Fashion & Beauty

A Flare for Spring

Flaring out is in. From left to right, Banana Republic’s cotton poplin full skirt, Massimo Dutti’s box-pleat midi and Cos’s polo dress.

By Janet Kelly

WHEN MY extremely talented partner-in-crime, LittleBird Nancy, aka Nancy McKeon—previously the top editor (not all at once) of almost every feature section of The Washington Post—asks me a question, I pay attention. A week or so ago she mentioned that a catalogue she gets was filled with long skirts with “swoop” and wanted to know whether I thought our readers could or would or should wear them.

So, Nancy, I searched the current offerings of some of my favorite online retailers and came up with an answer: Short of any sweeping hems, I did discover at least a dozen or more midis and maxis with flared silhouettes—similar to the A-lines of old—that give the illusion of motion, are airy and roomy around the lower body and would flatter a variety of figures.

And these midis and maxis with flare are not only for tall women. Your neighborhood tailor can make the skirt a bit shorter so you’re wearing the dress/skirt, not the other way around. It is just a matter of proportion—and that can be adjusted.

Now, it’s up to readers to decide among a flounced denim midi from Massimo Dutti, a swingy skirt from Ayr, a maxi flowy print from UK brand Me + Em, a sporty shirt dress from Cos and more.

A note: Punxsutawney Phil declared an early spring, so even though I’m not entirely confident in the little groundhog’s predictions, I’ve included spring picks, such as Zara’s white box-pleat skirt, along with transitional pieces like an Athleta shirt dress you can wear right now. 


Me + Em’s silk-blend Confetti Print Maxi Dress ($745) has much to recommend it: elastic ruffle trims on the cuffs to keep pushed-up sleeves in place, a hook-and-eye neckline for an open or closed look on the top half and a flowing skirt that skims over the hips. For a colorful pick-me-up, wear it now with boots and a coat; style it later with flats and a military jacket.

A nylon and spandex blend, Athleta’s midi Cosmic Layer Dress ($189) is designed with a flared hemline for breathability and motion. It’s the very model of what the fashion industry refers to as “transitional.” Wear for work and travel, pairing with matching tights and ankle boots in cold weather and with sneakers come spring.

Another option for the transitional season, Cos’s polo shirt dress ($135) is made from cotton jersey. The wide, elbow-length sleeves balance the dress’s lower half that attractively flares at the hem. Available in dark brown, it sells for $135.

It’s your only life. Have fun with this ultra-feminine tulle midi skirt with velvet polka dots and a floaty hemline. If you’ve gained a pound or three over December and January, an elastic waist will forgive you. Dress tulle down with a white button-up and boots or go for a party look with a pair of Mary Janes. The Lou Lou Tulle Skirt sells for $305 at Wyse London.

A mixture of silk and “cotton-crinkle” creates an ethereal texture for Ayr’s appropriately named Something Special dress. Tiered smocking on the top whittles the torso while a flared hem adds volume and balance on the bottom. It’s fully lined in the body so no worries about see-through where you don’t want it. As well suited for special events on your calendar—with fancy flats or kitten heels—as for more casual occasions with chunky boots and a nubby sweater. It sells for $375.

A versatile choice for office or off-duty, Me + Em’s Boat Neck Midi Dress ($425) is made from durable ponte jersey (a double-knit fabric created from a mixture of spandex, rayon and polyester fibers), which retains its fit-and-flare shape.

Fashion’s prognosticators predict a lot of blue for spring. So, that’s a checked box for Tuckernuck’s Brynn Skirt ($228) in a light blue denim wash. But in addition to the color, we like the decorative trapunto stitching at the hem and the flared panels that give the illusion of movement even when standing still. We give it a twirls-up!

Also pretty in blue is Banana Republic’s Ariella Midi Skirt in cotton poplin, which is fully lined. To enhance its billowy look, the ankle-length skirt features an extra-wide hem. It sells for $130.

Influenced by the look of tennis skirts, Tibi’s Amy Smilovic has designed this Pleated Pull-on Skirt using an Italian lightweight nylon tech fabric that flares at the bottom half. With an adjustable waist for function and comfort, this sporty skirt sells for $475.

A denim skirt is on my wish list for spring. And because this midi has a flounce-y hem, it won’t be too hot to wear when the temperature spikes. It sells for $119 at Massimo Dutti.


Oh, yes, sorry about the photo with the bared belly. We are dependent on product shots, and I wanted to show you the lines of Zara’s Layered Box Pleat Skirt with a design that shows off the volume of the skirt when you move. It sells for $129. Compare that to Marni’s A-line skirt with double pleats at the back and front—for $895.

We’ll talk about the big puff sleeves here in a couple of weeks, but note how they balance the wide hem at the bottom of this Midi Shirt Dress from Alexis, a mother-daughter design duo. Also available in black, it sells for $495 at Moda Operandi.




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4 thoughts on “A Flare for Spring

  1. Nancy G says:

    That light blue two piece outfit from Banana Republic is perfect for summer, don’t you think? And I love the white Zara skirt. But again, where to wear it?

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Instead of pants on a warm day/night. I always think it’s nice to feel whatever breeze comes along. Love the swishy feel of a skirt–free the legs!

  2. Janet, Many of these are really beautiful, especially Me + Em’s Confetti Print and the Lou Lou Tulle. Wondering if someone 5′ 3″ could get away with them? What do you think?

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      You’re on the petite end, Judy, and if I were you, I’d try the skirt instead of the dress because it’s has a more streamlined look. I think the dress is lovely but it’s fussier and longer. I would recommend having a tailor shorten the dress to accommodate but because of the ruffled hem, that might be a complicated business.

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