Friday, September 25, 2009

The Dirndl Mini: WTF?

Here's a current trend I'm totally confused about. While recently browsing at Anthropologie, I found all of their gathered skirts to be of a completely befuddling length. The one above is a shocking 17 inches. Mon dieu! Fetch me my smelling salts!

I've noticed girls wearing these out and about. They usually seem to be paired with a tank top, a wide belt, and flats. Cute, but I always wish their skirts were about 4 inches longer. Not just for modesty's sake. (Though can you imagine trying to pick something up off the floor in one of these?) My real complaint is one of proportions. I think a knee-length gathered skirt is flattering because the poufiness of the waistline is tempered by the weight of a longer hem.

I usually make my skirts 24 inches long, which hits right below my kneecap. The longest gathered skirt I could find at Anthro was only 20.5 inches long.

The irony, though, is that I'm always complaining about the long length of vintage dirndl patterns. For my full gathered skirt from VoNBBS, I had to take a good four inches off of the pattern. Of course, hemlines are one of the most quickly shifting and provocative elements of fashion history. There are even economic theories surrounding hemlines, as well as a handy "abstract conceptual hemline overview chart", if you're really interested.

What do you think of these lengths? Do I sound like a cranky old fuddy duddy?

46 comments:

  1. One of the best pieces of fashion advice I've ever received is to never wear a skirt (or outfit) that is shorter than it is wide.

    - Myrna

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  2. I prefer my skrits to be just below or on my knees. Everything above the knee seem too slutty for me. But I dont want them too long either, because I dont want that frumpy grandma look. So the knees are my guideline when it comes to hemlines.

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  3. Above the knee skirts are a much better look for me than really long skirts. I am not very tall so long skirts make my legs look stumpy and knee length ones give me the best proportions. But, geez Louise, those skirts are short.

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  4. When a skirt is short and poofy, you really have to watch when the wind is blowing! I can't relax in such a skirt...

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  5. Myrna: LOL! That is a priceless piece of advice.

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  6. I agree! What is up with the short hemlines these days? I mean I am only 16 and they are WAY too short for me!!! Can you imagine if a brisk breeze came up? wow. I have trouble with my below knee length skirts flying up, let alone one that barely covers my undergarments! By the way, do you have any tips for preventing skirt fly-ups?

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  7. Dear cranky old fuddy duddy,

    I completely agree with you. Aside from the modesty issue, the proportions are all wrong.

    with love, Gordita

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  8. The outfit you describe (short gathered skirt, tank top, flat ballet pumps) has been the default look of all the teenage girls here in England this summer. I think this is because the under-18s (at least in the well-heeled town of Cambridge) have got no hip or thigh fat to speak of and so can get away with extra fabric in that region. In fact, extra fabric is probably desirable because it gives those skinny girls a more feminine shape with its extra volume, as well as its flirty ruffled-ness. I don't really blame them for wearing something so short - if I had thighs like a baby giraffe I'd do it too. But anyone who's grown out that adolescent runner-bean shape should - and will - probably steer clear of the short gathered skirt. Something that makes my hips, thighs and tum look bigger? Er, no thanks.

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  9. Myrna has fantastic advice right there! Yes!

    I find my knees are a good measure, not just for modesty in a gathered skirt (we can't all throw a spontaneous Marylin at the whim of the weather!), but also for proportion.

    I wish I had a solution for my skirt and sudden wind gusts. If anyone has one, let us know!

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  10. I was in a Wal-Mart recently and this lady was wearing one of the really short skirts. She bent over to pick something up, and her panties were showing. I went over and let her know, and she was grateful. But Whoa!

    I don't like to wear skirts above my knees either. It would look right on me anyway since I am now in mid-forties. It would probably look slutty and look like I'm trying too hard to look young. Thank God we can sew. It gives us options.

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  11. That teenagers wear skirts that short.. well.. I guess I did wear things my mother sighed about too. But that women wear skirts that short I don't understand. I don't think it's fitting either. Here in Holland we have a saying for people who wear clothing that's not suitable for their age:
    "at the back lyceum, at the front museum".
    I guess skirts so short you could see your panties would fit in that category :-)

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  12. I guess we should look for matching bloomers or trunks??? Too short for me, especially being full skirt. And I am short!

