If there's a more divisive garment than a skirt, it's yet to be found.
Some women love them so much, they're rarely found out of them. Others hate them with a vengeance. For women who fall into the second category, slipping their lower half into a skirt is as painful and pointless as trying to squeeze toothpaste back into the tube.
But guess what? It doesn't have to be that way.
If you've banned skirts from your wardrobe, it's because you've been trying on the wrong skirts. Some skirts are going to fight your body shape every inch of the way. Others are going to embrace it.
With the right insight into fit and style, you can learn what silhouettes work and which ones never will.
If you're ready to give skirts one last whirl, here's what you need to know.
Straight skirts have been a wardrobe staple for women since, well... forever.
This enduring classic features a straight up and down style where the width at the waist dictates the width at the bottom edge.
Although straight skirts are typically made of thick material, they don't add bulk around the hips, making them a good option for women with plenty of junk in the trunk.
The slimline silhouette and close (but not too tight) fit of a straight skirt has a wonderfully elongating effect on the body - if 'long' and 'lean' are your buzzwords of choice, the straight skirt isn't going to disappoint.
It does, however, require careful styling to look its best: avoid any loose or flouncy blouses and stick to a fitted, shaped top to stop the look from becoming boxy. Heels are also a must if you want to avoid looking stocky.
Straight skirts and pencil skirts are easily confused. The only real difference between them is that the straight skirt is cut slightly looser.
Just like the straight skirt, the pencil skirt is a wardrobe staple for many professional women. Laid flat on a surface, it looks like a rectangle. Worn on the body, it's a form-fitting style that hugs the hips and falls straight down.
Usually, pencil skirts are cut to either the knee or the calf and will usually feature a back or side vent.
Worn with a suit jacket, a pencil skirt is the height of formal chic. Worn with a pair of sky-high heels and a certain swagger, its sultry, sophisticated, and just a tiny bit naughty.
Pencil skirts are ideal for women who possess a shapely, curvy body shape. They'll balance out the hips and shoulders and emphasize a small waist.
As to whether the pencil skirt is better than a straight skirt, or vice versa? There's no hard and fast line.
Both styles will help balance out the shoulders and hips and accentuate the waist. It's really just a case of deciding whether you prefer the looser style of the straight skirt or the close-fitting cut of the pencil skirt.
Few skirts manage to match the pencil skirt for raw sex appeal. Ever since Marilyn Monroe wore one to spectacular effect in Some Like it Hot (prompting Jack Lemmon to explain "Look at how she moves!"), pencil skirts have been the go-to garment for any woman who wants to celebrate her femininity in style.
With its structured, sophisticated cut, a pencil skirt can instantly make you look more polished. Team it with a pair of heeled court shoes and a structured blouse and you have the perfect outfit for the office. Match it with some skyscraping heels and a simple crop top, and you'll be the talk of every party you go to.
Slip on a pencil skirt and you'll instantly look polished, in control, and ready for business. Better still, they suit almost every body type. Thanks to their glove-like fit, they'll lengthen your legs, elongate your silhouette, slim your waist and play up your curves. They're fitted enough to be sultry but refined enough to be elegant.
If there was one garment that had the potential to be all things to all women, it's the pencil skirt.
Pencil skirts fit like a glove. They're designed to be close-fitting - which looks great but comes with one big problem. They ride up. Big style. If you're forever readjusting your skirt, you'll know exactly what we mean. But why do they do it?
Firstly, any skirt can ride up if it's too small. If you notice that even A-line skirts have a habit of ending the day several inches further up your body than they started, you might need to consider going up a size.
The problem is magnified by the cut and design of the pencil skirt. Pencil skirts are cut in a straight up and down style. If there's one part of your body that's a little bigger than the rest, the skirt will start to 'crawl' up. If the skirt doesn't have any stretch in the material, you're looking at double the trouble.
Buying the right size in the future might help, but for now, there's a couple of methods you can use to make your existing wardrobe more wearable. First, invest in a decent pair of Spanx style control pants to even and smooth out the line of your body. If the skirt rides up in the thigh area, look for a long-legged version.
If the Spanx alone doesn't solve the problem, try spraying them with some StaticGuard, which will help limit or eliminate any ride up.
Pencil skirts are designed to be cut close to your body. While this can do wonders for your silhouette, it does come with one very big challenge - walking.
Imagine if someone fitted a very big elastic band around your calves and asked you to walk. It's not going to happen, is it? Not without turning the air blue, anyway. A pencil skirt works in the same way. It might look great, but, boy, is it restrictive.
Fortunately, designers have recognized that women aren't prepared to sacrifice basic life skills in the name of fashion and have made some allowances.
