Skirt Lengths: How to Be Stylish and Age Appropriate

by Julie McGinty
(Deerfield Beach, Fl.)

What is appropriate length for daytime skirts and dresses for a 69 year old with pretty good legs?

I live in South Florida and would be happy to have your advice. I am now retired but unsure of how to dress at this stage of my life. This is a nice website. I will tell others.

Hi Julie -- Thank you for your kind words about Fashion After 50. I definitely appreciate referralas.

How short you can go depends upon the setting and occasion, the skirt style, the whole outfit, and your personal comfort level.

Let's take the simple denim mini skirt that ends mid-thigh. In general, I'd leave that one to younger gals. You and I live in the same area of the country, and I'm betting that, like me, you've seen a woman who looks young from the back, turns around, and you are shocked. This is the result of dressing too youthfully.

The denim mini is a skirt associated especially with teens. Yet with good legs and a nice tan, you could probably get away with it at the beach with flip-flops or flat sandals. On the other hand, if we are talking about a beach wedding (and I don't mean one for surfers in their bathing suits), that denim skirt is not advisable for anyone.

Age inappropriate skirts would include fabric with a childish or cartoon-ish print, ruffles and bows, or a "Hello Kitty" emblem.

When I say ruffles, I don't mean the tiered cotton gauze skirts that are popular. I am thinking more along the lines of too-precious layers of eyelet lace ruffles or something one would associate with gals in the adolescence to late 20s years.

Our brains are always free associating. If the first image that pops into your mind when you see a skirt on the rack is of your granddaughter, chances are the garment is not age-appropriate.

The classic skirt length is one that ends just above the knees. There is a lot of room for personal choice.

We see many well-dressed older women who buy the highest-priced designer clothing and choose a length the ends just under the knees if that's what flatters them. I am thinking of the Nancy Reagan-Jackie Onassis type woman who always looks impeccably dressed in public. These women tend to find classic styles that work for them and carry them through the years with modifications for current trends and aging.

For a casual occasion, which includes anything from shopping and errands to dining at a relaxed-dress restaurant, you can safely wear a skirt that ends a few inches above the knee. How many inches depends on your height. If you are petite, two inches may be enough. If you are 5'8" or over, you might be able to manage three to four inches. I'm 5'6"; when I feel daring, I might wear a skirt two-three inches above the knees for casual wear but definitely not to work.

With a shorter skirt, I'd avoid high heels and suggest 2.5 inches or less. High heels look slutty with a short skirt or dress. Unfortunately, this look is pervasive. I'm with Simon Doonan who invented the "Say no to 'ho'" slogan.

The slutty look does not always get positive attention the gals want. I wonder if they know what people say behind their backs.

This includes the young males whose attention women they most desire. I teach communication at a career college, so I am fortunate to get an earful of some very open conversations with today's students.

My motto is to avoid too short, too tight, and too low-cut unless you are applying for a job as a pole dancer. Not that there is anything wrong with pole dancing as a career choice, but we are back again to considering the occasion, the setting, and personal comfort level when selecting what to wear.

The fact that you have asked this question, Julie, tells me that you are sensitive to this issue. And that means that you probably make good choices without advice.

To sum it up, somewhere around knee-length is appropriate for all ages. We can go a little shorter depending on the occasion and setting, skirt style, and personal comfort level.


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