Monday, 10 September 2012

How to Wear... the Midi

Just two years ago, pretty much everyone (including me, until about, ooh, three fashion magazines had concluded my latest brainwash) was bemoaning the ridiculousness of the stereotyped middle-aged housewives' staple separate being the newest "hot trend" - what could be less sexy/glamorous/flattering? OK, we all knew about the magical powers of the pencil, but surely a mass of chiffon swirling around our calves would not have similar effects, and the lower the hemline, the drabber you look, right? Turns out, it's here to stay, and praise be to the designers (and those diligent high street copycats) - because as long as you know your perfect length(s), the midi is one of the most flattering, versatile and (subtly or not so subtly, the choice is yours) sexy staples in your all-seasons box of tricks.

The Dress
The Pencil
The Full Skirt
The High Waist Chiffon Pleat
Transitioning into Autumn/Winter: Acquisitions and Mergers
Figure-Fixing Midis

The Dress
(with a little help from my celebrity style crushes)

The Sheer Lace
A high neckline, mid-calf length and vintage-smart-casual shoe boots and socks combine to perform the near-impossible feat of making all-over sheer lace edgily and elegantly sexy, with a generous helping of vintage chic.

The Lantern

The full skirt is unsurpassed for enhancing the curves you want whilst concealing the ones you don't, whether sweet in white lace for an authentic, carefree fifties vibe a la Marilyn; demure with a hint of vamp in evening black like Michelle; or sculpted to stop the show like Diane.


Prima Ballerina
A beautiful dusky pink, cinched-waist, full-skirted little number that I just couldn't resist, even though I couldn't for the life of me think of an occasion that would justify it whilst I frantically scoured the rails for the last one in my size, unless I happened to be invited to a soiree in the garden at Bucks Palace! In fact, the relatively subtle hue and midi length make it imminently wearable, as far as tutus go, and, toned down slightly with matching heeled brogues, it makes a cute "just nipping out for afternoon tea" type daytime look.

Dress: Primark (Past Season)
Shoes: Peacocks (Past Season)

The ultimate classic midi shift - perfect with a semi-beehive and vintage-inspired monochrome accessories - the ankle socks give the elegant cut a cute twist. It would also lend itself to a stylish "work" look with a chiffon blouse layered underneath, and/or a cropped blazer on top, or a sophisticated evening look with skyscraper heels and a statement necklace.

Dress: eBay (originally Primark)
Shoes: New Look (Past Season)
Necklace: Primark (Past Season)
Socks: Primark

The Pencil

Classic Black
Everyone should have one in their wardrobe! Depending on the top you choose to pair it with, you can achieve almost any look - ultra glamorous, low-key daytime chic or rock chick - the choice is yours.

The peplum-pencil combo is perfect for exaggerating (or creating) an hourglass silhouette, and plays on the vintage feel inherent in both garments. I've allowed the top to take centre stage here, for a fun yet sophisticated nautical-inspired look, but it would also be interesting to pair it with a colour pop pencil.

Top (with belt): New Look (AW12)
Skirt: Primark (Past Season)
Shoes: Pied a Terre (Past Season)


I have personally been flying the flag for dogtooth for years, but it seems to be taking over the world this season! It's a great playful-but-refined print which I think works especially well on skirts. I've so far opted to retain a neutral palette when wearing this print, but like to play with the shapes and proportions of co-ordinating separates, whilst still maintaining the classic hourglass silhouette.

It's a perfect transeasonal staple, working equally well with sleeveless shirts for summer (see more looks with this shirt here) - with the addition of an A-line sleeveless mac for slightly chillier/rainier days; peplum tops and military style/leather jackets to toughen up a little; and slinky knits and opaques for winter (with a bullet bra here to exaggerate the vintage silhouette! Also note the statement shoulders - great for adding impact and balancing hips).

Skirt: River Island (Past Season)
Look 1 - Shirt: Primark (SS12); Shoes: New Look (Past Season); Sleeveless Trench: Primark (Past Season); Bag: Limited Collection at Marks & Spencer (SS12)
Look 2 - Top: Primark (SS12); Jacket: Primark (Past Season); Loafers: Dorothy Perkins (Past Season)
Look 3 - Jumper: Primark (Past Season); Shoes: As Above

The Colour Pop

Fab for adding extra oomph to a classic look - clash colours and patterns, or keep the rest of the look neutral and let the colour and silhouette do the talking.

