Complete Guide to Skirt Styles

Crystal Schwanke
Mini-Skirt
Mini-skirt

Skirts come in a wide variety of lengths and types. This comprehensive guide explains the differences and how to wear them. As with all apparel, skirts can be made in a variety of different fabrics -- which typically determines if the skirt is casual, professional, or suitable for evening wear.

Short Skirt Styles

Nothing showcases a great pair of legs like a short skirt. These hit above the knee, but they still come in several shapes and fabrics to suit almost any occasion (except maybe school or work).

Mini-skirt

The term mini-skirt is used to describe skirts with hemlines that are well above the knee, often halfway up the thigh. This skirt was popularized in the "Swinging Sixties," with designer Mary Quant and model Jean Shrimpton bringing the style into prominence.

  • Mini-skirts can be paired with a variety of different tops, depending on the situation and one's personal style. For a night out with friends, a tighter, more fitted top would be appropriate; for a more casual day out, it would be best to wear a more conservative top - long sleeved, with a looser fit - to balance out the shortness of the skirt.
  • The mini-skirt is best worn by younger women with either an apple-shaped body type or boyish shape.
  • To pull off the mini-skirt style in a more modest way, pair the skirt with leggings or tights for a stylish look that doesn't show extra skin.

Skater Skirt

Also known as a circle skirt, the skater skirt is a casual skirt with a waistband that sits at one's true waist and is flared so that it will form a circle when laid flat. Because of the way the skirt is cut, it often falls in an a-line shape.

  • This casual skirt is extremely versatile and can be paired with fitted tops to contrast with the flared shape or even looser tops tucked into the waistband. It has become trendy to wear skater skirts with a fitted cropped top, showing off a sliver of skin.
  • The skater skirt comes in a variety of lengths, and is universally flattering for all body types.
  • Longer skater skirts can be worn by women of all ages; shorter skater skirts should be worn by younger women.

Skort

Also known as a scooter skirt, a skort is a combination of shorts and a skirt. It is usually designed as a pair of shorts with a piece of fabric over them, to give the appearance of a skirt. This style was particularly popular in the 90s, when they were knee-length and were most frequently paired with a polo t-shirt. The skort has seen a recent revival in more recent spnigs and summers with the popularization of Zara's modern version. It has a mid-thigh length, with the "skirt" having an asymmetric hem.

  • This style is suited for women with an active lifestyle - it has the style of a skirt but the ease of a pair of shorts, and is to be worn only in the daytime and for more casual occasions.
  • A more modern way of wearing this style is with a loose t-shirt or a cable-knit sweater.
  • This style suits all body types.

Bubble Hem

The bubble hem skirt puffs out at the bottom due to the hem being tucked back under, resulting in a voluminous style. This skirt was originally popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but has since experienced a resurgence in popularity after being seen on the runways. While its original style was short, it is also now seen in longer lengths.

  • This skirt is best worn with a fitted top to balance out the rounded shape of the skirt.
  • This style is best suited for younger women who have apple-shaped body types.

Knee-Length Styles

Knee-length styles are versatile enough to be casual, work-friendly, and also work in more formal settings. As the name suggests, these are a modest length without being too long.

Bell-Shaped

The bell-shaped skirt, as the name implies, resembles a bell in that the skirt flares from the waist but falls in a straight line to the knee from that initial flare. It is typically made from heavier fabrics that hold their shape well. The most famous proponent of the bell-shaped skirt is Jackie Kennedy, who frequently wore dresses with bell-shaped skirts to glamorous effect.

  • This skirt is best worn in the evening at formal occasions, with a fitted top.
  • It is best worn by apple-shaped ladies.

Full

The full, knee-length skirt is flattering for all women. The waistband of a full skirt typically cinches at one's true waist, the smallest part of a woman's body, with the rest of the skirt falling to the knee.

  • Its conservative length makes it extremely versatile - depending on the fabric and the print, it can be worn to work and to religious and family occasions, and even to formal evening events if made in a fabric like jacquard or lace.
  • The best way to wear a full skirt is with a fitted top tucked into the waistband in order to highlight the nipped-in waist.
  • This skirt can be worn by ladies of all ages and body shapes.

