Like every girl, I like to update my wardrobe once in a while. On a recent trip, I saw an item that caught my eye—a blue print Ikat skirt.
It was perfect, except that it was only about 12 inches long and barely hit my mid-thigh. I was eyeing this to wear for work or for get-togethers with friends. But clearly, the length wasn’t appropriate for what I had in mind.
I regretfully returned it on the display rack and looked around in other stores. As I went around the mall, I was horrified to discover that most of the skirts and shorts I saw were of similar length, some even shorter, with measurements akin to the proportions of boy shorts or a wide belt.
In the chain shops, the bottoms just got skimpier and skimpier. Think clothes that looked appropriate for clubbing and not much else. Though I ended up buying something else entirely, it was quite frustrating to start feeling left out of fashion.
As a former magazine editor, I am not one to approve of, let alone observe, dictates about age-appropriate dressing. In my teenage years all the way to my 20s, I wore my share of short hemlines, backless tops and low necklines. I still wear them, in fact, if the occasion calls for it.
But the truth is, some things have an expiration date, and that probably includes clothes. There comes an age (and this is just about that time) when you wonder if you are too old to wear micro minis and short shorts. Some people, even younger ones below 35, evidently shouldn’t be seen wearing short hemlines. But the question is, how old is too old to wear a miniskirt?
I find that as you get older, your clothes should also adjust to complement your work, your age and your lifestyle. Your hemlines most certainly can’t go up as you climb the corporate ladder. And be very wary of the “mutton dressed as lamb” syndrome. I once saw this young matron wearing thigh-high shorts, and the issue wasn’t more of her age, but that the shorts weren’t flattering to her less-than-shapely legs.
Instead of looking hip, she’s that woman you don’t want to be—someone who is at least 20 years older than the outfit she is wearing. It just smacks of desperation and low self-esteem.
Now, I am not saying that women above 35 play granny and stick to wearing midis and maxis. There is a distinction between short and mini. If you have legs like Madonna’s or Kylie Minogue’s, by all means show them off. But an ultra-short hemline is not a good look with wrinkly knees, flabby calves, cellulite and varicose veins.
There are some, though, who know how to get away with a shorter hemline. And it’s not just because they have great legs. There are ways to wear it and work around your flaws. I once saw a colleague work a pair of black shorts to a formal event, balancing the short hemline with a nice button-down shirt and a tailored jacket. The look was both elegant and sophisticated.
One trick I also learned from beauty experts is using self-tanner or bronzer to make the legs look slimmer (pale legs will only highlight less than shapely calves). And for those bad days when I’m not too comfortable wearing a short hemline, one of my favorite designers told me to pair my short dresses and skirts with black or gray opaque tights. “It elongates the leg,” he said.
As a golden rule, when you try on a pair of shorts or a skirt, look at the back of your legs and use that as your guide. A good friend told me this about cellulite: “If you have cottage cheese, you keep them in the fridge.”
Remember, just because they make it in your size doesn’t mean you should wear it. Any designer can tell you, an extra inch or half-inch on the hem makes a world of difference between chic woman and fashion victim.