A Guide to Dress Lengths: Mini, Maxi, and More

guide to dress lengths mini short dress

The dress is one of the oldest fashions in the world. As a result, countless styles have developed along with a unique set of terms and vocabulary for each. With all of the skirt and dress lengths available, it can be confusing to keep track of which term corresponds to which length. Knowing and understanding dress terminology can be helpful, especially when dress shopping online. We’ve compiled a list of the most common terms you should know when it comes to dress lengths.

guide to dress lengths mini dress midi dress maxi dress below the knee dress knee length dress floor length dress

guide to skirt and dress length: midi, maxi, mini, floor length, cocktail

Mini

Mini dresses are the dress that screams “she’s got legs and she knows how to use them! Going short for an event is perfectly okay, but remember the mothers rule: if your hemline falls below your fingertips when your arms are at your sides, you’re good to go! Otherwise, consider another dress. Minidresses may not be appropriate for all occasions. A night out with the girls is a great time to wear a mini dress, whereas meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time may not be appropriate. Mini dress hemlines can easily be toned down with opaque tights. 

Above the Knee

Above the knee dresses are becoming more popular amongst celebrities with many opting to wear this hemline over a floor length gown for special occasions. These versatile hemlines work well with heels or flats, a straight or voluminous skirt, day or night. Above the knee dress lengths are short enough to be flirty, but still long enough to be appropriate for most events. Add lace-up gladiator sandals for a fun play on proportions. 

Knee Length

Knee length hemlines are perhaps the most conservative hemline of all — even more than floor length. These hemlines look professional and put together. Knee length dresses are perfect for daytime occasions, as well as office and professional wear. Stick to a more conservative neckline up top so your outfit flows. That flow is something you just won’t get if you pair a plunging neckline with a conservative, knee-length bottom. High heels are a must for this hemline and will do wonders to make your legs look longer (definitely something you want as this look has a tendency to make your legs appear shorter).

Cocktail

The appropriate length for a cocktail dress varies depending on who you ask. Typically, these dresses fall anywhere from above the knee to just below the knee with longer dresses for more formal events, and shorter cocktail dresses for semi-formal events. Cocktail dresses are elegant, sleek, and perfect for most events. These dresses pair well with high heels, but flats should be avoided if possible.

Midi

Midi dress lengths are exactly what they sound like: they hit right in the middle of the lower leg. Midi dresses hit the largest spot on your lower leg and may end up making things look a little out of proportion depending on your body type; nobody wants their legs to look shorter. Combat this by pairing your midi dress or skirt with a pair of pumps to really accentuate your legs. Remember: nude heels do wonders for elongating the legs!

Maxi

Maxi dresses are so fun to wear and just as versatile! The length of these dresses is typically slightly higher than one’s shoes. These hemlines can be worn to any event from weddings to the beach and even the office. Play with the waistline of your stylish maxi dress for different occasions: just under the bust for a wedding, loose and flowy for the beach, and a waist-accentuating style for the office. These versatile dresses pair perfectly with sandals or heels depending on the style of the dress. Maxi dresses are perfect for summertime and can easily be converted to a winter dress by adding a stylish jacket. Read 5 Must-Have Jackets for some style advice when it comes to picking out the right jacket!

Floor Length

Reserve floor length and evening gowns for your fancier, Cinderella occasions such as black tie events, evening art performances like the symphony or opera, and of course your wedding. Make sure to pair with beautiful sparkly jewelry (when else can you wear that much sparkly jewelry) and rock a killer pair of heels. Bonus points if your dress has a side slit to show off your shoes.

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