Pleated

Traditionally associated with private school uniforms, the pleated skirt has become ubiquitous in recent years. The effect varies based on size of the pleats. For example, thicker pleats are more reminiscent of schoolgirl days, whereas thinner pleats are more contemporary and on-trend. The pleated skirt can come in a variety of lengths - mid-thigh (mini), knee-length, calf-length (midi), and even maxi. A more modern take on the skirt is using fabrics like leather or chiffon, as opposed to the more traditional wool-blend.

  • This type of skirt is best worn with a top tucked into the waistband.
  • Pleated skirts can be worn by women of all body types and shapes.

A-Line

The A-Line skirt, when laid flat, forms a triangle shape where the skirt flares out gently from the waistband.

  • The A-line skirt is traditionally knee-length, making it an appropriate choice for most occasions.
  • This style is perfect for pear-shaped ladies as it emphasizes the waist and does not cling to the hips.

Pencil

The pencil skirt is a staple for many professional women closet - and rightly so. This style is cut straight down, and when laid flat, forms a rectangle.

  • Often paired with a suit jacket, the pencil skirt is best worn in professional environments. A pencil skirt in a suiting fabric is appropriate for business formal dressing, and an appropriate top would be a formal button-down shirt or a silk shell to be worn under a suit jacket.
  • Retailers like J.Crew have started making pencil skirts in a variety of fabrics, including colorful wools, printed cotton blends, and heavier jacquard prints. These skirts are better suited for business casual environments and, in the case of the heavier jacquard fabrics, at nighttime professional events. In these situations, a loose silk top or a sweater in a complementary color would work best.
  • Women of all body types and all ages, with the exception of pear-shaped figures who might find it challenging to find a well-fitting pencil skirt, can wear the pencil skirt.

Jean

The jean skirt is a variant of the pencil skirt, but made with denim. Typically done in a lighter wash, the jean skirt comes in varying lengths, including above the knee and right at knee-length. The jean skirt rose in prominence during the early 1990s, but has undergone a revival in recent years.

  • A modern way to wear the jean skirt would be with a silk, button-up shirt to add a sleek contrast to its casualness, or with a t-shirt paired with a statement necklace.
  • This skirt is best suited for pear-shaped ladies and women with more boyish figures.

Long Styles

Maxi

The longest skirt of this list, the maxi skirt is an ankle-length skirt. It comes in a variety of styles and fabrics. Depending on the fabric, the maxi skirt can either be tight and form-fitting, or it can flow away from the body in a looser manner.

  • The maxi skirt is typically worn for more casual occasions though it can be possible to wear one for more formal evening occasions. It is an extremely versatile style and typically suits taller women.
  • There is a maxi skirt for every kind of body type - apple-shaped ladies can wear the more form-fitting skirts, whereas pear-shaped ladies should try on the looser versions with a tucked shirt.

High-Low

The high-low skirt is one where the hemline is shorter at the front and longer at the back. This style has become quite popular and is a trendy alternative to a full maxi skirt.

  • It is best worn on casual occasions or for parties, and can be worn with a variety of different tops.
  • The high-low skirt can be worn by ladies of all body types and heights.

Midi

A skirt that falls to the mid-calf, the midi skirt is also known as the tea-length skirt. Its conservative length makes it perfect for more formal occasions. A recent take on the midi skirt is to have a sheer overlay that reaches to the calf, and a shorter opaque half-slip inside the skirt.

  • The midi skirt can be paired with a variety of tops including looser tops tucked into the waistband, fitted tops, and even crop tops - a recent trend best suited for younger women.
  • It is best to wear this style with high heels.
  • The midi skirt suits all body types, but is best worn by taller ladies, as the in-between length truncates the leg and shortens the leg line

Sarong

The sarong is an extremely casual skirt best suited for beach vacations. The sarong skirt is a rectangle of fabric that is tied at the waist, typically made from a printed cotton. It originates from the indigenous communities of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific islands.

  • The sarong is mostly used as a beach cover up.
  • It is best paired with casual sandals.
  • It suits all body types as the waistband is adjustable and it comes in a variety of lengths.

Vast Selection

With so many styles to choose among, there are plenty of skirt options to suit everyone. No matter what your taste or body style - or the type of occasion you are dressing for - there's a skirt that will meet your needs.

Complete Guide to Skirt Styles