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How to Look Great in Cropped Pants

Capri pants make your legs look shorter.  Yes, it’s true for everyone.

The eye stops where the pant leg ends and gives the impression your legs stop there, too!  Now you’re thinking, “Drat, I love my cropped pants.  What do I do now?”  Let me assure you there is hope and you don’t have to skip wearing them entirely.  The key is to know how to select a pair that makes you look and feel great!

If capris* are a seasonal favorite of yours, or you want to explore wearing them successfully this upcoming season, use these 5 tips to make the most of the cropped pant craze!  While there are endless variations and there are always exceptions to every rule, let me share a few ideas to get you started wearing cropped pants successfully (or knowing you’d rather let them go):

  1. Find The Right Length.  Just to get it out of the way, the worst length is just above the ankle.  Yes, I know.  That’s what you see a lot of out in the stores, but just because it’s a trend does not mean it’s the most flattering.  Ankle pants make your legs look short AND can make it look like your pants shrank in the wash and you didn’t notice.  Of course, if you have legs that go on forever and you’re relatively tall and thin, then, as with most styles, you can make it work.But, at least two-thirds of the women I work with like them and want to wear them.  So, the key is to find the sweet spot to flatter your legs and height.  Find the place on your leg where the calf starts to taper and keep your cropped pants close to that length.Length is not the only consideration.  You could choose exactly the perfect length for you, but if the guidelines below are not met, they could still look like high-waters and make you look and feel frumpy.
  2. How Wide is Too Wide?  Wide cropped pants are not your friend.  Keep the width fairly narrow.  The hem of your pants creates a horizontal line that stops the eye from continuing down your leg and moves it horizontally instead.  So, the wider your pants the wider you will look, and the closer the hem gets to your ankle, the slimmer the pants need to beHere’s a pair that works both in terms of length and width:
    Cropped Pant Length
  3. Color Matters: Lighter colored cropped pants work better than darker colored ones (unless you have dark skin in which case the opposite is true).  The less contrast between your skin tone and the color of the pants, the more likely they are to keep your leg line going and and not make your legs look short.  High contrast stops the eye.This pair of cropped pants is light like her skin (and narrow) to keep the leg line going:
    White color Capris
  4. Find The Right Top: Not every top that works with a pair of long pants will work with cropped pants.  Generally speaking a slightly shorter top works better because it exposes more of your leg.  This is especially important the wider your pants are.  But, if the pants are very slim then you can do a longer, flowier top over it since the slimness of the bottom will balance the extra fabric on top.
  5. Shoes Can Make or Break the Look:  You can do everything else we’ve talked about exactly right, and then wear a pair of shoes that undermines it all.  It is very important to keep the top of your foot as open as possible.  In other words, you want to wear a low vamp shoe or sandal.  Gladiator sandals, short boots or sandals with a strap close to or at the ankle do not work.  And, please, no running sneakers with cropped pants (unless you are running)!  They are way too heavy and clunky to balance the lightness of a capri. Here are two ideas:Wedge shoe for caprisand, if you have fair skin, a metallic sandal like these will look great:
    Beyond Skin Sandal

Believe me, it is not easy to find online examples of cropped pants in the right length, width, color and paired with flattering shoes.  Phew!  So many don’t work so it’s no wonder you are buying what you see advertised and not getting the results you want!

*Don’t worry about the technicality of whether to call them capris or cropped pants.  While there is a difference (cropped are usually longer than capris), the terms are used interchangeably and even when they aren’t the definitions tend to vary slightly.  For the sake of what we are talking about here, it doesn’t matter.

Now for your homework.  If cropped pants have been a challenge you have all the information you need to give them another try.  Evaluate what you already have in your closet and explore the stores for a pair that will make you feel great.  Then, please comment on my blog and let me know how you do.


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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.