Never ones to hold back, I’m always grateful and regularly inspired by family and friends who make it their business to keep me on track. A raised eyebrow, a pertinent question or a pointed (even barbed) comment, will test my resolve and prompt me to take a second look. Never more so than with my clothing choices; I’ve recounted a few such encounters in my Style Crisis posts (mostly courtesy of the oft-mentioned Rebecca – but she’s not alone).
That doesn’t mean to say that I’m ever pressured into wearing or not wearing anything. Good grief, no. I’m perfectly capable of stepping out in something completely – unexpected, shall we say – and making it my own, thank you very much. How else to learn from painful experience?
Recent months have provided me with a completely new and unexpected source of opinion and inspiration – the comments on my Style Crisis blogs. I genuinely had no idea that they would prove to be the invaluable source of insight and incitement that they have become. Equalled in number and encouragement only by the personal emails that I’ve received following many of my posts; I’m incredibly grateful.
My Trying out a skirt post was a case in point. Not only did I receive lots of positive spurrings-on – a couple of the comments in particular addressed specific questions I’d posed. Namely:
- The length of my grey flannel pencil skirt – was it a couple of inches too long?
- What to wear on my legs (and feet too) since that conundrum often discouraged me from wearing a skirt.
Theory: Pencil skirt length
On the first question, Diaana (notable for calling ClothSpot one afternoon to urge ‘don’t make that navy blue shirt!) suggested that I consider the Fibonacci’s ‘Golden Ratio’ in determining my best pencil skirt length.
Like many of you, I recall learning about the Fibonnacci Sequence at school. A quick reminder – it’s this sequence of numbers…
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc…
…which is achieved by adding the last two numbers in the sequence in order to create the next number. It can be used to create shapes using spirals or tiles – and crops up throughout history in architecture and art composition, for example:
as well as the natural world.
It also crops up in other unexpected places. Including, apparently, pencil skirts – who knew?
The formula for calculating your perfect pencil skirt length is as follows:
- Measure from your waist to the floor with flat shoes or no shoes.
- Divide that number by 8.
- Multiply that number by 5
- The result, Di explains, should be a length which should look proportionally pleasing, particularly for a pencil skirt.
Di also reports it works for other types of garment – and of course the beauty is that it’s based on individual body measurements so can be used by anyone regardless of size.
I applied the calculation to my skirt and extraordinarily enough – it was just shy of two inches over the length that the Golden Ratio suggested it should be. The eye, it appears, does not deceive.
There’s a great educational resource here if you want to know more about the Fibonnacci and the Golden Ratio but meanwhile the next lesson in my pencil skirt learning experience came from Cate at Vintage Gal.
Theory: Pencil skirt legwear
A mine of information about dressing with elegance and flair, Cate had these words of wisdom regarding my choice of legwear.
In terms of the whole tights, and skirt thing, I have a rule I (generally) live by as it suits me better. If the skirt is below the knee then it should be natural tights or bare legs, but it the skirt is above the knee then it should be dark tights.
My original photographs saw me in my new burgundy mid-heel boots and matching tights. I’d learned from these pictures that the height of the boot and the straight top were very effective at cutting off my legs just above the ankle. Not quite the sleek look I’d anticipated so they’ve been assigned to ‘wearing with trousers’ duty. Cate’s suggestion was therefore most welcome.
Practical experiment: Method
So what else would a girl do but put all this sterling advice and insight into practice? Without further ado, here’s my photoshoot of all these different options.
Inevitably there’s a soundtrack for this photo session. For goodness’ sake there’s only so much dressing and undressing a girl can do in aid of research without some decent music to keep her pecker up.
Hence – I Got Clothes by A Certain Ratio – an excellent double-pun opportunity as well as a decent groove.
A handbag to dance around and I’m away… I was once asked if I’d ever managed to ‘pick anyone up’ on the dancefloor.
‘Certainly not’ I answered.
‘I’m not surprised’ came the reply.
Who cares. Here goes…
Practical experiment: Results
*****(Interlude while I scuttle off, unpick the hem and take it up by 4.5cm or 1 3/4″)*****
(Is that a knee? And is it OK to stop grinning now?)
The black court heels here aren’t what I’ll be wearing (they get about two outings a year) but they seemed the most appropriate ‘neutral’ option in order that I could focus on the legwear and skirt length.
Practical experiment: Conclusion
What’s the verdict? I definitely like the shorter version as it hits that point just below the knee where the calf finishes curving inwards. Surely that’s not just coincidence? It certainly feels much more like me – far more energetic. Seriously! You wouldn’t imagine that less than two inches off a hemline would make as much difference to how a garment feels to wear. (Bear in mind here that I’m having to rein myself in a little as I have a penchant for very short jersey skirts-over-leggings. However I recognise we’re not in that territory and in order to be a pencil skirt we have to stop somewhere around the knee.)
On the tights front I think I agree with Cate that a sheer tight works much better on the longer length. Certainly with a longer skirt, black opaques are rather funereal. The sheer tights feel very grown up, which is new territory for me but hey, it’s a pencil skirt and not a pair of dungarees. However as the length goes up, the black tights don’t seem quite so dour. Or is it my imagination?
References & peer review
Thank you again to Di and Cate for their guidance on these issues; I love a practical experiment. It takes me right back to ‘O’ Level Physics… (Is it possible to calculate the velocity of a pencil skirt, or perhaps to state its ease requirements in Newtons?)
Do we have a firm formula for wearing a pencil skirt? Let me know what you think regarding the length and the legwear. Am I counting angels on a pinhead or is there as much difference as I feel there to be?
Are there any other ‘golden rules’ that I might want to consider?
In my next post…
…I’ll be ‘fessing up about a recent off-piste striped jersey excursion that hit the skids… Brace yourselves.