Finding the Right Skirt Length (Petite Edition)

In your opinion, which of the skirt lengths below look best on me?

A. 2 inches past the knee; B. at the knee; or C. 2 inches above the knee:

Please, please excuse the zombie expressions and gnarly hair in this post. I couldn’t bother to get dolled up for these photos.

A while back, one of my readers (thanks Elaine!) emailed me a link about determining one’s ideal skirt length. The formula seems complicated, but the concept is simple: the most visually appealing skirt length shows 50% skirt and 50% leg. I will now walk through the “formula” …

 This will be the cover of my first book, titled “How to Look 10 Years Old.”
Formula to find your ideal skirt length:

Step 1. Measure from your hipbone (that protruding bone) to the middle of your kneecap. This is A. For me, A = 17 inches.


Step 2. Measure from the middle of your kneecap to the middle of your anklebone. This is B. For me, B = 13 inches.


Step 3. A-B = discrepancy between your leg proportions. For me, this is 17-13 = 4 inches. 

Step 4. Divide the number from Step 3 by 2. For me, this is 4 / 2 = 2 inches. 2 inches is my “Magic Number.”

Now, if you have short calves (A is greater than B), your ideal skirt length should be kneecap minus Magic Number. Per this formula, my ideal skirt length is 2 inches above the knee.

If you have long calves (A is less than B), your ideal skirt length should be kneecap plus Magic Number.

Do I personally follow this formula? Loosely, maybe. There are some “variables” that the formula does not factor in, for example:

– Heels. 3 inch heels elongate the lower leg visually by at least 2 inches.
– High-waisted skirts versus low-waisted skirts. The formula has you measure beginning at your hipbone, assuming that is where the skirt will be slung.

To mitigate these variables, I wore flats in all three photos and wore ninja black to distract from the waist of the skirt. I do agree that above the knee looks best on me, but knee-length should also be okay with heels. A brief look into my skirt history…

Above the knee
(17.5″ H&M; on left, 14″ H&M; on right)


At the knee
(20″ Theory on left, 21″ Ann Taylor Petites on right)

Hope this wordy post wasn’t too boring. For those who actually did the “formula”… do you have short calves or long calves? Where do you prefer your skirt lengths to hit?

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  1. helen wrote:

    Thank you for your useful post! My magic number is 3. But personally, I think that is scantily clad So I usually choose one inch above the knee.Is this too conservative?

    Posted 12.18.11 Reply
  2. jesica wrote:

    you actually look pretty stumpy in the short skirts despite showing more leg.I don't know where you have it in your mind that wearing shorter skirts make you look taller.

    Posted 11.30.11 Reply
    • Anonymous wrote:

      Hey Jessica from 2011 – you’re an asshole.

      Posted 10.12.21 Reply
    • Raven wrote:

      I second that, Jessica from 2011 – you’re just an evil troll with nothing better to do in your life but spew hatred.

      Posted 2.17.22 Reply
    • Anonymous wrote:

      Very rude indeeed.

      Posted 8.13.23 Reply
  3. Kiwi wrote:

    I have short calves so I prefer above the knee =]
    Although I am like you and I don't think I will follow the formula so strictly because your eyes are always the best "formula" (if that makes any sense) ;D

    Posted 11.30.11 Reply
  4. Roxana wrote:

    I tend to think above the knee looks great on petite people 🙂 you look great in at-the-knee too! My magic number is 3, I'd like to think I suck at measuring but in all honesty I have really short calves…My A = 18" and my B = 12". Yikes.

    Posted 9.14.11 Reply
  5. marion wrote:

    I like above the knee lenght, you look awsome.
    I am near 40,5'0, size 1 petite, would be ok a so short skirt for my age?
    i dont look old. ( at least I think I don´t)

    Posted 4.12.11 Reply
  6. I actually think you look the best in the knee length skirts you posted! It really depends on the type of skirt though.

    Posted 2.15.11 Reply
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    I realy think that if one doesn not have nice legs, then they should avoid minis. They simply don´t look nice on chunky legs, or legs that are just not nice. Doesn´t matter what height the person is.

    Posted 2.10.11 Reply
  8. Esslie wrote:

    Interesting post. Something to keep in the back of my mind when I shop for skirts.

    Posted 12.25.10 Reply
  9. Anonymous wrote:

    This is so confusing.I have 26" inseam you said you have 28" inseam, but I just measured my outseam and the results were exatly like urs. 13/17. are you sure ur measurment is right? I just don't get how somebody with 28" inseam can have the same leg length as a 26" inseam.or maybe ur iseam is 26". idk.
    it's no big deal, but I'm just curious.

