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How to Wear a Pencil Skirt for Petites

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How to Wear a Pencil Skirt for Petites

Petite Taraji P. Henson in black pencil skirt.

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
Why Chose a Pencil Skirt?

If you’re looking for a versatile wardrobe basic, look to the pencil skirt—a straight, fitted skirt. Although it may seem as though only slim women would be able to wear a pencil skirt successfully, women who have one of the four major figure shapes—triangle, rectangle, inverted triangle, and hourglass--can all wear a pencil skirt and look good in one. Styling details will depend on the shape of the figure as well as the occasion for which the woman is dressing.

Another reason that the pencil skirt is a solid wardrobe choice is that pencil skirts are available in a wide range of prices from under $20 on the low end to over $1000 on the high end.

It’s also easy to adjust the length of a pencil skirt, so petites may want to shop in the misses’ department as well as the petites’ department for a wider variety of choices. Never buy a pencil skirt that is uncomfortably short for you since, given modern clothing construction techniques, it’s unlikely that the hem can be successfully let down. On the other hand, it’s an easy alteration to shorten a simple skirt.

Fit of the Pencil Skirt

Decide on the best length of the pencil skirt, and have it shortened to that length if necessary. Usually the most flattering length will be somewhere around the knee—a bit above, at the knee, or a bit below the knee. If knee-length seems too conservative for you, then a mini-skirt might be your cup of tea. Caution is in order, however, because petite women have short legs and unless they’re quite slim, a very short skirt can make a short women look wider and also emphasize her shortness. A pencil skirt that is too long doesn’t look right on a short women either, so it really is desirable to go with knee-length or thereabouts for a pencil skirt.

In order for a pencil skirt to really look right, it should be properly fitted, and this means that the skirt should be fitted at the waist and hips, but it should not be too tight. If the waistband of your pencil skirt feels as though it’s digging into you, it’s too tight in the waist. If horizontal wrinkles form in the skirt across the hips when you’re standing up, it’s too tight. The fit should be close but not clinging. You should be able to sit in the skirt too.

Styling the Pencil Skirt According to Figure Type

Hourglass-Shaped Figure

Buy a pencil skirt that fits through the hips. It will very likely be too loose in the waist if it fits properly at the hip, and you may need to have the waist taken in. To emphasize your hourglass figure, wear a V-neck top tucked in at the waist. To disguise a tummy, wear an empire-waist top over the skirt, or wear a jacket.

Rectangle-Shaped Figure

Since the petite woman who has a rectangle-shaped figure doesn’t have much waist definition, it may be difficult to find a pencil skirt that fits properly both at the waist and at the hips. If alterations will be needed, keep in mind that it won’t be possible to do much expansion either at the waist or at the hips, so a skirt that fits at the waist may need to be taken in at the hips. The look of a more-defined waist can be achieved by belting the pencil skirt with a narrow belt or wearing a wrap top or a top with surplice styling.

Triangle-Shaped Figure

Normally fitting a pencil skirt isn’t too much of a problem for petite women who have triangle-shaped figures because that’s the most common figure type. When wearing a pencil skirt, petites who have triangle-shaped figures can balance hips by wearing a top that has features that make the figure appear closer to an hourglass shape, such as a shallow V neckline or a ruffled bodice.

Inverted-Triangle-Shaped Figure

Most petite women who have inverted-triangle-shaped figures have relatively broad shoulders and/or a generous bust and narrow hips. Women who have this figure type can make the hips look more in balance by emphasizing them by having their pencil skirts pegged. A pegged skirt narrows at the bottom, rather than falling straight from the hips as a regular pencil skirt does, and thus the pegged skirt makes the figure look shapelier.

Styling the Pencil Skirt Based on Occasion

There are so many ways that a petite woman can wear a pencil skirt, depending on the occasion. A pencil skirt can work for so many different occasions--anything from a walk in the park, to date night dinner and movie, to work, or even special occasions.

Casual or Play Wear

A denim pencil skirt hits the right casual note, and it can be worn with flats and a simple tank or tee. Or chose a black leather pencil skirt for night clubbing.

Date Night Attire

How about a sexy secretary look, as What Not to Wear stylist Clinton Kelly likes to call the look of a pencil skirt with high heels and a cardigan? A twinset and some cat’s eye glasses can work for those who like the vintage look.

Wear to Work

Wear a tweedy pencil skirt with an elbow-length blouse and pumps for a simple wear-to-work outfit, or step up to business formal in a suit with a pencil skirt and matching jacket.

Special Occasion Wear

Either the pencil skirt or top or both can star in a special occasion ensemble; for example, allover lace for both the pencil skirt and top. Or wear a sequined or charmeuse top with a plain black pencil skirt and killer stilettos.

Compare Prices on Pencil Skirt for Petites

These pencil skirts are especially sized for the short woman. Those who like their skirts to fall at the knee or right below the knee may find petite pencil skirts too short. The solution? Know which length is best for you, and always check the length of any skirts you're considering buying when you're shopping.

Compare Prices on Pencil Skirts

This includes all pencil skirts, not just petite pencil skirts. There's a wider selection, which can be appealing, even if alterations might be needed.

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