How To Wear Wide Leg Pants

would you, could you: wide leg pants

cropped wide leg pants

links: fragrance | earrings | sweater (grey) | sweater (turtleneck) | pants | bag (similar) | watch | boots

Wide leg pants…they’ve been lurking around the edges for a few seasons now. According to my Inside Source (a Brand Manager at Bloomingdales) we will continue to see more of these featured in collections at least through next summer. (Slim leg pants will be a close second, not much in between, according to her.)

cropped wide leg pants

I still want her hair in my next life. And her panache. Having trouble sourcing this image, will say via

As someone who has mostly lived in a “long over lean” silhouette the last few years, my initial reaction was “no way.” But…I have to admit I’m really drawn to this look. Yesterday, I remembered that my fascination with cropped wide leg pants goes back a few decades…

Roches album

Yeah, back in the very early 80’s, this was one of my favorite groups/albums. And I had an absolute style crush on Terre on the right. I looked high and low in every thrift and discount store for a pair of pants like that, but never found them. Back to the present…

cropped pants, culottes

left: Eileen Fisher | right: MIH Jeans

I think that for most of us, a wide leg silhouette will work best if the pants are cropped, or long-ish culottes. No really, hear me out. That little bit of leg makes all the difference, especially on someone short like me. It provides some structure and keeps one from appearing to be swallowed by fabric. I can hear the rising chorus of “but they’re not flattering!!” and maybe they’re not in that makes-you-look-as-thin-as-possible way. But especially with softer fabrics, I love the movement these provide, and with a pair of ankle boots to balance the volume, there’s a certain….boldness, I guess that appeals to me.

Aside from footwear with a bit of visual volume, how to style these? A tucked-in top (as on the right) helps to balance the proportions, but I’m not really a tucker-inner. The mix on the left would work for me: long over cropped over wide. The pants have to be fluid though, as these are. According to my Inside Source, a more cropped (though not belly-baring) boxy top is what retailers are most frequently showing with these wider bottoms. I suppose you could treat them the same as a fuller midi-skirt and style accordingly.

While you ponder wide leg pants, here’s some Throwback Thursday, a song from The Roches that’s still one of my very favorites:


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  1. October 22, 2015 / 3:54 am

    Lots of these looks in Paris shop windows and on the streets–they’re a great look for autumn in a climate cold enough to feature texture and colour–just more fabric and drape and yummy! Like you, I need to approach with care, being short AND short of waist, but, also like you, I love the Bold, and I don’t hate the 80s association. Had a wonderful pair of velvety thick-walked fern-mint green high waisted culottes (with pockets!!) that I loved in the late 80s. And yes. I tucked in a top, but then worn a long skinny cardi over to lengthen my profile a bit. I know there will be a chorus from our age-group of “If you wore a trend once, you shouldn’t wear it on its subsequent iterations” but surely we’re all all beginning to realize how much that rules out, given 6 decades and more of trends….’twould be so boring….

    • October 22, 2015 / 5:14 am

      Whoops! That should be thick/wide-waled, however much AutoCorrect hates it! Perhaps thick-walked betrays a truth though,..

  2. October 22, 2015 / 4:27 am

    I wish I could…but they just are not as flattering on my curvy hips as narrow legs are. But, they look so fun on others!

  3. October 22, 2015 / 4:43 am

    The chic-est woman I saw in Paris last summer: black midi culottes, black turtleneck, white/navy/black Hermes Zebra Pegasus scarf, plain black sandals of some sort. 30-something, pony tail, taking pics in the Marais.

  4. nell
    October 22, 2015 / 5:23 am

    For me, it is a matter of aesthetics. Their past entry in and out of trends doesn’t really matter to me. I think they are fine on thin, tallish Katherine Hepburn-esque figures– I’ve seen her in wide-legged pants in the Forties that were enhancing to her. Haven’t really liked them on shorter, curvy people like me. Other silhouettes work better.

    • GingerR
      October 22, 2015 / 4:57 pm

      Hepburn’s wide-legged pants were full at the waist, but they weren’t cropped. I’m short and curvy and I like myself in wide-legged pants, but in a regular length. I prefer my silhouette with pant legs falling straight from my hip, and wide legs work pretty well. The ones in the post here have pleats down the front and I think I’d pass on that feature as I have as much volume in that area as I need without extra fabric.

  5. bybee
    October 22, 2015 / 6:08 am

    I love this album! Liked the Roche’s style on the left. Maggie? Suzzy?

  6. October 22, 2015 / 6:09 am

    I like a wide leg, but I prefer the Katherine Hepburn look, high-waisted, trousers. Portia de Rossi wore a pair on the latest episode of Scandal, if you watch, she looked great.

