuine classic – a great look for when professionalism is paramount.

People further recommends “3 must-have office extras”:  a “blanket scarf” (“Not only does an oversize scarf add some color to your look, it keeps you warm when the temperature drops”); a carryall tote (roomy and sturdy enough to fit your essentials and your laptop), and comfortable flats. People recommends padded shoes by Cole Haan that fold up and fit into a matching pouch “so you can easily stash them away post-commute.”

The recommendations for a colorful scarf and a roomy tote are excellent, as is the idea of comfortable shoes for one’s commute. However, the completely flat foldable shoes pictured do not work with the bootcut pants for the simple reason that the pants have been hemmed at a length appropriate for the two- or three-inch kitten heels pictured. Wearing the flats with the pants almost guarantees that you’ll be stepping on the bottom of your pants, soiling them if not also tripping over them. This simply doesn’t work.

What is the solution? The hemline determines your heel height. Find shoes comfortable enough for the commute that are the same heel height as the shoes you intend to wear at the office. Save those foldable flats for commuting on days when you are in a dress or skirt.

The Pitfalls of Pleated Midi Skirts: Uneven Hemlines

Pleated midi skirts are once more on fashion’s radar, and they can provide a graceful element to an ensemble. The March 5, 2018 issue of People presents color-block, printed, and leather versions – the leather pleated style pictured on Alicia Keys by an unspecified designer particularly attractive and intriguing.

Take a closer look at the photo of Gwyneth Paltrow wearing a printed design, and you can see the issue that arises with these skirts: the uneven hemline. Her skirt, by an unidentified designer, emphasizes the issue with the dark, solid bottom edge of the fabric of the skirt. The back of her skirt is shorter than the front.

Anyone blessed with significant bootie is well aware of this phenomenon. I recall constructing a skirt suit as a project at a design college class I took some years ago. Remarkably, I had no issues creating a wearable jacket, but the skirt was another thing entirely. I had neglected to add extra length to the back of the skirt to accommodate my derriere. The skirt had to be re-sewn.

With a wide, flowing skirt, rather than a closer to the body pencil skirt, the issue of an uneven  hemline becomes more noticeable. The February 2018 issue of Women’s Day pictures an ensemble with a metallic pleated midi skirt from Old Navy with a hemline that is not parallel to the floor.

Wider pleats and fancier designers do not necessarily ensure that the issue will not arise. Here is actress Emilia Clarke wearing a beautiful floral dress by Dolce & Gabbana, as pictured in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.  It appears that the dress is intentionally designed to have a longer hemline in the front than in the back.

Perhaps Dolce & Gabbana are taking a common problem experienced by curvy women and turning it intentionally into a new fashion trend. Time will tell. Unless and until that happens, cast a critical eye on your skirts. The hemlines should be parallel to the floor.

The Perfect Hemline

Whether or not you find her style too conservative or traditional for your liking, you will find that Kate Middleton’s fashion choices present lessons in flattering dressing.

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One immediately recognizable aspect of her style is the length of her hems. The montage of photos above, from Elle.com, notes: “Take a look at our visual above. You’ll see that Kate’s hemline is the same every. Single. Time.” and adds: “We can’t blame her, though:  It’s clearly the most flattering cut for her body.”

The hemline length she prefers exposes the full length of her legs below the knees and hits at the narrowest part of her leg. this length is universally flattering. She wears simple pumps that elongate the look of the legs, with heels that are not too high but still chic. A clutch purse keeps her necessities at hand but doesn’t weigh her down.

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Other hem lengths are in style this season, of course. Elle magazine features a mid-calf length skirt and a mini in it March 2016 issue. A mid-calf needs to be long enough so that it doesn’t hit at the widest part of the leg. It can create the illusion of a long, lean look. As for the mini, most women have a good sense if that’s an appropriate and flattering style for them. Although Kate Middleton no doubt could carry off either style, I don’t expect we’ll see her in either one.