x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

How to wear the little sister of the maxi dress

The pleated midi is not easy, even for those who seem to arrive in life with all the natural given perks.

When we think of the maxi dress, memories of ankle-grazing iterations to the Summer of Love spring to mind. As does a frantic attempt to hide from fast-approaching middle-age spread. While in print they sound like a wonderful idea – grown-up, elegant, and somewhat flattering – in reality they are downright difficult to wear. Enter its little sister, the midi. After a couple of seasons of treading water, it’s finally settled in. Popularised in the 1950s and spotted at the Prada, Céline, and Rochas autumn/winter 2013 shows, it’s actually a remarkably forgiving little piece.

So why are we all so scared? Well, for a start, for the last five seasons, we’ve been used to wearing a single piece. Be it the smock, T-shirt dress or the jumpsuit, it seems that we’ve forgotten how to put pair outfits together anymore. Colour combinations that we’d happily been ignoring have to come into play again.

As I continually advise, think in terms of opposites. If your bottom half is structured, go loose on top. For everyday use, a loose, textured piece, a casual T-shirt or an oversized piece of knitwear that can be worn outside the skirt works ­wonders.

Of course, things are never that straightforward. Just when we were getting the hang of things, they introduce 360° knife pleats to the midi – probably one of the most difficult, unflattering and irritating styles known to woman – which means that the trend will be a sure-fire staple. Flattering it is not. But when has that ever stopped us?

In terms of fabric, there are two ways to go, and no in-between. A light, fine, bouncy chiffon in a pastel summer shade is great for the romantic joie de vivre that the season demands. If that’s all a bit sugary for you, there’s always a somewhat fiercer way to go. Opt for a dark wool blend or leather tube skirt that will hold its shape, and mix with a cropped jacket and chunky accessories.

Midi skirts don’t always have to be full; they can be more streamlined if you go for a fitted version and pair it with a Peter Pan collar blouse, and light beige trench coat for some Parisian flair. A crisp, collared shirt will add a more polished finish, or work a more playful angle by teaming them with a cropped top. A slither of skin on show will also help to balance out the coverage the skirt gives. Your height will play a more important role than it normally does – don’t forget that skirts that finish mid-calf will only accentuate a woman’s worst fear: the dreaded “cankle”. Avoid full-length pleats; instead, look for pleated details, and if you’re curvier, stick to the A-line, longer skirts to balance things out.

When it comes to shoes, heeled shoes and flats will both work. Heels will lengthen the legs with an awkward length. If you opt for a heel, choose one that shows off the top of your foot and your ankle to trick the eye. Adopt the same rule for flats; with very little leg on show, it’s important to keep your shoes minimal. Tights are an absolute no-no and will instantly transform your midi skirt from elegant to frumpy.

The pleated midi is not easy, even for those who seem to arrive in life with all the natural given perks – the type that swan around with clarity, ease and inherent poise will probably struggle. Which, all things considered, should provide a certain level of satisfaction.

ktrotter@thenational.ae

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