InFashion Tips, Fashion trends

Jeans & Capris: It’s All in the Length

Every spring the stores start filling with cropped pants and jeans. There was a time in my life when I had a pair of capris in every color. They were my summer staple and I loved them. They were more comfortable than shorts and seemed to look better with my short legs. Yet, working with many women of all shapes and sizes, I began to see that this was not the most flattering look. I get some strange looks from women when I suggest that their closet full of capris might need a little weeding! After all, the stores are full of them! Then when it comes to jeans, frequently I see women wearing them too short. I decided it was the perfect time to have another expert “weigh in”.

I contacted Angie of  You Look Fab to give some advice. I began reading YLF just before I started my blog. Angie has a wonderful sense of style and a tremendous following of readers and clients world wide. I love reading her daily posts. While we have very different shapes and are drawn to different styles, stylists often see eye to eye on the same topics. This is one of them!

Out in the “blog world”, everyone is so generous with sharing links and posts. I’m grateful for Angie’s willingness to be interviewed. I know you will appreciate her expertise. Below you will see Angie on a sunny spring day (RARE!) in Seattle. She allowed me to use these beautiful pictures to show great examples of how to wear a straight leg jean. THANK YOU Angie for sharing your wisdom! This is a much longer post than usual (more like a magazine article) but I think you will find the information very helpful.

K: Style by Karen readers/clients know that I’m a stickler about boot-cut jean and pants being a half inch from the floor. It’s amazing what it does to extend the leg line. We’ve all seen that skinny jeans “scrunched” and paired with heels or hemmed to wear with flats work well– they are supposed to be shorter.

However, a fair number of women prefer a straight cut jean over a skinny. Some straight cuts just don’t fit well over a shoe. I have one pair that works well, another does not. What do you think of rolling up the straight cut jeans to ankle length?  

A: Straight cut jeans can function like skinnies for women who prefer a little less tapering at the end of their denim hems. The correct length depends entirely on you and the type of footwear you like to wear with the silhouette. If the hems of straight legs fit over your shoes, by all means wear them a little longer, covering a part of the back of the shoe. I like a bit of scrunch in front! But you can also wear them an inch or so below the anklebone sans scrunching, exposing the entire shoe. I am not a fan of rolling up straight leg jeans to ankle length because the cuff cuts off the leg line horizontally. That being said, a naturally long leg line and/or a pair of heels greatly improve the rolled jeans silhouette.

I like to see straight leg denim hems finish a little past the back of the shoes from the side, thereby still showcasing most of the heel but covering part of the back before the heel starts. (see Angie’s photos above) As I mentioned, I am not a fan of rolled jeans. It’s not an impossible look to get right, but it is tricky. So stick to what is flop proof unless you’re prepared to do a lot of experimentation. 

Here are some great examples of straight leg jeans with a high heel, then myself in a low heel. I dug this one of the archives and did a close-up to show how these are scrunched in the front and fit over the shoe in the back–one of my favorite pairs of jeans from Kut from the Kloth.


K: Moving on to the cropped pants. Why are pants that hit mid-calf so unflattering? 


A: Wide hemmed mid-calf trousers and jeans are unflattering because they visually shorten the leg line. If creating a longer leg line is not a figure flattering priority, than this won’t matter to you. But most of us prefer the visual impact of a longer leg line. I certainly do!

Tapered mid-calf trousers and jeans are fine when you wear them with heels because the tight silhouette becomes part of your leg and there is less of a horizontally cutting effect. Very few of us can wear tapered mid calf trousers with flats because the look requires super long gams.

K: Now we see cropped jeans rolled to a length anywhere from a few inches above the ankle to mid calf. Thoughts on this look?  

A: As long as the hems are tapered and you wear heels, you have a chance to look great in this look! It also helps when the rolled cuffs create a low colour contrast. Furthermore, creating a low colour contrast against your skin with both your trousers and footwear creates the illusion of longer legs.

Below you will see photos high color contrast and low color contrast. The dark wash jeans in the first photo naturally produce a high color contrast cuff, whereas the second photo shows low color contrast. If you aren’t seeing a difference, keep in mind that most of these models have super long legs. If you’ve been blessed with long legs you can get by with most anything. If you’re legs are short or you carry some weight in your legs, you need to be more careful.

 K: What suggestions would you give women on choosing the right ankle pant?

 A: The guidelines remain the same. Keep the hems very tapered, wear heels, and create a low colour contrast either with your pants and shoes, or with your shoes and your skin tone. If you’re like me, you’ll opt for extra ankle scrunch too.

 K: I love walking shorts that hit the knee or just below on other women, but on my legs (even with a high wedge) they look awful. I hem shorts to just above the knee if necessary. What do recommend for petite women when it comes to walking shorts?

 A: You have to find your sweet spot with Bermudas. For some women it’s above the knee, for others it’s on the knee or just below the knee. Sometimes tapered Bermudas look better than wider cuts – and again, find your sweet spot. Sounds like you found yours, Karen! Also, you can go longer on the length of Bermudas if you wear heels. Keeping the colour of your footwear low contrast against your skin tone helps lengthen a bare leg. That’s why nude shoes are all the rage.

Below you will see a variety of styles of Bermuda shorts and different choices in footwear. You be the judge; not everything shown on models is always the BEST look.


Photo Credits:  Nordstrom and Macy’s  (Macy’s is an affiliate link)  Check out their denim sections for lots of ideas!

It’s time to hear from you. What do you think? Will you be giving some more thought to the length of your pants/crops this spring and what you pair them with?

