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Skirts are divisive little beasts. Some women love them and have wardrobes full of sassy skirts. Other women? They strictly maintain skirt-free closets.

Knowing which skirts work with your figure means sliding one on and immediately feeling like a million bucks — especially if pants fight your shape in every way. Then again, some women feel like they’ve stuffed their lower halves into potato sacks with every skirt they’ve ever tried. These women hate skirts with whole hearts.

And that hate is legit: Clothes that make you miserable have no place in your closet.

However, it’s possible a lifelong skirt-hater has missed some key pieces of skirt-related insight. Learning more about fit might help these women understand why the garment does cruel things to their silhouettes. And maybe, just maybe, it will help them select skirt styles that work with their bodies rather than against them.

That said, let’s talk about how skirts are supposed to fit.

The waistband should sit flat.

Squeezing at the waistband is the enemy — no two ways about it. Depending on how you’re built, a little squeezing may be inevitable, but keep it as minimal as possible, even if that means sizing up to fit your midsection and tailoring elsewhere. A skirt waistband should sit at your natural waist, where your torso is narrowest. Ideally, it should stay put without too much sliding around, but sliding is preferable to squeezing. If you’ve got a soft midsection, look for skirts with wide waistbands since they are less likely to dig.

Minimal pulling in front.

Unless you plan to spend the day on your feet (while remaining totally motionless), your skirt is going to get a little creased. And unless it’s a full skirt style with loads of pleats, it might pull just a little across the front. But if it pulls constantly or creates giant smile lines from hip to hip, it’s simply too tight. End of story.

The skirt should follow your curves.

Like dresses, skirts should caress the body’s curves without pulling … but also without bubbling. A skirt that fits properly should skim your curves without creating any lumps or bumps in the fabric. (Back-zip skirts are especially prone to this problem.) Fuller skirts should sit against your lower back and glide off your backside. Pencils should fit to your bum with a bit of wiggle room.

Show a little knee.

Minis, midis and maxis all have their charms. If you’re a skirt-loving gal, by all means, go ahead and experiment with every length you find. But for women who feel short skirts throw off their proportions, try this rule: Pick a length that hits somewhere between the center of your kneecap and about one inch above the top of your kneecap. Showing a little knee — even if it’s just the bottom half — is an easy way to balance your figure. This trick works for women of virtually every height, weight and shape.

Comfort is queen.

Some women feel voluminous skirts swamp their figure and adore the curve-defining properties of pencils and miniskirts. Others feel exposed or unbalanced in body-conscious styles but love the look of flared, full and A-line styles. Still other women are happier living skirt-free lives … but they can and should explore the options before dismissing this garment entirely.

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image.