The One-Palm Rule for Wearing Dresses with Sneakers Will Make Getting Dressed So Much Easier

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There’s just something about combining dresses and sneakers that I can’t get enough of. I’d call it one of my go-to outfit combos for three seasons out of the year. Both pieces are so easy and comfortable—sneakers being ideal for walking all over NYC, and dresses offering an airy flow while looking wonderfully put together. But while I feel pretty confident in my ability to perfectly pair mini and midi dresses with my favorite kicks, I’ve never been quite as self-assured when it comes to figuring out how to wear sneakers with maxi lengths. That is, until I figured out the One-Palm Rule.

What is the One-Palm Rule you ask? Basically it dictates that there should be at least one palm width between the top of your sneaker and the hem of your dress. Or, if you’re opting to show off your socks with a colorful or sporty ankle or calf sock, you should leave one palm width between your sock and the hem of your dress.

sneakers and maxi dresses rule yes no
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On rare occasions, I’ve spotted women wearing sleek sneakers with true maxi dresses and really pulling it off, but the vast majority of the time I find not allowing any skin to peek out between the two winds up dragging your whole outfit down, making it feel bottom heavy and dowdy. Showing a bit of leg, even if it’s just a few inches, helps maintain a sense of your figure and lighten your entire ensemble. But how much skin is needed to achieve said trick of the eye? Apparently, just one palmful.

To test the theory, I laced up my go-to white leather M.Gemi sneakers and pulled out three or four long dresses from my closet, each a slightly different length. I started by bending down and placing the pinky of my left hand at the top of my sneaker and noting where my thumb hit on my shin. I actually used a marker to note the distance (for scientific accuracy once I started trying on dresses), but you can absolutely eyeball it instead. The first sneakers-and-dress combo featured a full-length maxi that just grazed the laces on my sneakers and, as it had any other time I’d tried this combo, looked too heavy on bottom. Next came a maxi that left just about one inch between the two. And while definitely an improvement, it still wasn’t quite enough. The third frock left almost exactly one palm length of skin showing, and what do you know, it looked pretty darn fabulous.

sneakers and dresses rule
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According to NASA, the average palm width for adult women is just over three inches. But rather than say, “there should be three inches between your sneakers and the hem of your dress,” I prefer the more flexible measurement of one palm width. I find it’s more accurate for a wider range of heights—petite women will likely have a narrower palm, keeping this trick proportional to their height—something that proved true when I had my sisters try this trick for themselves. They are 5’2” and 5’4”, whereas I tower over them at 5’10”. Lo and behold, this rule worked for all three of us.

So there you have it. Next time you find yourself itching to pull on that flowy maxi-length dress for a stroll in your beloved comfortable sneakers, I hope this handy little trick (pun very much intended) will make getting dresses all the easier.

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Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on the best running apps? She's your gal. From trend explanations to designer gossip, Abby has your back.

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Abby Hepworth


Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on...
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