15 In Anatomy of an Outfit

Anatomy of a long skirt outfit that plays with proportions

Proportions of skirt to jacket

Playing with proportions in this black and white outfit


There’s something I totally love about this outfit that I’ve been excited to share with you and it’s proportion.

I wanted to wear this t-shirt by Chico’s from their great campaign to free women from the bondage of ageism by being proud to announce one’s age.

That’s me! I’m 65 and proud of it!

I could have worn this t-shirt with white jeans and white sneakers and a casual jacket. Maybe I still will. But I knew from the start that I wanted to dress it up the first time I wore it.

I don’t own many t-shirts. I guess I shy away from them because they can look too casual on me. I look more like a city girl than a farm girl although I’ve been both. But I also have lust in my heart for that rock star look of t-shirts with messages on women with guitars and gravelly voices wearing torn jeans, super pointy boots, and fringed leather jackets. LOVE that look…but probably couldn’t pull it off…ever.

So I’ll have to style it in a way that suits me.


Black and white outfit

Love the sleek look of the three pieces in this outfit

Starting with the skirt

I started with the skirt. I haven’t worn this skirt all winter. It’s a Peter Cohen long skirt in a great fabric that has stretch. I ADORE it and it makes me feel so great when I wear it. It’s longer in the back than it is in the front but I like to twist the waistband over until the longest part is along the side seam. I love that asymmetry. I’ve worn this skirt as it was meant to be worn but by twisting it a bit, it feels more flirty than formal.

The jacket I’m wearing is by BCBG. It’s got a sheen and fits like a bolero jacket. It too is so comfortable and snuggly. Both the jacket and the skirt have been in my wardrobe for ten years I’m sure and I think I got them from a consignment store when my daughter Erin spotted them and thought of me. Good girl!

When I put this outfit together, I was delighted by the proportions. The jacket was cropped, the skirt was long and the part of the t-shirt that hangs below the jacket is narrow compared to the swath of black from the jacket and the long swath of black from the skirt. Can you see that?


Playing with proportions

When putting together an outfit you want to avoid a proportion that is 1/2 and 1/2. It’s boring, unappealing. As an example, if the length of a shirt is the same as the length of the skirt, you’re hovering at ho-hum. Something has to be adjusted to make it more interesting. It’s more flattering to wear pieces that have a 1/3 to 2/3s proportion. Or a 1/8 to 7/8s proportion.

Here’s an exercise for you: Flip through fashion magazines and look for outfits that use 1/2 and 1/2 proportions. I bet you won’t find them. It’s a fun exercise and a great way to train your eye!


Accessorizing my black and white outfit

The lettering on this t-shirt is big and bold. YES! So I choose a bold modern looking earring. This steel hoop earring is from Artful Home and the artist is Maia Leppo. It’s striking like the t-shirt.


Maia Leppo earring from Artful Home

Maia Leppo steel earring


Hoop earrings from Artful Home

Steel hoop earring finishes off the outfit


You know I can’t wear heels so that wouldn’t have been a possibility, but I think my Office of Angela Scott patent Chelsea boots work well. They help downplay what normally would be a dressy skirt and makes it look more urban instead.


Cropped BCBG jacket

Modern, feminine and striking


This feels like a perfect outfit for me. I’m more comfortable in my second skin than my first.

It’s modern, feminine (the jacket and the skirt) and striking (black and white color combo).

In fact, I love those words as style words: modern, feminine, striking.

So there’s my story. I really wanted to share with you the delight of using short things, long things, and medium-sized things in the same outfit.

How do you play with proportions? Can you give me ideas about how you vary the lengths of pieces you wear together?


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  • Reply
    March 22, 2018 at 3:46 am

    I am 5’1” (on a good day). Proportion is essential. I wear asymmetrical hemlines on tunic tops and usually roll or tie my tee shirt when I do wear them…which isn’t often…not really a big fan of tee shirts. I like to say what I want rather than have a graphic which proclaims my feelings. I do like the outfit and the boots bring the urban edge you mention! I like the Chico campaign…lets all be grateful we have reached whatever age we are!!!

