Buying Pants: What You Need to Know
Your questions about finding flattering trousers, answered.
Where Exactly Should My Pant Hem Hit?
- To create the longest possible line, pants should be an inch from the floor, with the hem breaking over the instep.
- One option is to buy two pairs of the same pants and hem one for heels and the other for flats, but you can fudge a happy medium by wearing the same pair of pants with flats and up to a two-inch kitten heel―but no higher, suggests Allison Berlin, founder of the New York fashion-consulting firm Style Made Simple.
- When switching from heels to flats, a quick fix is Zakkerz ($29, zakkerz.com), which secure rolled-up cuffs using magnets.
My Pants Fit Everywhere but at the Waist, Where They Gape. How Can I Fix This?
- Because gaping usually results from having fuller hips and a slim waist, the key is to find low-rise pants that start at the hips (so you don’t have to worry about fitting both waist and hips) or that have a “contoured waistband that is slightly higher in the back than in the front,” says Lisa Converse, vice president of design for White House Black Market.
- Go to a tailor. “He should be able to make affordable adjustments,” says Gregg Andrews, a fashion director with Nordstrom.
- Another trick: Isabelt ($17 to $20, isabelt.com), which cinches the waist the way a regular belt does but lies flat and undetectable under tops.
I Have Wide Hips and a Belly. Which Type of Pants Will Flatter Me?
- Try bootcut pants (to balance your hips) paired with a two-inch waistband (to contain your stomach), says June Ambrose, author of Effortless Style.
- Forgo low-rise pants in favor of a rise that hits an inch or two below the navel. Gap’s Curvy Fit meets these criteria, says Berlin. Another option: New York & Company’s City Knit pants, which offer generous stretch in the hips.
- Steer clear of tab closures and belts, which add bulk, and slanted (diagonal) pockets, which accentuate hips.
I’m Curvy and Short. Which Styles Work for Me?
- Head to the petites department. In particular, try Ann Taylor and Banana Republic petites, as these lines understand the dimensions of smaller frames.
- “Stay away from pleats, cuffs, and tapered or cropped legs, which shorten and widen the frame,” says style expert Gretta Monahan.
- Finally, don’t forget heels. “Pointy-toe heels in a shade that matches your pants will make your figure look extra long and lean,” says Finola Hughes, who hosted How Do I Look? on the Style Network.
Pants Pull at My Thighs but Fit Elsewhere. What Do I Do?
- Invest in wide-leg bootcuts or stovepipe trousers, which will balance out your legs from top to bottom, suggests Dawn Baker, a former stylist and the owner of the Los Angeles boutique Happy LA. Otherwise, she says, pants will cling to saddlebags. She suggests Raven Tailored trousers to flatter this figure.
- “Be cautious of too much stretch―anything over 4 percent,” warns Patty Fox, chief creative officer for Myshape.com, a website that specializes in fitting body types. (Check the garment label for elastane or spandex.) “A firm fabric holds you in better because it doesn’t pull,” she says.
- Skip flared cuts―they make knees look skinny and thighs bigger.
A Low Rise Reveals too Much, and a High Rise Looks Dumpy. What’s a Happy Medium?
- Look for the universally flattering midrise sweet spot, which is one to two inches below the navel, or just below where your waist begins to indent.
- Use what you wear on top to complement (or camouflage) the stomach area. “Partner low-rise pants with a longer shirt that hits at the hip bone,” says Andrews.
- “Try Tory Burch slacks, which are appropriately modest but still look modern,” says Sharon Weil, head of the personal-shopping service for Saks Fifth Avenue.
All My Pants Give Me the Dreaded Muffin Top
- Try a higher rise. A low rise often starts three inches or more below the navel, so any soft flesh there will spill over.
- Similarly, if pants are too small, the waistband can bind your skin. Stacy London, a cohost of TLC’s What Not to Wear, points to junior sizes (any odd-number size) and trendy, contemporary looks (think Rampage and Bongo) as possible culprits and suggests replacing them with cuts for grown-ups, such as those from DKNY.
- Pair existing problem pants with tanks with control panels to whittle your middle. Try Yummie Tummie (yummietummie.com).
- Wear long, fluid tops to mask your muffiny midsection.
What Is the Best Length for Cropped Pants?
- If you want sleek, Audrey Hepburn cigarette pants, this narrow style should graze the ankles, says Berlin, who points to Theory’s sophisticated crops as the proper length.
- Going shorter? “Try styles that hit at the narrowest zone between calf and ankle, where the shin starts to indent,” says Monahan.
- While tall women can afford to go even shorter (think Capris and pedal pushers), these styles make petites look squatty. “Try Bermuda shorts instead,” says London.
- As for wide-leg crops, says London, “they have their place in the world, but it’s on a beach or in a country house.”
My Rear Is High and Round, but My Legs Are Slim. Which Cuts Will Suit Me?
- Look for darting in the back, which makes room for a rounder bottom without causing the seat to look baggy.
- Choose pants with back pockets, as pairs without pockets often create a “unibum.”
- Remember that pocket size should be relative to your backside, says Andrews. A large bottom calls for large pockets.
- Try a bootcut style, which may help make a full rear seem more proportionate to slim legs.
- Look for labels like Baby Phat and Apple Bottoms, which are cut for bodies with fuller behinds and skinny legs, says Ambrose. Fox also recommends Austin Reed trousers.
I Have Long Legs. What Style Will Flatter Me the Most?
“With extremely high heels being so popular, tall women are in luck, because pants are especially long this season,” says Gregg Andrews, a fashion director at Nordstrom. Higher-end pants are generally longer in length because the manufacturers don’t skimp on fabric, and chances are they’ll have an all-around better fit, too. So for long-legged ladies, Andrews advocates springing for $100-plus pants over a $50 pair for an immediate difference. Another option is to head to the websites of J.Crew, Banana Republic, or Ann Taylor, which all offer lengths online that aren’t always stocked in stores, says Berlin.