    Posted 12.10.10 Reply
    • AMTG wrote:

      Nice blog post. I think you look most proportioned with the skirt 2″ above your knee. The at knee length is good for more conservative professional settings. Religious conservatives typically go for midi and ankle length so proportions are not about appearance, but more about garments being loose enough to conceal the skin. As for measuring, finding the iliac Crest i.e. top of your hip bone requires some jabbing. Best have a marker so you can temporarily put a reference point on your hip. Also having an assistant with you helps get better measurements. Everyone has different bone lengths so it is possible to have similar inseam yet different knee cap to ankle bone measurements. Kind of like measuring for bra fit. No one has the same shape of breast tissue. Some people are short torso, others long torso. If you have short legs, this might work for you. If you have long legs and short torso, you might need to adjust to your frame. I have a long torso and short legs. Cutting off 4 inches of the bottom of pants is my norm. 27.5″ inseam. Ankle pants are full length pants for me typically. Just be kind, respectful, and responsible for your own existence. You do you and don’t criticize what others do. At the end of our lives, we won’t be taking things from this world with us to the hereafter. I look forward to your writings!💐

      Posted 2.12.22 Reply
  10. Just stumbled across your blog…5'2" here. My A = 19"; B = 16", so I'm short-calved. I typically buy skirts to fall around the knee or just below (I almost always wear 2-3" heels though). My thinking had been that a) that length is work-appropriate and b) just below my knee cap is right before where my calf gets really muscular.

    Last year when I started running a lot more, I decided I'd invest in some flats to throw in the mix so I wasn't risking issues with my leg muscles/knees/feet 5 days a week — and with flats, I feel like I can justify wearing skirts just above the knee to work.

    Posted 9.12.10 Reply
  11. tania-gru wrote:

    I most like the one 2 inches above your knee, you could probably also use one an inch or two longer than the longest skirt.
    My sewing teacher always say. A skirt should hit your leg at a point where the leg goes in. to make the legs look slim. I am petite, but have really solid legs, so I always go for mid-calf length or rarely just above the knees, since those are the only points where my legs curve in.

    Posted 5.11.10 Reply
  12. Savvy Gal wrote:

    great post and super informative!!!

    Posted 5.10.10 Reply
  13. Hey Diane, I honestly am not so sure about the big calf muscles. I looked at some photos online, and agree with what a reader mentioned above – it's important to have a skirt (or shorts) end at a narrow part of your leg. If it ends at the wide part of your leg like the middle of the calf, then it may be unflattering. Sorry I am not much help!

    Kellie – You definitely are petite … 5'4" and below is fairly petite, and you're my weight plus 3+ inches taller .. wow! The first level of the CFA wasn't bad, but the second level is daunting to me. It will probably take me a year to get through the 7 books, so I postponed Level II until next year – it sucks that it's only once a year. Best of luck to you, though!

    Posted 5.9.10 Reply
  14. Kellie wrote:

    oh i love your blog and your reviews and tips! 🙂 So before I thought i was petite… but i guess NOT REALLY. haha because I'm 5'3" and like 95lbs… so KINDA? lol.. but thanks for all of your reviews, ya!

    oh yeah! I have a question, i read that you have taken your first step of the CFA exam. is it hard? I think i'm taking it next year 🙁 YIKES!!!

    Posted 5.9.10 Reply
  15. Diane wrote:

    i had a question, what if you have big calf muscles?

    Posted 5.9.10 Reply
  16. SandC wrote:

    Way to take the formula and make a great visual tutorial out of it! You illustrated it beautifully. Keeping these principles in mind helps with online shopping too, since we can't always assume a skirt or dress i going to look the same on us as the model!

    Posted 5.9.10 Reply
  17. maybegirl wrote:

    Great tutorial! Not too sure if I would follow this to strictly but I do love skirts that are just above the knee. You do look really young in the picture of you in shorts!

    Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog!

    I saw pictures of the kid stam and was instantly heartbroken that they don't have it anymore. I've been rethinking the stam and will look into either the "little stam" or the "cecilia". It is heavy in person.

    Posted 5.8.10 Reply
  18. MsHark wrote:

    Wow this post is awesome! I love your mathematical approach to finding the ideal skirt length.

    The title of your book (silly girl) is hilarious. I love it.

    love you in that knee length theory skirt, & that vibrant pink looks great on you!


    Posted 5.8.10 Reply
  19. Vix wrote:

    In your experiment — given the skirt shape — I prefer at the knee as well (though I think .5 inch shorter might be even better). The 2" above looks good but not quite *as* good.

    In your example photos, I think knee-length looks stunning and the 14" with tonal heels/tights makes you look super-leggy. So with your leg shape you really can't go too wrong!

    I have not had coffee yet so no way am I attempting the measuring…but I'm a sucker for all such formulas so will try later, thanks!

    Posted 5.8.10 Reply
  20. Gorgeous post!

    Posted 5.7.10 Reply
  21. hana wrote:

    very interesting!!!

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  22. This is awesome. Thanks for sharing!

    And thanks for entering my giveaway! I'm a new follower. 🙂

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  23. Depending on the occasion but I like it at the knee since I too don't have much to work with. I love the fact that i can get away with shorter skirts though.

    Thanks for this post, really enjoyed it.

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  24. vyzie wrote:

    at the knee. for sure.

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  25. An wrote:

    Great post. Even though I am 4'11, for work I usually do at the kneed with no tights but with tights I let myself wear a shorter skirt.