That slit up the back of your pencil skirt? It's there to make sure you can move. Without it, you'd struggle to do anything beyond stand and sit.
Picture it. You leave the house in your pencil skirt, your heels, and your fitted blouse. You look polished, professional - you're a woman in control. You arrive at the office. You look down. And somewhere in between leaving the house and arriving at work, your skirt has managed to twist around the entire width of your body. The front is now the back and the back is now the front. So much for professionalism.
All skirts are liable to twist, but few manage to do it quite so enthusiastically as the pencil skirt. The problem is the fit - the straight up, straight down style might look fabulous, but a cylindrical shape is ripe for a twisting spree when it's not 100% perfectly fitting.
Given the straight up, straight down cut of the pencil skirt, finding one that fits you as well in the hips as the waist can be challenging.
If your skirt is in danger of making you go round the twist, you might want to try...
Unless designers start designing for real women's bodies (don't hold your breath), you might just need to suck it up and start seeing alteration costs as a fact of life. Alternatively, you could dust off your sewing supplies and learn the power of some home tailoring.
If you struggle to find skirts that fit your natural waistline, tailoring is the best, and certainly most permanent, solution.
Grip strips are usually added to the inside of the waistbands of men's pants to helps shirts stay tucked in. But why should the boys have all the fun?
Added to the inside of a pencil skirt, gripper patches offer a quick, convenient solution to a relentless twisting problem.
One of the beauties of the pencil skirt is how easily it works with a variety of body shapes. It can add curves where necessary, slim where needed, and generally transform almost anyone into Jessica Rabbit.
We say almost... if you've got a well-defined waist and at least some curve to your hips, embrace the pencil skirt for all its worth. If you have very heavy hips and thighs (or alternatively very, very narrow hips) this might not be the style for you.
If you want to nail the pencil skirt look, it's not enough to simply get the material and color right. Neither is it enough to match it with fabulous accessories and eye-catching separates.
Simply put, if the fit and the length of the skirt aren't right, then no matter what you wear it with, it's never going to look as good as it could.
As a general guideline, a pencil skirt should sit anywhere between the knee and mid-calf. Although women of different heights can get away with different lengths (typically speaking, the taller and leggier you are, the longer you can get away with going), the most universally flattering length is one that skims the knee cap. Whether you're petite or tall, that's the length that's going to accentuate your curves, lengthen your legs, and carry you from the office to the bar with style.
Just remember that the fit is just as important as the length. To avoid sending the skirt on a twisting frenzy, look for one that sits comfortably and snugly at your natural waistline. Not only will this keep your skirt in the right place, but it's also guaranteed to make your legs look far longer than a skirt that starts below your belly button or on your hips.
While a straight skirt and a pencil skirt can be easily confused, a pencil skirt and an A-line skirt never could.
Whereas a pencil skirt has a cylindrical, straight up and down cut, an A-line skirt has a slight flare. Lay a pencil skirt on a flat surface, and it'll look like a rectangle. Lay an A-line skirt on the same surface, and it will look like the letter 'A'... which, unsurprisingly, is the reason it gets its name.
A-line skirts come in various lengths and styles, some of them formal, some of them causal.
While the pencil skirt creates a gorgeous silhouette, its close-fitting style makes it a no-no to women who prefer a more modest look. With its forgiving fit and its aptitude for hiding any bulges around the tummy and thigh area, the A-line skirt offers a very flattering alternative.
Thanks to its flared cut, an A-line skirt is perfect for pear shapes. It emphasizes a small waist and flares over the hips and thighs, balancing out the top and bottom half in a way that's oh-so-flattering.
If you're rocking a defined waist but want to minimize a wide bottom half, the A-line skirt is the fit for you.
An A-line skirt is also great for slender types with little to no curves. The flared cut will instantly create the illusion of a more voluptuous figure.
The waistband of an A-line skirt should sit comfortably but snugly on your natural waistline. As well as elongating your legs, a skirt that sits at your waist rather than at your belly button or hips is far less inclined to twist.
No skirt is intrinsically 'superior' to another. The best skirt for you is going to depend on your body shape.
Choose the wrong one, and you'll never learn to love skirts in the way they deserve. Choose the right one, and you'll never look back.
If you want to rock the look to perfection, stick to...
A pencil or straight skirt if you have an hourglass figure. A pencil/ straight skirt will play up your curves like nothing else. If you have curvaceous hips and a small defined waist, these are the skirts for you.
An A-line skirt if you have a slender or pear figure. The flared cut of an A-line skirt will add shape where there is none, instantly transforming the most boyish figure into a vision of womanly curves. Thanks to its ability to show off a small waist and disguise a heavier bottom half, it's also a great option for pear shapes.