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  13. I agree with Hanna, it looks okay if you have are slender with long legs. But it is NOT practical. I could get away with it (heck, I do have one very short a-line skirt in my wardrobe) but I prefer skirts that are below knee-level. I feel more comfortable when I know I can drop something and pick it up myself without worrying about who's going to catch a glimpse of my underwear. AND I think it's way mor eelegant and flattering. Call me old-fashioned, I'm a fan of floor-length skirts.

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  14. How funny...today I thought myself a fuddy-duddy because I think respect for ones-self matters...glad to know I am not alone on this issue!!
    I LOVE the advice fro anonymous...that's priceless!
    Must be something about Wal-Marts...there is a 80+ lady who shops at ours and she is always dressed like Britney Spears...talk about trying WAAAYY to hard to look young!

    I want a clean, classy line, just below the kneecap, not too tight, but a proper fitting skirt...one that says "I am comfortable being a lady and I don't need to flash you any part of me to prove it."
    It won't change until females of all ages stop listening to 'those in the know' who tell us what looks good and start KNOWING what looks good and respectful (that doesn't mean looking like an 1800's grandma...been there, done that!) on each individual body.

    We fuddy-duddy's MUST stick together!!

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  15. I see girls in these little tiny strapless dresses (shirts?) and they all tend to hunch over as if they had osteoporosis. I think if their dresses (shirts!) were a little longer, they wouldn't be afraid to stand up straighter.

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  16. Well I'm impressed by how puritan you ladies are!
    I thought american stadards were more tolerant than french ones! I measured 17 inches from my ombilic (bless my inch/centimeters instrument), and it's only less than 3 inches above my knees! as far as I'm concerned, I think I can wear short skirts as long as the top of my stockings can't be seen.
    But I have seen an elderly woman yesterday afternoon in the metro. She wore high heels and a suit with a fitted skirt that was less than these 17 inches. She had beautiful legs, I found her terrific! And not slutty at all. I actually wished I'd be able to do the same at her age...

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  17. I have found this trend quite problematic and frustrating. I'm nearly six feet tall and have enough trouble finding things long enough as it is!

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  18. Rachel, my first thought to your question was "wear a slip" which sounds snarky but I don't mean it that way. Maybe weights in the hem? But that would mean it wouldn't pouf out as nicely as a dirndl should. A dilemma indeed. And I'm with you Gertie, right above the knee is as short as I'm really willing to go.

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  19. Before discovering vintage my skirts or dresses typically hit about mid-thigh, but no more!

    Now that I've been in all kinds of lengths, I definitely prefer that the hem fall below my knee and I find it much more flattering.

    Among my peers though, I seem to be alone in thought. On a forum I frequent, someone posted a skirt they thrifted and asked if they should hem it or not. I thought the length was really flattering, but every single other person recommended taking it up above the knee. I was shocked!

    Nothing is wrong with a little knee-cap but I was so surprised that people really only think something is flattering if it is either a) skin tight, or b) showing off as much skin as possible.

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  20. Carlotta, I don't think being puritan is really the issue. I'm talking more about shape and proportion. Mini skirts are typically a-line shape, because that is the silhouette and proportion that's most flattering in a mini length. My point, I suppose, is that the dirndl is an awfully strange style to make a mini out of. I hope I'm making some sense!

    Rachel: wear cute boyshorts, avoid subway grates, and hold on for dear life! :)

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  21. Funny, I was just perusing Anthropologie's website last night, and I was noticing the same thing about the pouffy short skirts. I totally agree with you - the only form that dirndl skirt looks flattering on is the skirt stand. :-) And I'm definitely not puritanical...though most of my skirts hit at an inch or two above or below the knee, on occasion, I'll wear one five or six inches shorter - always paired with a conservatively cut shirt or blouse. My personal style rule (as a 40-something year old) is I will show my legs *or* some cleavage, but never both at the same time.

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  22. I love Myrna advice! I am teaching a 18 year old fashion design student how to sew...yes...can you believe no experience. Anyway, we are starting with a skirt and it can't be short enough for her...how can you be comfortable! And the wind can just whip up the dirdl mini...oh my!

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  23. Well, I know they're not supposed to be worn this way, but I'm only 5'2" so those 'mini' dirndles would hit just above my knee, making them almost perfect for me. 20.5" would about do the trick. HA to all retailers out there that chronically make things too long for me.

    I dunno, it seems to feed off of that 'dresses so short you can't bend over' trend that's been playing out the past couple years as well, the babydoll or smock top look which produces equal amount of scandal.