    • Diane Santarella Lawrence
      October 24, 2015 / 5:44 pm

      Ditto the Hepburn look. I like to keep the verticals as continuous as possible to create an elongated silhouette. No crops for me! They look too
      Hobbit-ish on women of a Certain Age and stature.

  7. Ellen
    October 22, 2015 / 6:09 am

    Being short in stature but relatively long of leg I am treading cautiosly on this one, but not ruling it out. What I do not see is how this will work when cold weather comes and that strip of bare leg becomes unbearable at freezing temperatures so I am holding back for now, but happily wearing ankle length pants in both slim and slightly wider (but gathered at the ankle) versions. Perhaps the pants you are picturing will only work for people who live in warmer winter climates?

      • Duchesse
        October 24, 2015 / 11:26 am

        I wear mine opaque knee highs that match the pants.

  8. October 22, 2015 / 6:30 am

    I think they can be very elegant or go to frumpy…fast. I love that image of the woman in the green and blue – just gorgeous and brave. I like the way you experiment with new silhouettes – I’m too lazy/set it my ways.

    • Duchesse
      October 24, 2015 / 11:27 am

      That’s Yasmin Sewell; she’s a big fashion icon.

  9. October 22, 2015 / 6:35 am

    Love the song, Sue. The pants, not so much. I remember seeing that first shot of blue mohair sweater with teal culottes in Vogue, I think. It’s wonderful…but maybe as much for the colours as anything. And after a lifetime of wanting my pants to fall over my boots, I’m not sure I can wear them with a few inches of leg showing. But once my eye is trained by repeated exposure…. who knows. I’ve learned never to say never!

  10. Robin
    October 22, 2015 / 6:43 am

    Not going to happen. Doesn’t feel like a lasting trend to me (or maybe I’m hoping it’s not). This explains why all the bootcut jeans are on sale at Nordstroms though. I have an hourglass shape and I don’t see how they can flatter….

  11. SoSuSam
    October 22, 2015 / 6:46 am

    The Roches! Wow. I, too, loved them back in the 80s, but have quite literally not thought of them in decades. Fun to hear their lovely harmonies–and humor–again.

    As for wide-legged pants, I completely agree that wearing them short enough to show a bit of ankle/leg is critical. I love that picture you shared (and have used on a previous post) of the woman in her luscious, cuddly-yet-dramatic blue and green. I would be swallowed whole by that look, but on her it’s marvelous.

  12. Debra
    October 22, 2015 / 6:52 am

    I love the pants you chose to feature in your outfit photo as the legs are not as wide as others, but I’d likely NOT invest that much money in this trend. However, if I did see a pair like the ones you choose at a lower price point I’d bite!

    I am with the posters above who prefer Katharine Hepburn style – I just bought a pair of high-waisted, pleated grey wool pants (full length) that will get a lot of wear once fall hits. Sadly it is not yet wool pant weather in California, darn it!

  13. Northmoon
    October 22, 2015 / 6:54 am

    I’m short but I still like a wide leg pant – worn right to the floor mind you. But I saw a great midi length skirt on the street recently. I think the length could work if carefully adjusted for short stature proportions. Not sure if I like the bare leg gap, especially in Canada’s cold climate; for me a cropped wide pant would be better with dark tights or a taller boot.

    I remember it took a year or two for me to adjust to the skinny leg pant, and now I love them, so I never say never!

  14. Nicole
    October 22, 2015 / 7:04 am

    I remember the first time you posted the photo. I was so struck by its originality it stayed with me. The whole form is so unexpected one cannot take your eyes off it. I love, love the colors together but even more it has a pleasing tactile element, such a great pairing of fabric! She pulls it off with her own confidence and her fortunate silhouette. To that end, I’d like to banish the notion of great style being for the slim and tall. I’ve never been tall, and for years in the size 6-8 range, so I’ve enjoyed half the equation, barely? Hmm.. Fast forward a few decades (and few more pounds) and a new size and the aforementioned equation renders me a fashion misfit! I’d like to use my energy being inspired and grateful as I see such things, with a good dose of common sense about what I wear. I’ve had a pair of wide leg, flowy black pants with elastic waist for years and years that I never phase out of the wardrobe. I rarely wear them, but when I need such a piece it’s always there (and they always fit ). Last time I wore them was with a loose black tank topped with a pink linen shirt, left open.

    Considering the slim bottoms that I see everywhere, my Eileen Fisher slim leg pants feel like wide leg! You have me re-thinking my non-jean capri pants and how else to layer them for cooler weather, in a similar manner to the way I’d wear the long wide ones. It’s a challenge since they need proportion both above and below. Geometry challenge!

    You could have some fun with the hair to get a similar look. Add waves with a curling iron then apply a styling cream at ends to separate it here and there. Time-consuming, yet a fun little me time activity. You have very pretty hair, btw.