  • Reply
    March 22, 2018 at 4:34 am

    Love that look. I never know what to wear with my long skirt. I’ll have to try a shorter jacket

  • Reply
    Sandy Miles-Blaxland
    March 22, 2018 at 4:37 am

    Those earrings! And that shirt! The whole look is great. I’m a little short and stout; as much as I love the look of a long skirt, they only get worn at home. But I love the way you’ve matched the t-shirt with the skirt and jacket and shoes to make it dressier. Love you blog. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Ramona Puckett
    March 22, 2018 at 4:46 am

    I love this! And your style tips are always helpful, I’m learning a lot about how to dress. Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    Cindy L
    March 22, 2018 at 5:33 am

    Hi Brenda,
    This is a fantastic outfit — and I am glad you brought up the topic of what to do with a long black skirt. The different proportions work well here, and I love the t-shirt too! I have a couple of long black skirts, from Eileen Fisher and Comfy, and I am always a bit unsure of how to wear them — though I think of them as classics. In summer, I have been wearing the long skirts with a cropped t-shirt, to avoid the frumpy look. Tunics worn with long skirts don’t work for me, as the proportion looks off. In winter, I like long skirts with boots, and in summer, they work with flat sandals … you can’t beat these long skirts for comfort and ease — especially in summer!

  • Reply
    March 22, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Love it! Will need to look up the t-shirt.

  • Reply
    Sue Malizia
    March 22, 2018 at 9:43 am

    Your look was so cute that I ordered the t-shirt for my big sister turning 70 next month…and couldn’t resist one for me for when I turn 65! Want to play with some looks when I get it thanks to your ideas. =)

  • Reply
    Trinnie q
    March 22, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    Oh so lovely! I am not a wearer of long skirts, but you look gorgeous in one! I find the info and experimenting with proportions, very illuminating! Thanks once again, for your beautiful self, inside and out. Sending love from Oz x

  • Reply
    Laurice Gilbert
    March 22, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    I love long skirts with boots, and it really rocks for you in this outfit. I have trouble with top proportion even when I like what’s on the bottom, and I long ago concluded that long top over long skirt (even with funky boots) looks frumpy, and I have massive frumpophobia! It drags the eye down, with all the metaphorical implications that raises. The cropped jacket is awesome. I have some of those I never quite know what to do with so now I have yet another Brenda K brilliant idea to work with. Thanks for this post.

  • Reply
    Elaine @ Following Augustine
    March 22, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    Great tips, Brenda! Thank you!

  • Reply
    March 23, 2018 at 4:34 am

    You are a genius Brenda. The way you put that outfit together is perfect. Thanks for the fashion lesson.

  • Reply
    March 23, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Love your style Brenda.
    I’m always trying to avoid looking frumpy in my mature years.
    You have perfected a look that I aspire to!

  • Reply
    March 23, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    Great article on how to do proportions and, as mentioned just above, how not to look frumpy in our mature years when wearing long skirts.
    That said, the tee-shirt, which you’ve styled beautifully a couple of times, remains problematic for me. I could never buy it, much less wear it.
    The tee-shirt slogan implies that women have problems talking about their ages, and apparently the company believes the shirt will help combat ageism by empowering women to publicly admit their real ages.
    In my experience older women aren’t coy about age and don’t have any particular problem discussing their ages when it’s appropriate.
    Ageism, particularly against women, is a tenacious, debilitating, and subtle problem that isn’t going away just because we bought a funny tee-shirt that indicates to the world how old we are. It isn’t just going away by flashing a message to other people. Changing attitudes takes a lot of work and proof by example. Show, not tell.
    I can’t escape the feeling this tee trivializes a complicated issue by proposing a simplistic solution.

  • Reply
    March 24, 2018 at 9:00 am

    I’ve missed something… why can’t you wear heels Brenda? I haven’t worn stilettos or even kitten heels for years, but have found that a block-heel bootie or sandal, with a maximum height of 2”, is do-able.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2018 at 11:08 am

    The proportion topic is so interesting! Tunics are popular now and they often give women the unattractive 1/2 and 1/2 proportions. Brenda, can you think of any hard and fast rules beyond avoiding 1/2 and 1/2?
    I’m tall and long legged and find that:
    1. I look out-of-proportion with skirts longer than mid-calf.
    2. On the top half of my body, my underneath layer can’t be more than about 2″ longer than the jacket or sweater I’m wearing as a topper. The only exception is when there is very little color contrast between the two layers.

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