Handkerchief hems, or hanky hems as they are sometimes called, were popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s. They disappeared for decades after that, but resurfaced about five years ago in all sorts of modern incarnations. Initially a fringe trend, they later gained momentum and are now completely mainstream. 

Handkerchief hems appear on dresses, cardigans, tops and skirts. It’s when the hemline of the garment meets at one or multiple points — much like the corners of a handkerchief — creating a jagged effect. The asymmetrical integrity of the jagged hems creates visually interesting lines on the body, as well as a good amount of volume that tends to be quite flattering. 

Handkerchief hems are best in soft and delicate knitted or woven fabrications to achieve maximum drape and to temper some of the volume. The vibe is arty, architectural and avant-garde. The examples in this post are a good representation of the design detail.  


Dresses with handkerchief hems can be long or short. The silhouettes can be fitted or sack-like. There is a handkerchief hem dress for all body shapes. Generally, you should choose a fit-and-flare style if you’re a curvy hourglass or pear. Choose a sack or shift style if you’re an inverted triangle or apple shaped. Rectangular body types can choose between the two. Of course, pear and hourglass body types can also choose waist surrendering styles if they are content with creating a voluminous look.


You’ll find handkerchief hems on cardigans in long and short lengths. The points of the hem are usually at the side seams, creating a high-low effect. The silhouette is extremely comfortable and one way to create outfit drama with cozy casual pieces. 


Handkerchief hem tops are the most popular item of all. They can be cropped, regular length or tunic length. The hems can meet at two points on either side seam, or at multiple points all the way around the hem. Sometimes there is only one point on the side seam, which creates a more distinctive asymmetrical look. 

Surprisingly, the right handkerchief hem top can be well suited to both pear and apple shaped body types. It seems counterintuitive, but can work if the silhouette of the handkerchief creates volume in the right places. For apple shapes, the silhouette is forgiving over the midsection, whereas for pear shapes it’s forgiving over the hips and thighs.


The handkerchief hem skirt is probably the least common item, but a gorgeous one nonetheless. Like handkerchief hem dresses, the points of the hems can be positioned on the sides, in the front and back, or all around the hemline. Skirts can be any length and vary in volume. The more voluminous versions are particularly well suited to curvy hourglasses and pear shapes because of their fit-and-flare integrity.

The best part about items with handkerchief hems is how they swoosh and move as you stride, which is especially true of the skirts and dresses. Fun, flirty and festive.