  15. EJ
    October 22, 2015 / 7:09 am

    This is not a style for the tall and slim! Cropped pants look horrible with thin legs and ankles, and full cropped pants really emphasize the skinniness. My legs don’t start to have definition until the calves, and I look like I have sticks underneath cropped
    pants unless the pant is like leggings. I do have some full length wide pants I bought last summer and love wearing them.

  16. October 22, 2015 / 7:14 am

    I love wide leg pants and am glad that they are back. I plan to feature a pair soon and will try some culottes on my return to London.

  17. Pink Azalea
    October 22, 2015 / 7:45 am

    Looks interesting to me, but would probably only buy one pair. I would want to see how they look from the back. Do think a shorter cropped sweater would suit the proportion and the right pant length would be important. As you mentioned, these would look best in a soft fabric. I would wear them with black ankle booties. Seems like this style would have to be handled thoughtfully with all pieces considered and would be a little trickier to pull off. Can see how it would be fun to wear, assuming everything works, and something new and different. Thanks for the post.

  18. Sally
    October 22, 2015 / 8:01 am

    I like the long over cropped over wide. I’m interested in pants that are not skinny at present so the wide legs are interesting. Not sure that I will bother with this look this year but you never know….
    I really like the description of the perfume! Have you tried it??

  19. October 22, 2015 / 8:09 am

    Oh, no I definitely could not wear them, I am too short!

  20. Pam
    October 22, 2015 / 8:20 am

    I do like the beautiful photo and that color combination! Oh my – back in the 70’s & 80’s when I was skinny as a rail, I rocked the wide leg/culotte look. BUT….it’s a different game now with my much “curvier” body. Don’t see how I could ever wear these types of pants without tall boots under.

    Although I have a nice waist and am tall, the combination of wide cropped legs with full bust & hips would make it challenging for me to style wide legged, cropped pants in a flattering way. (And not sure the fashion “industry” would provide good examples for my type of body in retail sites or print ads, etc. The current trend of choppy, boxy doesn’t thrill me.)

    I like to visually maximize my leg length/my height, so cropped bottoms of any width haven’t been a great look for me. Even on the skinny models, their legs look shortened and their bodies widened when wearing these cropped wide legs. Not feeling the love from designers on this trend…yet.

  21. Cathy D.
    October 22, 2015 / 8:26 am

    I like this look, at least on others. The main issue for me is what to do about the freezing New York winters. If the look depends on having a touch of skin showing, it just won’t work here. I hate nude stockings and socks because they remind me of my grandmother, and what’s the alternative? I happily wore ankle pants this past summer (slim, not wide), but doubt I’ll try wide legged cropped pants, at least not until spring.

    • Duchesse
      October 24, 2015 / 11:33 am

      Does not depend on skin showing. Women here (in Montréal, colder than NYC) wear them with opaque tights, fine wool tights (e.g., Wolford) or those marvelous tights that look like opaque but are lined with polyfleece. The crop is great because they don’t drag in snow and slush.

  22. Leslie K
    October 22, 2015 / 8:41 am

    I’ve been trying to figure out how to wear them on a short frame as well. I like the ankle boots and have been thinking of pairing them with a longer silk blouse and a cropped cashmere sweater (see the new Everlane).

  23. October 22, 2015 / 8:44 am

    Love that colored photo. I think I even pinned it. But that was the perfect outfit. I don’t think I’m tall enough to carry that off. One of my better features are my legs. So The look good in a long lean look. But who knows what fashion will drive me to do.

  24. October 22, 2015 / 9:02 am

    I like how these look on taller leaner women…not sure that I would opt for them as I am short.
    I like the skinny jeans and hope that they will continue to be available in the marketplace.

  25. Dianne
    October 22, 2015 / 9:54 am

    I think the biggest problem presented by this silhouette is that the it draws the eye down, relentlessly, and especially if worn with a longer fluid topper. For most women of a certain age (c’est moi 🙂 drawing attention to the ravages of gravity is not enhancing. I would just look droopy and weird with my combination of middle-aged torso and skinny lower calves and ankles. But on a long and lean body it looks good, especially in that fabulous color combination of fuzzy indigo and sleek emerald.

  26. October 22, 2015 / 11:50 am

    I do love the pair you selected to feature. They have a structure to them that could work well should one decide to jump into the trend. And I think a longer, fitted tee of some kind under the boxy sweater could help with the silhouette, maybe? I tried a pair over the summer but the proportions were wrong and I wasn’t determined. It will be interesting to see if these stay around more than one season this time. If so, I’d give them a try. Why not? But I do look forward to seeing what you do with them first!

  27. Jacquie
    October 22, 2015 / 3:53 pm


  28. Jill Ann
    October 22, 2015 / 4:50 pm

    Do not like! I do like wide leg pants if they are long and worn with heels. Cropped, wide pants are just frumpy/dumpy, IMO. I generally dislike shorter pants, although I am tolerating narrow ankle pants (mostly because it has been hard to find anything else, lately!). I am 5′ 7″, and I’ve been known to order ankle pants online but in a Tall length, making them about the right length for me.

