Monday, 19 July 2010
Full Circle - Skirts for Fun and Frolics and Flattery
I was asked months ago by a friend to have a look at circle skirts, but I confess I forgot. Still, she has reminded me, and so here we are. Circle skirts flatter most hourglass and pearshaped women, but actually give the impression of curves to anyone with boobs bigger than their waist - and they're forgiving of bums, hips and thighs, and tummies too, if like me you bulge out primarily below your natural waist. They're a fun, lighthearted sort of shape, often - but not always - evocative of a retro 1950s look, and as the Autumn Winter collections reassured us, they're going to be around more and more over the coming months.
The retro look of the circle skirt is fairly obvious - they're much beloved for giving incomparable swirl and movement when dancing, and you need a lot of skirt to top a net petticoat. The skirts above and top are by Hellbunny, cost less than £20, but come in a terribly limited range of sizes: only going up to a 14. I include them because they're fun, but for similar skirts you could also try Wagtails Dancewear, who have a good range of sizes and patterns in a slightly longer length.
Length then. Most circle skirts fall between 'just above the knee' to 'tea length' (upper calf), and certainly it's worth bearing in mind that most retro petticoats are designed to fall just below the knee if you're average height. But the full circle skirt has many incarnations. Taken shorter it becomes a skater skirt, and these are huge fun if you're confident showing your legs (be aware that circle skirts of any length have a tendency to get caught by the slightest gust of wind and expose more leg than you'd planned) - ASOS have a good range of these up to a size 22. Taken longer than calf length, and without a petticoat to create the shape, all that extra volume becomes quite blowsy. They are around - the example above is by fashion brand American Apparel, and you'll find a lot of them in 'hippy' shops, but it's not a flattering look. As a rule of thumb, the longer a skirt is, the stronger silhouette it needs.
What about a modern look? Well, a circle skirt doesn't need to be dressed up in retro trappings to be a flattering option. The skirt above is by catalogue company Very, and with its net overlayer looks very contemporary and clean-lined. It's available up to a size 24 and costs a reasonable £32. To avoid echoes of the fifties, don't overplay the waist with a cinched belt, and whereas you would wear a more retro look with ballet pumps, wedge heeled espadrilles or curvy high heels, here you'd keep things modern with some more modern lines as above, or perhaps a tomboyish pair of flat, heavy-soled boots.
In most cases, circle skirts look best with a close fitted top, to give definition to the waist, but of course if you opt for a dress you don't have to think about what to wear with it. Obviously purveyors of fine retro frocks Vivien of Holloway and Collectif, amongst others, will cater perfectly to your vintage-look needs, but contemporary fashion also provides. The dress above is silk, by Great Plains at Oli, and it breaks my heart to say it only goes up to a size sixteen, because it truly is gorgeous. £59 reduced from £85. For other full skirted frocks, look for anything called a 'prom dress'. Odd terminology (have you seen what is generally worn to proms?), but the silhouette is usually right.
Lastly, an apology and a request. My friend did ask me to find a particular skirt that she saw, once upon a time in some long-lost corner of the internet. I couldn't track it down, but maybe the swelegencia can? We're looking for a circle skirt with flames appliques or embroidered around the hem. Please pass the information on via the comments box or email if you happen across it on your travels.
Edit - one suggestion from the lovely people at Biscuit Boutique: This gauzy number from Mode Merr - handmade and with a breathtaking price to reflect all the work involved.