How to Wear a Midi Dress

Black and white picture of midi dress

… without looking frumpy

“How to wear a midi dress” and “what shoes to wear with a midi dress” are two of the most frequently asked questions by visitors to the Fashion Police, and it’s not hard to see why. Ever since the midi dress came back into fashion a couple of years ago, they’ve become pretty ubiquitous, with most mass-market retailers stocking at least one midi for all of the legions of mini skirts which are their more usual fare.

Although midi dresses are now easy to find, though, they’re not necessarily easy to wear. In fact, this can be one of the most troublesome lengths of all: it’s very easy to look frumpy in a dress that hits at mid-calf , and while we’re on the subject of calves, who REALLY wants to emphasise that particular part of the leg? We’re going to guess not many of you have your hands raised right now.

Worn right, however, the midi dress can actually have a whole lot of WOW-factor, and be pretty flattering. Here are some tips on how to wear a midi dress…

How to wear a Midi dress: Midi dresses available at ASOS.com

Bear in mind that not all midi dresses are created equally

If you’re wondering how to wear a midi dress, it might be helpful to first of all define what a midi dress actually IS. Technically, a “midi” is a term used to refer to any dress or skirt with a hem which hits a mid-calf – halfway between the knee and ankle. Going by this definition, however, you can instantly see that very few of the dresses currently being sold as “midis” are ACTUALLY mid-length. The one shown at the top of the page certainly isn’t – or not on this model, anyway – because it hits a couple of inches under the model’s knee, not in the middle of the calf. This is the case with the vast majority of “midi dresses” currently being sold on the high street: they’re not actually “midi” at all.

There’s a good reason for this, though: TRUE midi dresses just aren’t all that flattering. That’s not a universal truth, of course, and there are plenty of people who can look fantastic in this particular length of hem. For many of us, however, the just-below-the-knee length is much flattering, and much easier to wear, so our first tip is not to be a stickler for the correct terminology and insist that your midi dress be a TRUE mid-calf length. The type of length shown above, for instance, gives exactly the same impression as a “real” midi dress – but it’ll be a whole lot easier to wear.

Black and white polka dot midi dress

How to wear a midi dress: all midis are not created equally

How to wear a midi dress: Proportion is all

We mentioned the height of the model in the point above: this is really important, because that model, the ASOS website informs us, is 5″9. If you’re NOT 5″9, the same dress will obviously look different on you, and if you’re significantly shorter than that, it will come closer to being a true midi – or even longer. (Your Chief of Police, for instance, is just under 5″4, and has purchased so-called “midi” dresses which have almost reached her ankles.) What’s a petite girl to do? Well, shopping from the Petite section is one solution, of course, but given that it’s not always possible to find exactly what you’re looking for there, another option could be to look for dresses which are designed to be knee-length on an “average” sized person: they’ll be below-the-knee on you, and will therefore allow you to create the look of a midi dress. If you’re much taller than the model, on the other hand, you’ll probably find that most “midi length” dresses will work for you: no alterations required! Speaking of which…

Be prepared to have your dress altered

This is a tip you’ve probably heard us give before, and it really applies to ALL clothes, not just to midi dresses. When you’re considering how to wear a midi dress, though, the perfect fit is even more important than it is for many other garments, so be prepared to have some basic alterations done, or to do them yourself.

woman in black midi dress dress in slingback heels

How to wear a midi dress: time to break out the heels…

What shoes to wear with a midi dress?