Red works brilliantly with navy and white stripes for a nautical-inspired look, or blocked with other rich autumnal colours for AW.

Burnt orange looks great teamed with neutral and warm block colours or neutral/warm-toned prints such as leopard. A skinny colour pop belt centres attention on the waist, whilst a wide obi-style belt has even more eye-popping impact.

Clashing neon shades is also a great way of putting a modern spin on a vintage look - to be explored in a later post.

Look 1 - Skirt: Jane Norman (SS12); Top: Bay (Past Season); Shoes: Peacocks (Past Season)
Look 2 - Skirt: As Above; Jumper: Primark (Past Season); Hat: Primark (Past Season); Shoes: Marks & Spencer (Past Season)
Look 3 - Skirt: Primark (Past Season); Top: Primark (Past Season); Shoes: New Look (SS12); Belt: ASOS (Past Season)
Look 4 - Skirt: Primark (Past Season); Shirt: Primark (SS12); Coat: Primark (Past Season); Shoes: Peacocks (Past Season)

Graphic Tribal
High-waisted pencil skirts also work well with crop tops (see more looks here). For a subtle, vintage-tinged take on tribal style, I've teamed an Aztec-print skirt with a simple khaki crop top, tribal-style gold collar necklace and nude wedges with gold/black embellishment to pick up on the neck adornment.

Skirt: Primark (Past Season)
Top: Topshop (SS12)
Necklace: Primark (AW12)
Shoes: Peacocks (Past Season)

The Glam Knit
As well as teaming your all-season pencils with cosy knits and tights, you can also take the snuggly factor below the waist. I resisted these for ages after they first hit the shops last year before finally succumbing and becoming addicted.

They look fab layered with contrasting-toned knitwear and blouses for day, and dressier similar-toned tops for evening, accessorised with statement belts, tights and other accessories to turn up the vintage glam factor, but would also look cute teamed with sloppier knits for a quirky-casj winter look.

Skirts: Both Primark (Past Season)
Jumper: Jane Norman (Past Season)
Blouse: Primark (Past Season)
Lace Top: Primark (Past Season)
Purple Belt: Primark (Past Season)
Black Belt: Primark (SS12)
Metallic Belt: Miss Selfridge (SS12)
Loafers: Dorothy Perkins (Past Season)
Heeled Brogues: Dorothy Perkins (Past Season)
Tights: All Primark

The Full Skirt

Vintage Lace
I maintained a navy/aubergine colour palette and vintage lace theme throughout this ensemble to keep the look elegant. The gloves add a bit of '20s tea party pizzazz whilst the T-bar shoes continue to run with the retro feel.

Skirt (with belt): River Island (Past Season)
Top: Oasis (Past Season)
Gloves: Accessorize (SS12)
Shoes: Marks & Spencer (AW12)

The Midi Skater (kindly modelled by mum, yesterday)
Skater-style midis are great for enhancing wanted curves as well as hiding any unwanted ones, whilst the length is great for ladies who don't want to reveal acres of flesh above the knee but don't fancy a floor sweeper either. I think they look great teamed with a peplum top echoing their silhouette, for a sweet vintage feel.

Neutral colours keep the look subtly elegant, nude shoes lengthen calves, and keeping the lightest shade on the top half draws attention to a toned waist.

Top: Missguided (AW12)
Skirt: River Island (Past Season)
Shoes: Peacocks (Past Season)
Bangle Set (left arm): New Look (SS12)
Bracelet (right arm): BHS (Past Season)
Earrings: Primark (Past Season)

Do the Polka
Great with my favourite statement-shouldered skinny knit and monochrome accessories for a cute but subtle wintry look. Knitwear doesn't have to mean compromising on glamour! (Just realising how much I wear these shoes in AW, not to mention monochrome in general!!)

Skirt: Primark (Past Season)
Jumper: Primark (Past Season)
Collar: Topshop
Shoes: New Look (Past Season)

The High Waist Chiffon Pleat

The Cute Print
The infamous car print again! The tucked-in shell shape works with the A-line midi to create a demure but casually elegant silhouette. Cute fuschia accessories add impact and extra cuteness.