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  26. Jenn wrote:

    It not only has to do with the length of the leg, but the width as well. You do NOT want a skirt to hit at your calves or exactly at your knee. These tend to be wider parts of the leg and will automatically make you look shorter. While I prefer 1-2 inches above the middle of the knee, you really need to find the most slender part of the leg and make sure the skirt shows that part. It will elongate the look.

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  27. roxy wrote:

    cool post, very informative

    In my opinion, at the knee looks best on you


    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  28. Agreed! On petite women, I think above the knee looks best.

    It's the same for myself — I like skirts at knee length, but only with knee high boots or heels.

    If not, skirts JUST above the knee (but not any higher as I'm 5'4") tend to look the best on me.

    If not, I just look frumpy.

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  29. Linda wrote:

    above the knee is just perfect for you! but like you said, at the knee is do-able if wearing heels. it looks just fine too.

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  30. becs wrote:

    B. the knee length. above the knee makes you look shorter the below the knee doesn't flatter you at all… though the succeeding pictures are all pretty 🙂

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  31. Laurie wrote:

    I would definitely have to vote…..above the knee. It just looks better!

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  32. hugstiem wrote:

    At the knee on you when wearing heels! Very curious because I always thought shorter skirts automatically meant looking taller, but your silhouette looks longer and leaner in the at-the-knee pics!

    Also your 10-year-old picture is how I usually look. 😀 Shorts and flats, yay.

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  33. MizzJ wrote:

    Hmm I wear all lengths actually, though I usually go for at or above the knee as anything that hits near mid-calf just makes me stumpy. Skirt lengths is one of the only things that makes me enjoy being short since that means I can wear shorter lengths without looking skanky!

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  34. Wow this is the first time I've come across your blog & I really like it!
    I'm definitely following~! <3

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  35. I like the "at the knee" look best on you, but then the shorter lengths look nice too! And it is always nice to have a little bit of variety in skirt lengths for different heel heights and business vs. casual occasions.

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  36. PetiteXXS wrote:

    Very interesting post! A is a definite no-no, B is good for work, and C is best if you're wearing flats. I'll have to whip out the measuring tape sometime and see what my magic number is!

    Posted 5.6.10 Reply
  37. Angie wrote:

    Ooh! This is very helpful : ) I'll have to measure and figure out my magic number when finals are over. I have short calves and really long upper leg .. so I look strange in skirts sometimes xD

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
  38. Jimin wrote:

    gah you are so gorgeous! this post is really helpful, if only I had gorgeous gams like you! I like the "at knee" length, but the shorters suit you too!


    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
  39. Jackie wrote:

    Very interesting. Which is best if you thighs and calves are the same length?

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
    • Coline wrote:

      Hi Jacki.I’m in the same boat as you Both if my measurements are the same, 14 inches.
      I think I’m going to go with about an inch below the knee.

      Posted 7.28.22 Reply
  40. Aya Smith wrote:

    Silly, you are one of the most gorgeous girls I've ever seen! Gar, I'm jealous 😀

    I like #3, just above the knee… I think it elongates your figure 🙂

    Aya ( )

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
  41. Liana wrote:

    i think the ones above the knees look best. being extremely short myself, wearing shorter skirts or shorts elongate my legs, and paired with heels or wedges make them look more lean and defined. the trick obviously is not to go to short though! great post!

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
  42. Diane wrote:

    I think the above knees (last pic of the 3) look best on you! I did mine and my magic number is 1. I'm thinking.. will it look right?

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
  43. Frudoc wrote:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
  44. Awesome post! I definitely like at the knee look on you but the shortest length looks great too!!!

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
  45. How cool! At the knee is my favorite on you, and I see how heels can play a factor in that.

    I measured once and got 1 as my magic number, but then I did it again and got 0.5…I suck at measuring… =P

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
  46. stylepint wrote:

    I never thought there was a formula for an ideal skirt length. According to the formula, my ideal length is 1.5 inches above my knee but I prefer going shorter and it depends on the type of skirt. I like to go shorter for flared styles at right above the knee for office styles. Cool post!

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
  47. janice NY wrote:

    Interesting formula! I never thought about it so mathematically haha. Usually I stick to shorter lengths (1-2 inches above the knee) to maximize height and also because I want to avoid my calf area. If I go below the know, the hem hits at the calf and cuts me off at a very wide point.

    Shoes also count, as you mentioned, the "x-factor". With shorter skirts, I wear flats to minimize potential skankiness and with at-the-knee skirts, I slip on heels.

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
  48. I feel you the skirt looks great 2 inches above the knee for you. When measuring the proportions, was there any mention about longer body types or different builds? Usually petite people look better in mini dresses than really tall people, who look great in maxis. But I do see what you mean with the heels. It does look better right at the knee cap when wearing heels since they elongate the legs.

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
  49. Erin wrote:

    Awesome post! Love the visuals – that really helps. Off to add this to my list of petite links … 🙂

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply
  50. I prefer the "at the knee".
    It gives the illusion of more height<3

    I think I like the "at the knee" length on you too~

    VERY helpful post, thanks!^___^

    Miss. P

    Posted 5.5.10 Reply

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