Swap Your Shorts for a Skirt (or Dress)

Real Style on 08.08.11
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Photo: Banana Republic

My summer uniform is a slim t-shirt and a knee-length skirt and thong sandals. I wear some version of this outfit to work, to run errands and to hang out with my kids. It's cool and comfortable and easy.

It's also a little more dressed up than the shorts-and-tee option most moms in my neighborhood are opting for. Which is fine with me.

Once upon a time -- not so long ago, actually -- women wore dresses all the time. And then the sexual revolution came along and we grabbed the opportunity to wear pants -- and shorts! -- just like the men, and the everyday dress fell out of favor. Which is too bad, really, because dresses and skirts are so easy to wear.

These days, casual summer wear means shorts, especially for busy moms. Why fuss with a skirt or dress when you can toss on a pair of cutoffs? After all, shorts are so much easier!

Or are they?

Shorts are hard to wear -- much harder than a skirt. Unless you have really fantastic legs (and honestly, how many of us do?) shorts can be very unflattering. They're also a little bit boring; even so-called "dressy" shorts are still shorts, and are still essentially casual and utilitarian. And shorts aren't necessarily the coolest choice for summer days; all that fabric resting on your thighs can be hot and sweaty.

Skirts are none of those things. A skirt is flattering and comfortable and a little bit upscale without being impractical. The right skirt can be casual and practical and pretty all at once.

The key to making a skirt work as casual wear is the skirt itself. Choose a fabric that is easy to wear and easy to care for. Gauzy cottons are fantastic for super hot weather, and require no ironing; more structured skirts in polyester blends will hold their shape without a lot of work on your part. Linen is terrific, too, as long as you're ok with the wrinkles, which give your skirt a casual, vacation-y vibe. Skip anything that has to be dry cleaned or ironed (unless you really like to iron, like I do).

An A-line skirt is the most universally flattering shape; it skims over wider hips and creates curves on slim shapes. Choose a skirt that sits at your natural waist and falls to just above the knee. Pockets are also a bonus for moms, of course, since we're constantly holding on to someone's Kleenex or LEGO man.

Pair your skirt with a slim tee or tank top; graphic tees and embellished tanks are a simple way to dress up your look without actually getting dressed up. Add a cardigan for cooler days or movie theaters. Wear your skirt with sandals or loafers or Converse sneakers (perfect for the park).

Having a hard time pulling together an entire outfit? Opt for a dress -- all you need to add are shoes. So easy. The t-shirt dress pictured above is perfect for a mom on the go -- toss it on and you're out the door. Or curled up on the sofa with your wee one. Either way, you'll look great and be comfy.

Treat your skirts and summer dresses like you would your shorts -- don't assume that because you're wearing something a little more girly you also have to load on the makeup and jewelry. This is casual wear with a feminine edge, but it shouldn't be over the top. You're not getting dressed up, you're just getting dressed.

Do you wear skirts on a regular weekday? Or are skirts just for church and date night?

More on Casual Clothes
Shorts: A Fit Guide
Tips for Working with Your Body Shape
5 Casual Clothing Essentials