How to Find Your Ideal Skirt or Dress Hem Length


How to find the ideal skirt length dep

If you wonder just how long your skirt or dress (or even a pair of longer shorts) should be, then you can take some inspiration from the Golden Ratio – which is a magical number for mathematicians, is used by architects and designers and even cosmetic dentists to create the ideal proportions.

Because this ratio appears everywhere in nature, from snail shells to snowflakes and we find nature beautiful, when we dress in using this proportional measurement it creates a more balanced and harmonious appearance.

Recently an Australian mathematician Lily Serna came up with this formula relating to shorter hem lengths.

How to Find your Ideal Hem Length

You will need:

a tape measure with centimeters on it

the shoes you wear most regularly with skirts and dresses as you will get different results depending on the heel height.


1. Measure from floor to shoulder in centimeters (wearing shoes – repeat for each pair of shoes with a different heel height)

2. Divide this number by the golden ratio 1.618

3. This number is your golden number and when you measure from your shoulder down, this gives you the point for your ideal hem length for skirts/dresses/shorts


how to discover the perfect hem length

You will find that a heel will give you a larger number, therefore hems should be longer with heels, whilst a flat shoe the golden number will be smaller, therefore hems end higher.  This method of dressing to the Golden Ratio will give you the illusion of long legs.

How to Find Your Ideal Top Length

Now that you’ve figured out where your hems should end, how about top and jacket length?

According to Lily, if you measure up from the ground with your Golden Number, then if the tape measure ends below your natural waist (as it does for me), then you need to end tops lower than your waist.  If it ends higher than your natural waist, then end your tops at your waist or go high-waisted.

This relates to your overall body proportions which I’ve talked about here.  Long legs need longer tops (as I  have), whilst short legs are best in shorter tops.   For most people who are not really out of balance with either super long legs, or super short ones, around the hip bone, where it juts out from your body at the front, is an ideal kind of length to end tops and jackets.

Should you wear longer or shorter tops?

whats my body shape


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  • This is fascinating, Imogen. I remember from the 1960’s when skirts were so short wearing flat heeled shoes. At that time we were told the higher the heel, the longer the dress. But being able to calculate it mathematically takes it from art (which some of us don’t get intuitively) to a science (which anyone can measure.)

  • Hi, nice advice, though basically it seeems that if your legs are relatively long in ratio with you torso, like in your case, the skirt hem goes necessarily lower, even when you wear flats?

      • Thanks for your reply. Yes, though I’m a guy, I’m into the style and I view it as an art, which is definitely about proportion and not always the longer the legs the better in absolute :). Often with longer legs you really want longer tops and skirts and/or lower waistline, while I often see shorter and cropped clothes and higher waisted skirts, which maybe are wisely used to balance “short” legs.
        I’ll mention this to women if one day would want to avoid high heels but feel like they have to for a flattering outfits, cause such rule seems a valid alternative showing that yes, heels can be cool, but can also be avoided as well if you don’t feel like it.

    • It’s pretty good – and a place to start – why not try it and pin hems to the lengths that it indicates and see what you think. There will be some leg variation where you may find a slight adjustment necessary, but it should be in the ballpark.

  • A golden ratio result in concrete terms I can understand without fail. Thank you, Imogen, for sharing this golden nugget!

  • Unfortunately, this explains why, now that I’m no longer able to wear heels of any height, my skirts must all end at the knee. All maxis and midis were given away. I had an intuitive sense of this and your article confirms it. Thank you!

  • Hi i have just done the measurement with flats on
    it seems that i have long legs like you,
    but as a petite 5ft 3ins how can this be
    my inside leg is 29inch
    have i done it correct?

    • You can still be petite and have proportionally longer legs than body – have a look at how to measure your body proportions blog posts (there is a section on them) and see what you come up with

  • I finally got around to trying this. It worked for skirt hems however the information for the waist didn’t work on my shape. The measurement put the hem of a jacket exactly on my widest point, I usually go shorter or longer to avoid the widest part of my torso.

  • Great information… thank you! Can you tell me how this formula would work for tunics? …or would there be a different calculation altogether?

    I’m 5’3 with longer legs/shorter body, but I seem to be a bit out of balance when attempting to wear a tunic.

  • I guess this is why i always wear my shirts untucked!

    This says that my skirts should end above the knee. What would be the rule for determining midi or maxi skirt length?

  • According to the precise measurement, I should wear skirts just above the knee. Like you, I have a high waist and longer legs. Most probably the upper part of my leg is a bit longer as well.
    The problem being my knees are not that beautiful any longer, I will take your advice and wear just below the knee, as it will still show the narrower part of my calf.
    When it comes to tops, indeed, I need o wear longer tops (quite like in your own photo 🙂 ).
    Thank you so much for all the advice!

    • Going just below the knee is great if you’re not keen on showing your Knees. If you wear a heel that can give you a little extra back that the length of skirt takes away. Remember to make sure your top is not too long and looks good proportionally too with a slightly longer skirt.

  • Woah! Floor to shoulder (in flats) = 58 inches. 58 ÷ 1.618 = 35.8. Shoulder – 36 is 3 inches above the top of my knee! That is shorter than I thought my skirt should be, but I’ll try it.

    And then, floor + 36 is right at my leg break. And the widest part of my butt. I think I’ll ignore that part. 🙂

  • I’m (always) told I wear dresses & skirts way too long & look frumpy at 5ft 3″, but I hate showing my aging, potato shaped knees!
    I’ve just found 137cm divided by 1.618 is 85″ and my skirts would be terrifyingly short – so have decreased the shortening length a bit and this seems to look really nicer than looking frumpy….I’m still shy of showing my legs though!

    • I agree with Lois – 15cm above knee point is never going to happen on me – it’s ok for bike shorts, but I haven’t worn a miniskirt since my 20s (and honestly I always wore bike shorts under them then!) – I hate having to always readjust skirt hems and feel my movement is restricted by the probability of flashing everybody. I want to just sit on the floor with my kids or students, or bend over to pick stuff up, or walk down the street without panicking about a tiny gust of wind. I find miniskirts are solely for the joy of construction workers, they’re no fun at all for me. Blech. No offense to Lily Serna – she’s got great legs and a desk job, if she enjoys minis, good for her.

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