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  24. I'm 5'10.5 and as a tall girl, I have to agree! Its hard enough for me to find modest skirts amongst skirts that are at least ATTEMPTING to be modest... let alone this new trend of hems just below your butt cheeks. My best friend is getting married soon and really wanted the bridesmaids to wear these dresses from Anthro... I loved the dress but the whole thing was only 32" long! If I were to wear that people would be passing out as I walked down the aisle!

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  25. As one who is 5' 2 1/2" and one who carries all of my weight between my bum and knees, the thought of a mini gathered skirt is rather horrific, although 20 1/2" might put me close to my knees...

    I keep all of my hems at the top of my knee which seems to cut me at a flattering place while not making me look too stumpy. :)

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  26. Did I mention that my legs are super white? So above the knee makes me look like a trashy, chubby, stumpy albino. ;)

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  27. Rachel: Wear tap pants, put weights in the hem and go dancing! weeee! I was gonna wear a pencil skirt but now I might wear a spinny skirt to go out dancing tonight. such a dilemma!

    My problem with the short skirts is it's unsanitary (for me and them)! I hate sitting on city bus seats or in a movie theatre in shorts let alone a short skirt!

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  28. Sigh, I'll really be happy when skirt lengths start to creep back down again. I'm so disappointed in anthro, I would have taken them for being a little less slutty. I guess they had to jump on the bandwagon too.

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  29. Carlotta, I think the "puritanness" might depend on the length of your legs. 17" on me comes about five inches above the knee, and that's really as short a skirt as I feel comfortable wearing. I'm 5' 6 and have pretty long legs. But if I were any taller, a 17" skirt would be bordering on innappropriate.

    On the other hand, the sweet ladies here who are 5'2 have the opposite problem... and this is precisely why making our own clothes is such a good idea!

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  30. You don't sound like a cranky old fuddy duddy to me - I'm exactly the same! I won't wear a skirt if my knees show.
    -Andi x

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  31. Ooooh, sorry about the puritan word! In french I mostly use 'puritain' in kind jokes about skirts length and necklines depth, but it must have another background in English (plus I might have misunderstood the word 'modesty')...
    About the proportions, I wonder if it's not Muccia Prada's fault. In one of her Miu-Miu collections, the models wore short poofy skirts, with a very high waist. By modifying the impression of where their hips were, it made the models extra-long legs. This look was quite easy to reproduce with a low budget, and I saw it several times on european fashion blogs. Maybe these dirndl minis are an evolution of those?

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  32. I have short stumpy legs so I like my skirts a bit above my knees to make them look longer. But 17 Inches would be up around my bum. Thats ridiculous! Particularly with a pouffy skirt, how could you bend over?
    By the way, I've been away from blogging the past week and have just been catching up on your posts, that snuggie post made me laugh so hard! Those things are ridiculous!

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  33. Some fashion designers really have no clue. This skirt sort of remind me of the bulky knitted off white mini skirt I saw on a runway picture. Think swadling your hips in a couple of kilos worth of blobby wool. Who looks good in that? Who buys these things?

    Vibeke in Oslo

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  34. Does this mean the economy is really tanking, or that big butts are in style?
    Either way....

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  35. While I agree about shape and proportions, and while I myself would't wear a skirt that short, I can assure you all that my 19 year old younger sister does, and pulls it off! Some of her skirts are shorter than 17 inches, and she's 168 cm with long legs (she got the legs, I got the bad eye sight. Not fair.) The trick is what one wears underneith, she wears thick tights that one basically could use as pants. No modesty problem, really. And it looks good! The short, puffy style suits her.

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  36. I wouldn't wear one now, but in my younger college days I had a twirly miniskirt I loved...a lovely navy blue rough silk number that was so much fun to wear. I can attest, however, that there is a practical reason to choose close-fitting minis over poufy ones: the memory of crossing a busy street on campus and then discovering that the back of my beloved skirt was stuck in my tights waistband somehow is still vivid, some 15 years later. Flowy fabric, short skirts, Massachusetts winters and static cling: not a good combo!

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  37. novemberjuliet has a good point about fashion you can't sit down in! I noticed there's an impossibly glamorous picture of one of these short poufy (pleated) skirts on the Sartorialist this week, but she's not even attempting to fully sit down it in, she's kind of sharing her weight with a motorbike. Of course the look really works there, balanced by equal volume in her top and hair.

    As another tall girl, long in the hips, I feel like these would look goofy on me, like one of those tiny little-girl tutus. But I like the short skirt with opaque or even some patterned tights look when done right- although I think I might have passed the point of no return generation-wise in terms of fully understanding or pulling off that trend. (You know that feeling of being aware when you can no longer fully deconstruct the reference points in trendy looks, especially if they are drawing on some other generation's perception of a fashion era that you lived through?)

