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64 overweight and short will ankle length skirt look ok?

by Dorian Coleman
(Cascade MD USA)

I am 64, 5' 1" tall and overweight. I need a new look not only clothes, but hair and makeup. Most of my weight is around the middle how can I make this area smaller? I would like to know if I could wear ankle length skirts or will they accentuate my middle and make me look shorter? I also can not wear heels.

Jane's answer...Hello Dorian, thank you for your question.

Good for you, that you're looking to improve your appearance. Taking care of how you present yourself really does make a difference to how you feel about yourself and how others treat you.

The style 'rules'

The trouble with long skirts and dresses on shorter women is that they tend to overwhelm her shorter frame. This can make her look dumpy and frumpy. Not a good look!

Ankle lengths in particular are not flattering on many women, but especially on shorter frames and especially with flat shoes. This 'rule' applies to skirts, dresses and pants. It's because of the visual proportions created. For instance, adding a horizontal line at your ankles makes your legs look shorter, which makes you look shorter and therefore heavier. And, if worn with longer tops (often needed to cover a larger middle) the length of the top and bottom may look too similar, which looks boring and frumpy.

The most flattering length for most women, and especially for shorter women, is around knee length. That is: just below the knee cap, on the knee cap, or at the top of the knee cap. The more leg you expose, the taller and slimmer you'll appear.

Those are the generally recognized style 'rules' for shorter women. However, where there's a will and some styling knowledge, there may be a way for you to make a long skirt look flattering.

I'm wondering, is there something about your lower legs that you don't like? Or is it just that you like long skirts?

Long skirts on short women

You may be able to wear a full-length (below your ankle) skirt or dress, especially if it falls in a straight silhouette. Ideally you'd wear it with at least a low heel. But I'd need to know more about your proportions (including your horizontal and vertical shapes) to say for certain.

When wearing a long skirt make sure you style it in a very contemporary way, so you don't appear older than you are.

You also need to be very careful of any pattern on the skirt. Avoid large patterns and borders, for instance, and balance the pattern with a top in a lighter, brighter color using one of the colors in the skirt. However, avoid wearing a color that's very light or bright over your middle area, unless you also wear a darker outer layer (such as a vest, cardigan or jacket). Adding a focal point above your bust will also help.

long skirt styling if overweight and short

Above is an example of a patterned skirt, in a very contemporary style, that may work for you. Notice how the pattern (the vertical stripes at the front) creates a strong vertical appearance? This will have a slimming effect.

I've also suggested a couple of ways to style the skirt with tops, outer layers and accessories. Your personality will influence your choice of styling.

more long skirt styling if overweight and short

Above is another example using a dark (it doesn't have to be black), jersey skirt that doesn't have too much volume.

Style Makeover Recommendations

Below are my recommendations for getting started on your style makeover, based on the comments in your question. The first 2 suggestions (new hairstyle and makeup) make an immediate difference that you, your family and friends will notice straight away. So you'll feel you're making good progress immediately.
  • I suggest you start your makeover by getting a new, contemporary haircut (and possibly a color as well). Hair that's shoulder length, or shorter works best for women over 50. Use your hair to create a face lift effect by ensuring the volume is in your temple area. Typically, a little volume on top is also flattering. For more recommendations see this article.

    You may need to change your hairdresser too. Look for someone who lives near you with hair similar to yours and whose cut and color your like. Ask them which salon they go to and the name of their hairdresser. (I've been known to approach strangers in the street to tell them I love their hair and get their hairdresser's details!). Make sure you book the actual person mentioned, rather than just someone at the salon. Also ask if their hair is colored and cut by the same person.

  • Have a makeup lesson from a professional makeup artist (not just a free makeup session from a department store). I suggest you look for a more mature makeup artist, because even if a younger girl is good, finding someone who actually has wrinkles and more mature skin is invaluable! Again finding a personal recommendation is good, but you can also phone or meet with the person you're considering to see if you're comfortable with her.

  • Continue with my 6 steps to savvy style approach. If you'd like an individual style consultation with me I'd love to help. Even though you're not in Sydney, I can now help you using a mix of photos, questionnaires, and phone or Skype or Facetime. Contact me if you'd like to find out about this service

Tips for making your middle look slimmer

Here are a few styling 'tricks' to appear slimmer. Many of these tips are illustrated in the outfits above:
  • Wear garments with as many vertical design elements as possible, such as:

    • the vertical lines on the patterned skirt above

    • a scarf worn as an accessory (with the ends falling vertically)

    • a jacket or cardigan worn open over a top in a different color

  • Push or roll sleeves of tops and jackets up to just below your elbow -- to avoid ending your sleeve at the fullest part of your tummy

  • Wear fabrics that drape rather than cling. Ruching is particularly effective at disguishing tummy rolls!

  • Wear darker colors on your bottom half to appear taller and therefore slimmer

  • Avoid wearing light colors and shiny fabrics over figure challenges

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jane liddelow

"Your style makeover may require a few tweaks or a total re-think. Using a mix of science and art I show you how to discover your style and look great every day.

Hi, I'm Jane Liddelow, the Personal Image Consultant and Stylist responsible for this site. Find out more about me here."

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