If you want more fashion advice and I bet some great Mother’s Day specials, hop over to Musings of  a Housewife to see more blog posts!

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  • Nicole Feliciano

    Great fashion tips! I agree mid-calf is so tricky.
    Nicole Feliciano recently posted..Tory Burch on Mother’s Day

    May 6, 2011 at 6:24 am Reply
    • Karen

      Thanks Nicole! Glad it was helpful. Just some basic “rules” help a lot I think.

      May 6, 2011 at 7:44 am Reply
  • Felicia

    Love the tips! I always wondered about the Bremuda shorts I may actually have to try and brave a pair.

    May 6, 2011 at 7:41 am Reply
    • Karen

      Thanks for the comment Felicia. Oh, are shorts every tricky, but I encourage you to give them a whirl! Wearing them with a wedge heel is the right combination for me.

      May 6, 2011 at 7:45 am Reply
  • Jen-MamaZen

    This was a great post! I am pretty picky about the lenght of pants and shorts and usually go with long and lean if I can. Just recently I have jumped on the “skinny” trend, but I am still a little uncertain about them. It’s nice to have a reference 🙂
    Jen-MamaZen recently posted..Fashion Friday- Beauty Routine

    May 6, 2011 at 10:29 am Reply
    • Karen

      Thanks! Glad it was helpful. I have slowly eased into the skinny trend myself. With the right combinations, I really like them.

      May 6, 2011 at 4:58 pm Reply
  • Musings of a Housewife

    I love Angie, and this is a fabulous post – a wealth of information. I am very picky about length of pants. I do like ankle and cropped pants on me, but I do have long legs and I prefer them with heels. The point about tapered pants working better when rolling makes a ton of sense. I hadn’t thought about that.
    Musings of a Housewife recently posted..Gluten-Free Homemade Granola

    May 6, 2011 at 11:09 am Reply
    • Karen

      Thanks Jo-Lynne! Yes, you have so many more choices than most of us and most everything always looks better on those with long legs 🙂

      May 6, 2011 at 5:02 pm Reply
  • julie

    as another petite, I loved reading these tips. I’m so glad this year is an “anything goes” when it comes to length and style, it gives us the “ability” to wear what works best.
    julie recently posted..Color- Mom Chic

    May 6, 2011 at 11:29 am Reply
    • Karen

      Thanks Julie! Isn’t it nice that there ARE so many options now!

      May 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm Reply
      • Karen

        I love ankle length too. In fact the pair shown in the post are Michael Kors and I own in black & brown. However, they are so much better with high heels than even a short kitten heel (at least on me) My feet can’t handle the high, so it is a challenge to make them look just right.

        May 6, 2011 at 5:00 pm Reply
  • Candice @ Fashionably Organized

    I, like you, am a HUGE stickler for having the correct length on all of my pants. I have to say thought that these days I am really loving the ankle length pants. Great tips!
    Candice @ Fashionably Organized recently posted..Sundresses Are Here – Fashion Friday

    May 6, 2011 at 1:54 pm Reply
  • angie

    Thanks for the lovely opportunity to share my passion about perfect pants lengths with you, Karen!

    Musings of a housewife, great to see your comment 🙂
    angie recently posted..Emulating My Stylish Mum for Mother’s Day

    May 7, 2011 at 9:37 am Reply
  • valleycat1

    here via angie’s website. The straight-leg jeans answer reminded me of back in the day (probably around 1990), living in Texas, where the discussion among boot-skooters was whether the perfect length was a 3-fold or 4-fold scrunch (anything less was a no-no).

    May 9, 2011 at 4:36 pm Reply
    • Karen

      Thanks for finding me and for your comment. It’s humorous to think about all the stages we’ve gone through with pant length!

      May 9, 2011 at 7:22 pm Reply
  • Vera

    I have found that each pair of pants I own require unique hemming and styling. I’m 5’1″ and typically I have to hem every pair of pants I own. So, when I buy a new pair of pants, I bring them home, try them on and take pictures of myself with various temporary hem lengths and shoes to figure out how they look best. Then I have them professionally hemmed accordingly. I do have two pairs of skinny pants, one in navy and one in olive khaki that I wear rolled/cuffed with a wedge heel and that seems to work with my shape. The rolled/cuffed ankle pants only work on me with a skinny pant and not a capri style. Overall, I still love a good straight leg or boot cut pant for the most flattering and classic styling.

    May 10, 2011 at 6:31 am Reply
    • Karen

      Vera it sounds like you have your system down! That is great, because it’s not easy when you’re 5’1. I think your point of looking at each individual pair and not generalizing into a category is very appropriate!

      May 10, 2011 at 6:40 am Reply
  • Inge

    Thank you so much Karen and Angie for summarizing this so clearly for us. There’s lots of factors to take into account and it’s fantastic to have all the relevant information in one place! I am bookmarking this post and already know I’ll be referring to it regularly (particularly since I want to try out a few new looks).

    May 10, 2011 at 9:50 am Reply
    • Karen

      You are so welcome! I’m glad it was helpful to you. It is a lot of info so referring back is a great idea!

      May 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm Reply
  • Laurie

    So for a trip hiking in Grand Canyon, Canyonlands, Arches, Escalante, Bryce & Zion National Parks…..what do you recommend this petite-shorty wear in the way of short length/capris or pants?

    May 10, 2011 at 10:30 am Reply
    • Karen

      It will be hot so I’d go with shorts in a light weight fabric (not denim) just above the knee. You could probably even go a touch shorter. YOu may have to hem to get the right length you want. We have a bunch of light weight cotton shorts at Accentuate if you want me to send any photos.

      May 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm Reply

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