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What are Different Shapes of Skirts?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 21, 2024
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Skirts are an important part of women's fashion. Extremely versatile, skirts can be dressed up or down to look fancy or casual for every occasion from a business meeting to a dinner date. Some of the many different shapes of skirts include bias cut, full, mini, A-line or princess, tulip, and pencil.

The pencil skirt, shaped long and straight like a pencil, was inspired by the hobble skirt of 1910. The hobble skirt was designed by Paul Poiret and was unpopular due to its overly-tight, leg constricting shape. The hobble skirt was modified into the straighter, looser pencil skirt by 1915 and the pencil skirt, both short and long, is still popular today.

Shorter versions of the classic pencil skirt reach just above the knee and can be worn anywhere such as to work with a blouse and pumps, to a party with fancy sandals and a glitzy top, and on the weekend with tights, flats or boots, and a sweater. Long versions in cashmere or jersey are especially comfortable. Pencil skirts can be flattering to all figure types. A dark pencil skirt worn with a dark or medium-colored top that rests just above the hips can be visually slimming to a fuller figure.

Tulip skirts have more fabric around the hips than pencil skirts, giving them the shape of an inverted tulip. Tulip skirts look good on most figure types, especially slender figures as tulip skirt fabric tends to add a little extra bulk around the hips. A-line skirts, also called princess skirts, can be especially flattering to plus-size figures, but can be worn well by all figure shapes. An A-line skirt is shaped like a capital letter "A", with a snug waist spreading out into a triangular shape. A-line/princess skirts are considered a wardrobe staple, especially in a neutral color and a season-spanning fabric such as lightweight wool.

Miniskirts hit the fashion scene in London in 1966 and the ultra-short miniskirt is still worn by those who "dare to bare." The miniskirt is often considered the sexiest skirt shape. Miniskirts can be a very simple shape or can be pleated, but are always very short, and are available in a wide range of materials including denim, cotton, leather, and wool.

Full skirts have even more fullness in their fabric than tulip skirts and can overwhelm a petite figure or add more fullness to a full figure. Full skirts often balance out a slim-waisted, full-busted figure. Drop-waisted full skirts with fabric that flows from the hips into soft pleats can be very flattering to a plus-sized figure type.

Bias cut skirts are cut across the fabric's grain on the diagonal. Cutting on the bias creates a flowing hemline that can seem ultra-feminine and romantic. Bias cut skirts can be long or short and have panels or multi-layers.

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Discussion Comments
By StreamFinder — On Sep 20, 2010

I hate pleated anything, but especially pleated skirts -- I think that the pleat has got to be the least flattering fashion technique ever invented.

Seriously, does anybody look good in pleats? It you're skinny it draws attention to your concave-ness, and if you're larger you look like you have a balloon belly.

That's why I've never understood why so many school uniforms make use of pleated skirts. As far as I'm concerned, that's just one more way to make kids unhappy at school, and one that could be easily avoided.

By closerfan12 — On Sep 20, 2010

Ah, the skirt. Staple of many ladies' wardrobes.

As far as ladies skirts go, I prefer a long, wrap skirt. I think that those are just so flattering, no matter who is wearing them.

You could have the biggest (or smallest) hips in the world, but a good wrap skirt can make a flattering waistline for you.

The one thing I hate are pleated skirts, especially those little pleated white mini skirts they make for women to play tennis in. Talk about an unflattering waste of material.

If I'm going to play a sport, the last thing I want to worry about is how my legs look, or whether I'm going to inadvertently show off my undies.

By pleats — On Sep 20, 2010

I have to say, I've never been a fan of denim skirts. I think there are just so many nicer types of womens skirts out there, why do you have to try and make your jeans into a skirt?

I really prefer a nice cotton or silk skirt, but I'll take anything over denim!

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