How A Pencil Skirt Should Fit

How A Pencil Skirt Should Fit | Common Fit Issues

The pencil skirt is one of those items women either love or tell me that they can’t wear. In actual fact, the pencil skirt, when fitted correctly is one of the most universally flattering skirts alongside A-Line and wrap style skirts. I want you to be able to try a new shape and if a pencil skirt is new territory, fabulous! Building a stunning core wardrobe is all about variety and ensuring everything fits perfectly so today I’ll be sharing my tips on how a pencil skirt should fit.

There are two common issues we sometimes have when we’re trying to find pencil skirts that fit.

Common fit issue 1:

You have a small waist in comparison to your hips and thighs and the waist always gapes but the hips fit. Or the hips are too tight and the waist fits.

Common fit issue 2:

You have slim legs, hips and backside and there’s excess fabric around the thigh and backside, but the waist fits.

Getting a pencil skirt to fit correctly isn’t difficult when you know what to look out for. So today I wanted to teach you how to get that perfect fit.

How A Pencil Skirt Should Fit | Common Fit Issues, Solutions and Tips On Getting The Best Fit | Fit Graphic


Firstly, a pencil skirt is a high waisted style garment and in some stores is offered in a mid-rise. The most flattering and best fitting styles will be high waisted, so wearing your skirt on your high waist is paramount. To find out where your high waist is, stand in front of a mirror and expose your stomach. Put your hands on your hips and bend to the side, keeping your front facing the mirror. Where you side creases (this will be around your ribcage) is where your skirt should sit.

If your waist is your smallest part, you should put on a size that fits your hips and backside. In most cases, you’ll find a gap at the back of the skirt around the waist area. This is completely normal.

If your waist is your biggest part and you often find waistbands to be tight but the leg areas to be loose, you’ll need to pick a size that fits your waist first. You should comfortably be able to fit your thumb into the waistband without it feeling uncomfortable.

If your waist is your biggest part, turn around and have a look in the mirror to see if there’s a zipper on the garment. The zipper should not be angled, wavy or bumpy or gape open at the top. Any of these signs means you need to size up. The zipper should sit flat against your lower back.


Waist gaping is a completely normal adjustment to have done and is a simple adjustment on a pencil skirt. Many new clients of mine don’t get the regular help of a tailor when buying garments and instead don’t get to wear the items they want to wear because they don’t know the questions to ask a tailor or haven’t been to tailor before. Tailoring isn’t just for special occasions, my philosophy is that if everything your wardrobe fits perfectly, your outfits will look better put together and be easier to style.

Visit a tailor with your skirt and put the skirt on, make sure the skirt is sitting at your high waist. The tailor will pin the skirt on the sides and sometimes near the zip, depending on how much fabric needs to be taken away.

How A Pencil Skirt Should Fit | Common Fit Issues, Solutions and Tips On Getting The Best Fit | Fit Graphic Front | Tight, Perfect & Too Big


A waist adjustment on a pencil skirt can cost anywhere between $30-60 depending on how detailed the skirt is. Things like beading, asymmetrical seamlines and leather can tip the alterations budget to the higher end. If you’re based in America and you’re reading this (Hello!), I love this price breakdown by Alterations Needed.


When we wear a pencil skirt, we should feel a gentle hugging of fabric around our thighs and backside. If, when you put on the skirt, you see pull or stress marks across your thigh or crotch area, you need to size up. When you turn in the mirror, if the back vent (the open flap of fabric that allows you to walk) is pulling open, the skirt is too tight in the thighs. The vent should always sit flat and closed when your legs are together.

If you put the pencil skirt on and can twist the skirt on your body easily, you need to size down. If you can easily hold an inch of fabric on each side of your thighs, the skirt is shaped to be a little curvier than you are. You may also notice when you turn around that there is loose fabric around your lower backside and the tops of the backs of your thighs. There’s a simple fix to this and it’s an adjustment called a ‘slimming’ or ‘taking in’.


If the skirt is loose in the thigh and lower backside area, you’ll need the sides of the skirt slimmed. When you visit a tailor, you’ll put the skirt on, ensure it’s sitting at your high waist and let the tailor know you want the sides ‘slimmed’ or ‘taken in’, they’ll understand both terminologies. They’ll pin both sides of the hip area and may pin the centre back seam. If the fabric doesn’t have much stretch in it, ensure that once the garment is pinned that you can still walk normally.

