In the almost thirty-two years of my life, I have worn pretty much every length of skirt there is, for differing reasons: religious, personal, style/fashion, artistic, cosplay, performance, etc. As I looked at the picture featured in (and that inspired) this article, I couldn’t help but go back over the skirts that I have owned that go with each hem-length marker on the model’s leg.
And it’s true, isn’t it?
Our modesty is still judged.
We are still judged – not by the living proof of our actions but by the hems of our skirts.
I have worn pretty much every length of skirt there is, and it is evidence of the evolution of my sense of fashion and self.
Up until I was about 22 years old, I didn’t wear jeans on a regular basis at all. Previous to that, if I wore them, I did so in the privacy of my dorm room or my apartment, or if I needed to for a skit or a play or an activity that warranted it. As an undergrad in college, I remember when I wore jeans for an activity on a retreat with Student Christian Fellowship. We were outside, playing a game that required a lot of running back and forth, so I dashed inside to put on the jeans that I brought with me, just in case. As I returned and took my place in the circle, one of my friends squealed, “Mel! You have legs!”
I laughed in reply, “Why, yes. Two whole ones, in fact.” And we all had a good-natured laugh about it and it has lingered on as a joke in our years as friends.
Needless to say, I’m more comfortable with myself and what I wear now, and I am far less worried about disapproving looks or tsks whispered under breath. I already know that the wardrobe I choose now (both inside and outside of the house) would not be what most of those with whom I grew up would choose for me. Even members of my own family commented in surprise when they saw me in a photo in a tank top and jeans for the first time. The comment was that I was “starting to look like the rest of [them]” in that I was “showing skins [sic] these days.” It feels almost as though I didn’t have a body before that, at least not one that anyone felt worth commenting on.
A few days ago, as I browsed a book store for flash cards for my daughter, I found myself standing next to a young woman. She wore a black-and-white-striped fit-and-flare dress that fell just above her knees, a black mod leather jacket, knee-high high-heeled boots to match, and a lovely little black beret with an embellished decoration over her dark hair. All I could do was look at her in all her monochromatic perfection, smile, and think, “Beautiful!”
She looked smart and classy and, by the books in her arm, she was about to set off on a new adventure. I wondered if she was going to meet someone for a date, a movie, a meal, or if she just desired to feel lovely on that cold, wintery day. I wanted to arrest her attention and tell her how beautiful I thought she looked, but being in a bookstore is almost as sacred as being in worship service to me, so I try not to distract others in their quiet perusing. But, if you ever read this, ma’am, I found you gorgeous!
Nowadays, my preference of personal style runs to an above-the-knee skirt. Why, you ask? Because I like my legs and consider them rather pretty, being long for my 5’1 frame. Put them in a pair of stockings/tights and ankle-high boots, or just a pair of cunning heels, all underneath a shorter skirt or dress, and the effect is quite striking. So I think and so I have been told. However, this far from precludes longer skirts within my wardrobe. If I may use the titles utilized in the photo’s markers for a short while, I’ll explain.
I wear shorter skirts when I am feeling “flirty” or “cheeky”; they show off my legs when I cross them off the side as I sit in the coffee shop or café. Knee-length skirts are for work (I used to teach middle school language arts), where the style of dress is more “proper”. When I am feeling “cunning” or “alluring” (in place of “prudish” and “matronly”), it’s a longer, more flowing skirt length, probably a handkerchief, asymmetrical, or high-low hem. When I feel “vintage” (instead of “old-fashioned”), it is a just-below-the-knee length or longer hem, either A-line or flared skirt. When I feel “bohemian” or “idyllic”, you might find me in a pretty floral or patchwork skirt, ruffle-fluffy so it will spread out around me when I sit on the grass or on the steps/side of a fountain. I have worn pretty much every length of skirt there is throughout my life and my style and personality define the length I wear, not the other way around.
Have I ever worn skirts that were too short? Yes. Have I worn skirts that turned out to be too long? Yes. They may have worked for my style at one time or with the right shoes, but then not felt right another time. It happens. We grow out of some styles and into others.
I have worn pretty much every length of skirt there is, and only a handful of times have I felt shame for doing so, though the emotion was not of my own making or out of a personal sense of fault. I have had people comment on my “having changed so much” since they first met me. And my question is: why?
Why have I changed? Because I wear a shorter skirt or dare a lower neckline now and again than I did when I was seventeen? Do my clothes mean that my heart is different? My faith? My personality? My integrity? Does the evolution of my dress mean that my body and my soul are now fair game for your judgment? Though I take the comments and consider them in the light of my own life and intentions, it sometimes honestly makes me question just how well the commenter “knew” me in the first place.
Here’s news for you: yes, I have changed. I have grown and I have stretched. I have had pain and joy and triumphs and failures. I have had drastic changes and beautiful new chapters in life. So, yes, I have changed, because, God help me, I couldn’t have survived staying the same as I was half a lifetime ago.
Melissa Snyder is an introvert with a flair for the dramatic in her writing. She is a wife, mother, compulsive writer, voracious reader, and fierce defender of Imagination. She has been writing stories since before she actually knew her letters, developing stories that she would tell herself aloud while drawing. She likes to write about faith and self and emotion and society and hobbies, as well as revealing the myriad paracosms that inhabit her mind. These paper bullets of the brain live in her blog and on Facebook where she endeavors to write about life and Imagination boldly and share honestly. As a first-time mother, she is also recording her experiences, memories, joys, worries, and, yes, even whines in her Mommy-blog at I Have a Forever.