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This season's skirt styles celebrate curves

Curvy girls find a reason to celebrate as new styles cater to hourglass-shaped figures.
/ Source: The Associated Press

There's finally a runway look for all the curvy girls.

Many of the most stylish skirts this fall are full, flared and drop down below the knee, evoking the 1950s and '60s in the latest round of ladylike-meets-high style silhouettes.

Though the idea of a longer, looser skirt may make some think of a matronly grandmother, the glamorous 1960s characters of "Mad Men," arguably TV's greatest fashion influencers of the moment, have proved them wrong, says stylist Stacy London, co-host of TLC's "What Not to Wear."

"These are women who are so stunning," she says. "One of the great things 'Mad Men' has done in highlighting fashion is celebrating our curves again."

Another tastemaker — Oprah Winfrey — showed off the look on this year's premiere of the farewell season of her television talk show, wearing a white-button down shirt tucked into an orange Carolina Herrera skirt.

So for all the hourglass-shaped women tired of fruitlessly trying to wriggle into straight skirts or fit them to their hips only to have to take them in the waist, the trend is a wearable cause for celebration.

"I'm thrilled to open up the magazines and see these beautiful, feminine skirts," says Victoria Gloster, 52, of of Wilmington, Del.

A size 4 on top and 6 on the bottom, Gloster appreciates how the skirts are fitted at the waist, float over the hips and fall to the mid-calf. They hide some of her legs, which she says are not her best feature, and show off her narrow waist.

"The skirts accent my positives, making me feel more slender," says Gloster, who designs and sells jewelry. "They're flattering, and cover a multitude of sins."

And after eschewing trends like low-rise pants, leggings, skinny jeans and miniskirts, she finds these graceful skirts that twirl a welcome alternative. "To me, it's a return to grown-up clothing."

The skirts not only show off a shapely woman's peaks and valleys, they can also create the illusion of a feminine contours on a straight body, London says.

The look is "about creating and flattering curves," says London, herself a curvy girl. "A lot of fashion is anti-curvy women. This is a skirt that's very translatable across body type and age."

"We're used to trends that need translating and tweaking before they're ready-made for real life," she added. "We're used to so much skin and trends that are overtly sexy. This is one that is easy to translate."

Don't think these vintage-inspired looks can't lend a little sex appeal, though. It may be demure in coverage, but it still highlights curves.

That's what Daniele Marquis of Schenectady, N.Y., was going for when she bought a black, cotton pleated skirt to wear with a close-fitting cardigan on a night out with her husband.

"I like that whole (ladylike) feeling that's kind of been brought back by 'Mad Men,'" says Marquis, a sports agent, adjunct professor and mother of two. "A little part of you wants to go on date with your husband and you want to look like the hot stay-at-home moms did back in the day."

With a curvy, muscular build, Marquis, 31, says her waist is small and the skirt's volume "hides what isn't."

The look was introduced on the runways, including those of Marc Jacobs, who touted the look both for his signature and Louis Vuitton collections. It's now turning up everywhere —

Retailer Anthropologie says it's a cinch to wear and is popular with its customers.

"It's very flattering, it's not fussy and it's effortless," said Kit Li-Perry, Anthropologie's general merchandise manager of apparel, accessories and intimates. "All you have to do is put on a simple top and that statement skirt will make your outfit."

But there are some tricks to wearing the full skirt in the most flattering ways, including having that nipped waist, an elongated leg and the right shoes. And a little swish of the hips is OK, too.

London offers tips:

—Tight top. With a full skirt, make sure your top fits close to the body and your waist is defined by tucking in your top or wearing a belt. She suggests a fitted button-down shirt or knit sweater or a jacket that comes in at the waist.

"You need to be body-conscious somewhere if you're going to create volume somewhere else," London says.

—Long lines. Choose footwear to make your legs look their longest, London says, recommending a pointy toe-pump, kitten heel or a tight-fitting boot. Avoid things that can cut off the leg line, like a shoe with an ankle strap or a slouchy boot.

Don't add weight to the look with heavy hosiery. Think opaque tights, not heavy cable-knit ones.

—Tummy troubles. If you carry weight in your midsection, make sure the skirt has a wide enough waistband to hold you in. And if it's pleated, make sure the pleats are flat at the waist, and don't billow out until the hip.

—Height matters: The taller you are, the longer your hemline can be. If you are under 5 feet 4 inches, you start to lose the look of a long leg with a longer skirt, so London advises not going too far below the knee.