Back Of A Pencil Skirt. How A Pencil Skirt Should Fit | Common Fit Issues, Solutions and Tips On Getting The Best Fit | Fit Graphic Front | Tight, Perfect & Too Big


A classic pencil skirt should sit anywhere between the knee and mid-calf. Skirts that sit above the knee or thigh area may still come in a fitted pencil shape but are considered more of a mini skirt. If you are tall, beware of the back-vent positioning. The vent will open as you walk, and the split should not be sitting between your lower backside and upper thighs. The vent should be starting mid-thigh at the highest to ensure you don’t expose yourself as you walk. If you’re petite, ensure the skirt is ending just past the knee or on the upper half of your calf area, longer than this can make you appear shorter.


Generally, it’s better to take garments in than let them out as many brands don’t make clothing with enough seam allowance for adjustments. If you love the skirt but it’s too tight and it’s the last size, think about how much extra space you might need in the skirt then turn it inside out and look at the seams. Higher quality brands will have around 1.5 cm’s seam allowance on each seam so you could safely take the skirt out a half centimetre along each seamline. Dramatic upsizing often can’t be done and is very risky and expensive. It’s best to buy the fit a tiny bit bigger if you’re unsure and visit the tailor, than the other way around.

This fit guide is one of the first few of many fit guides that will feature on the blog. Have you got any items you struggle to fit properly?

Let me know in the comments below!


  1. Avatar for Kathryn b

    I have a small waist and larger thighs and backside and i am 5’11”. I have a lot of trouble finding pants and skirts that fit properly, so many times, I resort to jeans or dresses…. There wasn’t very much information here on how to fix this issue of the pencil skirt being very loose on the waist and snug on the hips and thighs. I understand I am to find a skirt that fits my lower half before considering how it fits my waist… what do I do from here? Should a taylor know what to do here?? Also, is there a difference between tailoring and alternations?? Thanks

    1. Avatar for Alarna Hope

      Hello Kathryn,
      I can understand your struggle, I’m also of a similar body shape. Once you’ve fit your hips and thighs you need to take the garment to a tailor or alterations place to have them take in the waist. I’m not sure where you are located, but many tailoring shops are also alterations shops. They’re technically different things, and in the past have been separate but as time goes on and tailors become more uncommon, I’ve noticed most tailors do both. Tailors can do alterations, custom make garments and do major redesigns on garments, alterations places often only do minor adjustments. For the waist adjustment, either will do your adjustment as it’s a common adjustment to make. I hope that helps!

  2. Avatar for Amanda reese

    I am a plus size and buy my skirts for my waist size, usually fairly tight. I can still get my hand and wrist inside the waistband. My problem is that my hips are smaller than my waist so my hip area is very loose. I also have a skirt that is just huge at the hem and does not fit tight at the rear. When I ask a taylor to take in the lower half of my skirts they dont realize how much tighter the bottom needs to be. A slim girl gets a very fitted skirt when her waist is small. I get a huge skirt that is way too big. I want the bottom taken in to be closer to a hobble skirt to give me more small steps and fitted look especially when i sit. How tight can i expect to get the hem and hips down area ? I like the fitted look and small steps part of the pencil skirt.

    1. Avatar for Alarna Hope

      Hey Amanda, it sounds like you may need to have a discussion with your tailor about not wanting the pencil skirt to maintain a pencil shape (as many tailors will slim a skirt to maintain this shape) and instead ask them to remodel the skirt to a hobble skirt. Depending on your tailors pricing and if pockets/extra details are on your skirt, you may find a dressmaker a more suitable option as the pattern of a hobble skirt is fairly simple. For using existing skirts, if you have a vent in the back of your skirt, there will still be room to walk easily and perhaps your tailor can close or shorten the vent too, to give you smaller steps. Keep in mind, the fabric and the angle the fabric that’s been cut has a big effect on how tapered they can make your skirt. You may need to look for pencil skirts in a stretchier fabric or show the tailor a photo of the shape you’re wanting and ask them if they can replicate it. You’re definitely doing the right thing by buying to fit your waist, but I’m sorry I can’t tell you how tight you can get the hem and hips down as I would need to see the skirt on you in person. A tailor should be able to sort this for you. I hope that helps!

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