Should You Wear Cropped Pants?

“I watched a fashion show last night,” a reader wrote me recently.  “They said you should never wear Capris.  I am 5′ 7″, long legs, slim size 8. I understand that [they might not be flattering to everyone], but what about for me?  I just ordered a pair online. Tell me, what do you think?”

I think it’s an interesting question.  For while low-rise pants tend to flatter very few women, cropped pants can work well on a variety of figures, provided they follow a few simple guidelines.

Before we get to them, however, let me define exactly the style I’m referring to, so that we’re all on the same page.

Cropped pants, also known as pedal pushers, clam diggers, and Capris, are a style of pants that ends somewhere between the knee and the ankle, usually at mid-calf.  They’ve gone in and out of fashion several times since the 1950’s, and are currently enjoying a long revival.

Cropped Pants


But they’re not for everyone.

Because of where they hit on the leg, they can emphasize several things.  For example:

  • If you’re petite, they can make you look shorter.
  • If you’re bottom heavy, they can make you look heavier.
  • If you have short legs, they can make them look shorter.
  • If you have thick ankles, they can make them look thicker.

Notice that I said, “can” in every situation.  This isn’t a given.  Much of it can depend on the color, cut, style of hem, and shoes that you choose.

Let’s look at these one by one:


Dark or muted colors will make you look smaller, light or bright colors will make you look bigger. Small prints work better on small bodies, large prints work better on large or tall bodies.


The most flattering cut for trim bodies of all heights tends to be flat front with tapered legs. This style elongates the body and offers a chic, uncluttered line – which is why it was favored by the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn during their summer vacations, and promptly copied the world over.

Cropped Pants


The least flattering cut tends to be the drawstring look with straight or flared hem. While many women choose this style for comfort, it creates a rectangular block of fabric from waist to hem, visually adding pounds and subtracting height.  If you are petite, heavy, or have thick ankles, this style will magnify all of these things.

Least Flattering

Sierra Trading Post

Style of Hem

The most flattering hem for most women is plain and tapered.  The least flattering is flared with a cuff.  The former will elongate, the latter will shorten and widen.

If you’re a bit heavy and feel that a tapered hem makes your hips or upper thighs look bigger, try a straight leg style instead.  Do NOT opt for a flared hem to try to offset your hips – unless you want to look the same size from hips to hem.


For years, the ballerina flat was the shoe of choice to wear with cropped pants.  In recent years, high heels, sandals, slides, and flip-flops have found their way on to the team as

Your best shoe choices create an unbroken line from hem to toe with minimal material that compliments — rather than competes with – your pants.  Shoes that are the same color as pants, white, or flesh-colored are all good choices.

Flattering shoes


Avoid chunky, heavy shoes, or shoes that compete with your hem.  All of these will call attention to your feet, chop you up visually, and make you look shorter.

Unflattering shoe


Cropped pants are a great warm weather alternative to shorts for those chilly nights, dressy casual occasions, or for women who just hate to bare their legs in shorts.  They look great on women of many heights, sizes, and ages, provided they’re chosen with care.

If you look for styles that flatter your figure and elongate your body, you’ll look great AND stylish.  So don’t necessarily cross these off your list.  Just take a little time to find the looks that work best for you.

Wardrobe MagicDiana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of Wardrobe Magic, an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes.



  • Betty

    Reply Reply April 25, 2013

    I love it….

  • Megan

    Reply Reply April 26, 2013

    Look im five seven and wearing capris is a fashion statmint,Its not just what you wear its how you wear it.A smart blouse or a tanktop,What do most people look at first,And if outher people dont like it,;Then all i can say is get a life.

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