For many people, footwear is the biggest stumbling block of all when it comes to working out how to wear a midi dress. You’re probably not going to like this, but our advice here is to consider the maxim, “The higher the hem, the lower the heel”. This works in reverse, too, and we’d suggest that when you’re wearing a hem which is longer than knee-length (but shorter than a maxi), it’s a good excuse to break out the heels. Midi dresses, by their very nature, will have a tendency to make you look shorter and stumpier: they cut across the leg at its widest part, and this is the reason so many people find them very unflattering. To combat this, you’re going to need to do what you can to elongate the leg, and that means heels.


capsule-wardrobe

SPRING WARDROBE 2014


how-to-wear-a-midi-dress-shoes

FASHION MYTHS BUSTED


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CHRISTENING OUTFITS

 

If you’re a stiletto lover, this is good news: midi dresses provide you with an excellent excuse to wear your highest, most ridiculous heels – the ones you don’t really dare to wear with shorter hems. It’s pretty hard to make a midi dress look tacky (It can be done, though, fashion criminals…), so enjoy those skyscrapers while you can. If you hate heels, meanwhile, well, we’re not saying you MUST wear them, but consider even a small heel to combat the possible frump-factor of the midi. Flats, and particularly flatforms aren’t a good look with midi dresses, but then again, flatforms aren’t a good look with ANYTHING, are they? Shoes with ankle straps can also be tricky to style with this hem length: you don’t want to “divide up” the leg any more than you can help by drawing lines across the ankle AND the calf.

What type of coat to wear with a midi dress?

Outerwear is another question which often comes up in relation to the subject of how to wear a midi dress. Opinions seem to be pretty split on whether coats should be longer than dresses, or vice versa, but if you’re wearing a midi dress, especially one with a voluminous skirt, we’d advise avoiding coats which are just slightly shorter than the dress: the different hem lengths, especially ones that are below-the knee, can end up looking sloppy, so consider either a full length coat, or a shorter one which ends at the hips or waist.

Lady in skin tight black midi dress

How to wear a midi dress

What style of midi dress to go for?

Ultimately, of course, the question of how to wear a midi dress will depend on the type of dress you’re wearing, and the type of dress you should go for will depend on a lot of different factors including your body shape, personal style and where you’re planning to wear it. While we can’t tell you exactly which dress to go for, however, and everyone’s preference will be different here, we would suggest that fitted styles can be more flattering than loose ones. You don’t have to go for a bodycon dress, as in the first photo (although, as with heels, it’s far easier to get away with something skin-tight when you’re wearing a longer hem), but look for tailored shapes and fitted waistlines, if your dress has a full skirt. Large swathes of fabric on a longer-length dress can completely drown the wearer, and end up looking sack-like, and trust us: a sack-dress is even HARDER to wear than a midi dress…

What are your tips on how to wear a midi dress?

All dresses available at ASOS.com | Cover Image: Bettie Page

P.S. These are simply OUR tips on how to wear a midi dress. Because everyone’s style and body shape is different, there are no universal “rules”, so please bear in mind that we’re not saying you CAN’T do any of the things we’ve advised against here: these are suggestions only!

 

4 Comments

  • February 15, 2013

    Lu

    I’m also just under 5″4 and I like to wear midi dresses which have a wide skirt a little longer than the typical “midi” length. If only one third the calves is exposed, it looks just right again. It’s just the “exactly cutting in half” length that is not flattering. Midi dresses with pencil skirts tend to look more flattering when shorter, though.

  • February 23, 2013

    dayana

    helpful post-

  • May 5, 2013

    M

    Strangely, the part of my legs I love best are my calves. I’ve been gymming to work on my hips, lifting my butt and slimming my thighs (particularly my knees and the back of the thighs) to firm things up a bit. Shouldn’t have stopped playing sports for two years, clearly. But midi dresses are perfect for me! I’m nearly 5’7 and I just ordered three midi dresses from New Look’s website. They’re not too skin-tight, and not too revealing either, so I’d say they’re perfect for day events and casual night engagements. (ASOS midi dresses are a little too fancy, flamboyant, revealing, or just inappropriate for the kinds of occasions I frequent.) Thanks for the bit about breaking out the heels too! So many excuses to whip out my stilettos. A pair of snake skin stilettos is just sitting in the walk-in waiting to get out. :)))) xx

  • January 26, 2014

    Serinde

    fabric/ cut is also important. the fabric needs to either have structure and body (like wool or a good cotton) or be floaty (like chiffon). Don’t get limp cottons with cheap elastic or ruching around the waist as it loos very granny and very frumpy