    I have been thinking about shorter skirt proportions recently though, even if not poofy ones. I got wooed by these 40s patterns I have with all the models wearing these hidden-platform looking shoes that look so good with the styles-- that I let myself get carried away and bought an absurdly delicious pair (yes, they make me 6'2", but I spent my 20s in flats; for my 30s height-self-consciousness has taken back seat to shoe fun). But I'm so conditioned to that heavy-bottomed shoe look going with higher skirts (& tights or leggings) that in a weird way to my eye they make my knee skirts look kind of frumpily long. Anyway first time I had thought of doing more of a range of lengths with the fall skirts on the agenda this year. Toying with the idea, but overall the knee length is just so flattering and timeless.

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  38. Can I just say, I'm a little surprised at the word slutty being thrown around, especially with previous posts by Gertie about feminism? I may prefer a longer skirt, but that is a terrible word to use towards anyone, and a mini does not a 'slut' make.

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  39. Thanks, reilly, that really is an excellent point and very good food for thought for me. In fact, I think I'll do a post on it once I sort out my thoughts! Thank you for bringing it up.

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  40. Skirts that hit mid-thigh make me look terribly wide. I try to stick to knee-length or just below, as I find it's more flattering to me. Also, short skirts make me nervous, I spend the whole time I'm wearing one checking that it hasn't flipped up to flash my undies =/

    Thanks for this post by the way. I've been thinking along the same vein for quite awhile.

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  41. Reminds me of a girl that I worked with she had a skirt that was only 8 inches! I told her that was no more than a belt.
    I saw her wear it one night and yes she seemed to be very uncomfortable.
    I would have never dared to wear a skirt anywhere near that length out of the house.

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  42. I find these skirts to be sooooo unattractive on the average female. It looks dumpy, it makes the woman/girl look mishaped and is not flattering at all. I was recently at a HS football game and a young girl was wearing this as she was walking up the bleachers. I turned my head before I got the money shot!!!

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  43. I think it depends on your height and proportions. I look very frumpy in these skirts but my younger sister is built like a celery stalk (very rectangular and skinny) and she looks good in them. She wears them short, but not so short that she can't bend over in and the gathering at the top of the skirt gives her the hips she doesn't have. I look good in skirts that hit mid thigh, or maybe an inch shorter, but that are fitted instead of poofy. Occasionally, I wear knee length skirts though (usually when I'm wearing something more vintage) but anything past the knee makes me look stumpy and odd.

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  44. It's a funny thing, If I buy a skirt of this style that is supposed to be knee lengh, very often it comes down to an arkward length on my calves, so I buy these shockingly short minis instead, (often getting strange looks from other shoppers, how dare you buy that skirt belt!) The so called 17 inch minis always seem to hit a very flattering point just on the top of my knee, so I've never had a problem with them!

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  45. I get upset at the stores in our area. My high school daughter wears a size zero, which they rarely carry. When we do find her size, everything is either WAY to short or has no waistband so that when girls sit or bend they have a peekaboo shot at thier backsides. Either tops are cut too low, shorts are turned into bikini bottoms, pants into "peekaboos" or skirts and dresses turned into "cheekyboos" and this is all they have to offer. The kicker is: Its all against school dress codes! I have to do the majority of her shopping online just to find proper clothes. Its crazy! WE WONDER WHY WE CANT CONTROL THE SEXUAL AWARENESS IN OUR CHILDREN TODAY..... Loretta-Wasilla Alaska

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  46. Late to this but I've been pottering about through old posts. This is such a good blog!

    These skirts are just part of the whole 80s revival thing that's been around for a while. Most of my wardrobe when I was in my mid to late teens was skirts like this and short circle skirts too. I loved them with opaque tights, flat boots, batwing tops and those really wide elasticated belts :)

    I suppose it dates back to early Madonna, Carol Decker and so on. I still really like that style even if I wouldn't/couldn't wear it now.
    But my inability to wear it doesn't mean I think they shouldn't be around for some new generation of 17 year old.

    I wonder if what makes it look a bit off now is the dedication to bare legs these days. When I wore them we always had something on, bare legs were only for really warm days.

    And I agree with Carlotta. For someone of average height with moderately long legs, 17 inches isn't indecently short although it is short - but if you have the legs for it why not.

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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