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Maximise the midi

Flared, A-line or pleated. Here’s how to work the calf-length skirt

Whether it’s Sonakshi Sinha, Deepika Padukone or Sonam Kapoor, the midi skirt seems to have risen from the ashes of the 1970s. Head to any store — Zara, Marks and Spencer or even a stall on Hill Road — and you’ll have a range of tea-length skirts to choose from.

A model showcases a pleated midi by Quirkbox at the Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2015
A model showcases a pleated midi by Quirkbox at the Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2015

However, we are a bit late to the party, feels designer Dev of brand Dev r Nil, whose recent collection includes a wide variety of skirts. “The international Spring/ Summer 2015 collections were all about calf-length hemlines — be it culottes, dresses or skirts. The midi skirt is slightly conservative. Yet, if rightly played around with, it can give a very elegant, feminine and even fun look. It is perfect as a day-to-evening wear,” he says, adding that pairing it with a slouchy shirt instead of a jacket is all you need to switch from board meeting mode to a casual party look.

Work your body
Pencil, high-waisted, panelled, pleated, flared, A-line or asymmetric — the trick is to pick the one that works for your curves.
Ken Ferns, whose recent collection, showcased at the Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2015, was an ode to midis, warns that while calf-length skirts look very elegant and classy, “if not worn right, they can make you look boring”.
There’s a reason of course that the same midi, looks better on a Padukone than most of her contemporaries. “A certain height is required to pull off the midi. On a short person, the length of the skirt will be lost. However, women with bulky hips can opt for an A-line skirt to shift the focus,” he suggests.

Fatima Shaikh, who is a favourite among page-3 regulars like Gauhar Khan and Lisa Haydon, finds that skirts with a side slit work on most body types. “For someone with a slim body, slits on one the side or on the back would look good. Those who don’t have a svelte figure, can opt for some embroidery,” she suggests.

Designer Payal Singhal, who has incorporated the midi with a churidar and come up with the churidar skirt, says layering of different prints and materials and deconstructed silhouettes are trendy. However, these also work best on narrow waistlines.

What’s also specific to this particular return of the midi is the flared skirt. Neha Agarwal, whose Russia-inspired collection showcased at the LFW this year had a wide array of skirts, says, “Waist accentuated skirts are the talk of the town! A lot of mermaid skirts, trumpet skirts and bottom-flared skirts have recently sprung up. Flared skirts work well for both pear-shaped as well as skinny body types. But, ones with a typical Indian body type should avoid trumpet skirts as it cuts the length making one look stout.”

The weft and warp
Designer Pria Kataaria Puri, known for blending the east and the west, recently showcased her collection comprising skirts and kaftans at Nairobi. She emphasises the importance of choosing the right print and material. Those with a heavier frame should pick up smaller prints in monochrome colours, she suggests.

A pencil skirt from Pankaj & Nidhi showcased at the Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2015
A pencil skirt from Pankaj & Nidhi showcased at the Lakme Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2015

Avoid animal prints (always), polka dots or horizontal stripes as they draw focus to the lower body. Cotton, silk, crepe and chiffon, she says, work well if you are planning a long, flowy skirt. Lycra works well for short fitted silhouettes and flatters
the curves.

Find the right match
Ferns points out that a crop top works best with high-waist midis and says, “In the ’70s such skirts were worn with blousons or shirts tucked in. Cropped tops are a modern interpretation of that and form a perfect pair with the midi.” Dev adds that even a tucked-in tapered shirt works well with the high waist.

Best foot forward
While most designers agree on the prints and cuts, it’s in the footwear department that there’s little consensus. While Puri swears by stilettos and Dev thinks ankle boots are ideal, Ferns shrieks at the thought — Mary Jane or a classic wedge works best, he says.

An A-line pleated skirt by Ken Ferns, paired  with a crop top, from his Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2015 collection titled the eternal sleep
An A-line pleated skirt by Ken Ferns, paired with a crop top, from his Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2015 collection titled the eternal sleep

Height does matter
A certain height is required to pull off the midi. On a short person, the length of the skirt will be lost and might look like a maxi skirt
- Ken Ferns

Did you know?

While the term midi has become synonymous with tea-length skirts, which can be flowy or tapered, originally it denoted a specific, unforgiving shape — mid-calf, widening from the waist to four inches below the knee

That '70s thing
A skirt like the midi was first seen in the 1930s, as a response to the short skirts popular in the 1920s. The mid-calf length hemline became popular across the dance clubs of United States in the 1930s. The style was revived in the late 1960s, not without controversy though. Originally, the midi — or tea skirt — was defined as anything hemmed below the knee or above the ankle. Designers and retailers stocked up on the midi, trying to hardsell it. The salesgirls were forced to wear the midis. However, different women’s organisations — FADD (Fight Against Dictating Designers) and GAMS (Girls Against More Skirt) — protested the new look. The new hemline, however, prevailed through the decade, to be replaced by shorter skirts in the 1980s.   

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