Skirt: Primark (SS12)
Top: Primark (SS12)
Cardigan: Bay (Past Season)
Shoes: Office (Past Season)

Another crop top/high waist combo! Teaming pastels with neutrals stops a candy-sweet look from turning sickly (I do love pastel-blocking, but combined with the lines of this outfit, it would be a 5-year-old's dream).

Skirt: Jane Norman (Past Season)
Top: H&M (Past Season)
Shoes: Dorothy Perkins (Past Season)

Autumn Rust (Matching Hair Optional)
As I said in the pencil skirt section, above, I think rust/burnt orange looks great with neutrals and blocked with rich autumnal colours. I felt a bit Christina Hendricks in the polo and waist cincher (combined with my wash-out Superdrug hair dye)!

For an alternative look, or to maintain a high-waisted silhouette with a lower rise skirt (A-line or pencil), leaving your top untucked and adding a skinny belt at the waist looks fab. The cloche is one of my favourite accessories for maintaining a dash of vintage glamour through winter.

Skirt: Jane Norman (Past Season)
Look 1 - Top: H&M (Past Season); Belt: Primark (Past Season); Shoes: Both Pairs Primark (Past Season); Tights: Accessorize; Hair Band: Accessorize (Past Season); Hat: H&M (Past Season; Coat: Primark (Past Season)
Look 2 - Top: Primark (Past Season); Belt: Primark (Past Season); Shoes: Primark (Past Season); Tights: Primark; Coat: Freemans (Past Season); Hat: As Above

Lipstick Scarlet

True red is so versatile - bright enough for sunny days; rich enough for winter; great with neutrals and blocked with other brights. I keep it cute with a fun printed tie-up shirt for summer (maintaining a vintage vibe with T-bars and a cheeky flash of peekaboo lace). As the weather turns chillier, I dig out the polos and pussybow blouses, topped off with my bullet bra for fifties fun, or colour-blocked boots and felt hat to catapult it forward a couple of decades, straight into the seventies.

Skirt: ASOS (Past Season)
Look 1 - Blouse: Primark (SS12); Shoes: Marks & Spencer (AW12); Bra: Peacocks
Look 2 - Top: Primark (Past Season); Shoes: Primark (Past Season)
Look 3 - Blouse: Primark (Past Season); Hat: Primark (Past Season); Boots: Primark (Past Season)

Transitioning into Autumn/Winter: Acquisitions and Mergers
As I've tried to show above, midis are great for all seasons - try tucking in polos and skinny knits, or indeed wearing a knitted midi itself! Channel Chanel with a cloche, Charlie's Angels with floppy felt, or try a trilby, bowler or fedora for a quirky look. Dig out your statement tights, and pull on those boots. I like long boots (even over-the-knee varieties) which disappear under the hemline. I'll be looking out for peplum pencil skirts, flocking and baroque prints, and darker hues which will work for winter nights.


Figure-Fixing Midis
Your perfect length depends very much on the shape of your lower body - experiment, but as a rule of thumb, the hem should hit the slimmest part of your leg for the most flattering look - this may be just above the knee, on the knee, just below the knee, mid-calf or just above the ankle. You'll probably want to go on or below the knee if you're conscious of your thighs, and above mid-calf if you're conscious of chunky calves or ankles.

Length also changes the feel of a look considerably - above the knee gives a more modern, girly look; below the knee gives more of a sophisticated, vintage feel, with levels of prim elegance increasing as it edges towards the ankle.

Keeping your upper half fitted can help to balance out the prim factor of a midi - for apple shapes, a slightly looser, untucked top can work, cinched in with a statement belt at your narrowest point (or, indeed, a peplum top).

Tomorrow: How to Wear the Mixi (aka the "Mullet")

See more recent posts featuring midi skirts and dresses here

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  1. wow such a long post ;) And I have to say I really adore your hair <3

    x Daisy

    The Mandarine Girl

    1. Thank you :) Haha I know, I thought that once I embarked on this one - I have too many skirts!

  2. all looks are amazing *_* your blog is very good and interesting *_* follow? im glad if you visit my blog, too <3 keep in touch!


    1. Thank you so much :) I've added the Following gadget now, so feel free to follow if you'd like to :) I'll be visiting your blog too! xx

  3. This is sucha long, lovely post. :) i love the midi - it's always so flattering and chic.

    1. Ah thank you honey :) Really glad you enjoyed x

  4. nice blog ^^ loves it)

    follow my blog)and i will follow you)

    xoxo Christy

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