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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. 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 or, for a more exact length specifically calculated for your body, have your Fashion Fit Formula done.

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.

Remember, if the pants are too long you can always shorten them as long as they don’t have details at the hem like buttons or embellishments that would make that a challenge.

See more ideas HERE.

  1. 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 this becomes magnified the shorter your legs are. The closer the hem gets to your ankle, the slimmer the pants need to be.Here is a pair that works both in terms of length and width:

Click HERE to see good and bad widths.

  1. 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 not make your legs look disproportionately short. High contrast stops the eye.This pair of cropped pants is light like her skin (and narrow) to keep the leg line going (skip the shoes!):

See more pant ideas HERE.

  1. 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, but the problem is it doesn’t always balance your body. Here are a couple of basic rules:If you feel comfortable showing off your waist and you are long-waisted, you can tuck in your top. If, however, your pants are low-rise, never tuck anything in UNLESS the top is fitted and shows your shape or you will look like a box. Untucked looks best with low rise pants.Select a top that floats over your body rather than one that has lots of fabric. While you can do a fuller top more easily with long pants, it gets very tricky with cropped. Mostly it just makes you look wider and your legs look shorter. Try something like this:

Or something longer with waist definition like this:

See more ideas for tops HERE.

  1. 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 (go HERE to see examples of what doesn’t 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:

and, if you have fair skin, a metallic sandal like these will look great:

If you do want to wear sneakers go for one of the Keds styles you’ll see HERE. They are lighter weight and still comfy—which is usually the purpose of wearing sneakers in the first place.

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!

*Do not 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 below and let me know how you do.

If you are longing to feel confident and beautiful in the clothing choices you make I have good news. You can! And, you can do it without shedding pounds, sacrificing comfort or compromising who you are. I’ve listened to women for years and have taken their biggest style frustrations and addressed them in my live ‘Create Your Personal Style in 6 weeks’ Masterclass. Here’s what Bethany from Florida has to say about her experience in the class: “Ginger is the answer to my prayers. I didn’t believe my wardrobe could be anything other than a burden and didn’t realize how bad it was until I met Ginger and started to feel good in my outfits. I have been amazed and forever grateful for all I’ve learned with Ginger.” Imagine how it will feel to realize your dream of eliminating stress and instead feel deeply satisfied and delighted every time you get dressed! Get on the waitlist now so you can be the first to know when the class is open for registration again.

Please note: All garments pictured here (and in the catalogue) are vegan-friendly (made from fabrics that did not harm any animals). And, depending on when you are reading this article, some links might no longer be active.

Some of the affiliate links may generate commissions for Total Image Consultants which helps support the time spent creating these very specific recommendations.


7 Responses

  1. Will there ever be anymore Pants made for Sr. Citizens where the “waist” comes to the waist and not below the vagina?

    1. Mary Ann, you’re too funny! I know what you mean. Actually the waistbands are rising so they should be a lot easier to find. If you aren’t seeing them where you usually shop check out some other stores. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised 🙂

  2. Crop pants and capris look terrible on everyone past the age of 12. Each Spring I am hoping the clothing racks are void of this hideous three quarter pant, pedal pushers, clam diggers floods, high waters, culottes, toreador style, but as usual..”their back”. I don’t understand how women think they are going to be any cooler in the warm months with six inches less fabric?
    They make short women look shorter and overweight women look fatter.

    1. They are a very challenging look to make work, but I suspect they are around to stay. I, too, find it really frustrating in the summer to try to find pants that are not cropped or ankle (just as difficult to style well), but we can hope 🙂

  3. I was reading this while waiting for my porch furniture to dry. I am over 65 and love cropped pants, capris, whatever you like to call them. My legs are usually banged up for many reasons, so I feel most comfortable in longer styles when leaving my house. At home anything goes. I also do not care what is in style, or need someone to tell me what top or shoes go with it. By the time you reach my age, let your mirror be your guide, and wear what feels right for you.

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