    Do agree about the hair, I am working on getting my hair to cooperate in a similar style.

  29. susie
    October 22, 2015 / 5:17 pm

    These pants are great for wet grass farmwork- but in general if you are dressing up I think they look clownish Sorry!

  30. Diane
    October 22, 2015 / 5:37 pm

    I love them. I’m short but I have narrow hips. I think if you have a curvier body, you need to be taller for them to work.

  31. October 22, 2015 / 8:31 pm

    I have always loved the culottes/gauchos/riding skirt look. Pair it with a pair of long boots and it is as classic as any look you could name. Maybe not NYC classic, but still a look long in history and very wearable. I personally am not a short-boot fan. I think that just cuts you off at the…um…calves? But there was a period of time when long boots and below-the-knee length in skirt or wide pants was just about all I would wear. I still love that classic “riding togs” look.

  32. October 23, 2015 / 4:55 am

    Loved the Roches back in the 80’s. Still have that album lurking in my cabinet. As for the pants, I have long loved wide legged pants in the Kate Hepburn style, with accent at the waist, and full length. That is a good length for my proportions. I think the look depends on getting individual proportions right, and I know women both tall and very petite who rock this look, but who take pains to get it just right for their individual proportions. But the nice thing is much as I admire individual style examples, we have so much leeway now to take an item and make it our own, wearing it the way we want without sticking out like a sore thumb.

  33. Duchesse
    October 23, 2015 / 7:25 am

    Have one pair, from indy boutique which made them, and like. Wear them with flat shoes or boots- as in EF photo. Refreshing change from usual uniform of blue or black jeans; fun to wear to restos, dinners, etc. IMO would work on a short woman if she kept the top like the MiH jeans shot, more fitted than boxy. But I to me that heeled boot throws them into a proportion that is hard to wear for anyone.

  34. October 23, 2015 / 7:33 am

    I’m loving wide leg pants. At 5’4″ they look goofy cropped on me, but chic full length. They help balance my very wide shoulders and give great proportion. It’s fun to revisit this shape.

  35. Susan
    October 23, 2015 / 8:40 am

    I am a bit of a naysayer and suspect that this is a trend intended to sell more product when everyone’s closets are saturated with skinny/slim pants. And, don’t forget–cropped pants save fabric, but can still be sold as a fashion item for full price. (I realize that wide pants do require more fabric than skinny pants.) Since I am hippy, I don’t look great in the wide cropped style. I have tried them on and immediately took them off. Susan, I do look forward to seeing photos of you wearing them and I’m sure they will look great.

    • une femme
      October 23, 2015 / 12:45 pm

      Susan, I’m still looking for just the right pair. Once I do, will post an outfit.

  36. Natalie
    October 23, 2015 / 11:01 am

    The Roches! I bought their album after seeing the movie “Delancy Street.”

  37. October 23, 2015 / 1:15 pm

    definitely think for the majority of us these are a trend for those who are interested in fashion more than style. even those who look good in them would look so much more attractive in longer pants

  38. Linda B
    October 24, 2015 / 1:48 pm

    Omg, I also fell in love with the Roches all those years ago. If I weren’t sitting in a noisy airport I would be playing that clip right now!!!!

  39. October 24, 2015 / 2:50 pm

    Wide leg pants? No. Cropped wide leg pants!?! Non, non et non! I don’t especially like them on tall women. At 5′ tall? No way!

  40. October 25, 2015 / 5:17 am

    Thanks for the post as I have still not worn the wide cropped leg jumpsuit I bought this summer. It’s black jersey so very soft/drapey. Just waiting to find the right jacket to wear over it. I think with the right styling (shoes very important) and proportion it’s a look that can work on almost anyone.

  41. Marie
    October 25, 2015 / 4:03 pm

    I have a pair of wide-leg, light grey cotton-linen trousers that I bought a couple of years ago, when clothing designers were first starting to try to convince us that wide legs should come back. I do love them. I am tall, so that helps — they are very flattering when paired with a tucked-in, slimmer-cut top. But they are full length, not cropped. Cropped wide legs would remind me uncomfortably of the gaucho pants of the 1970s, and I just don’t think I can go back there.

  42. October 27, 2015 / 1:09 pm

    I wear wide legged but I am always concerned that cropped mid-calf styles just look like they are too short for me. Having said that I did wear culottes this summer…

  43. October 30, 2015 / 1:57 am

    Just got a pair of the J. Crew Patio Pants and find I love them for this look. The are cropped, but seem to hit in the right place and work with heels and booties (they look better with my higher heeled booties). Thanks for the inspiration!

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