Posts Categorized: shoes

A Guide to Pant Length for 2014

understanding pant length

A few weeks ago, Belle linked to my 2009 guide to pant length and one of her commenters pointed out that although much of the post was still relevant, styles had changed. It’s five years later and ankle pants are almost more common than full-length, so some of my tips are definitely outdated. And since puzzling out pant hemlines is something that many women struggle with on the regular, I thought I’d take this opportunity to refresh and revise that post for 2014!

First and foremost, different pant lengths suit different shoes. Those slacks that look killer with your ballet flats are gonna look downright goofy with your platform slingbacks. Those jeans you love to wear with your stack-heeled boots are going to appear utterly preposterous when you throw them on with flip-flops. When you’re on the hunt for new pants, be sure to bring the shoes you intend to wear with them into the fitting room. Otherwise, it’s a total crap shoot. More on the pant hem dilemma right here.

Also, you’ll encounter different length challenges depending on the style of leg. Skinnies bunch, widelegs engulf, straightlegs pull, and on and on. Yet another reason to bring or wear the appropriate shoes when trying on potential new pants.

And finally, while extra length can be dealt with, lack of length is far trickier. If you unearth a pair that fits you gloriously and suits your budget but is miles too long, a tailor can rescue you quite easily. Gorgeous pants that are meant to be full-length yet expose your ankles will be tough to lengthen to acceptable proportions.

Now let’s see some visuals:

Full-length pants too short for heels

Full length pants that are too short for heels

Here we see a trouser-style dress pant with a crease and fairly wide leg opening worn with heels. They are riding several inches above the floor and showing almost the entire foot. This means that by current standards, they are too short.

Full-length pants too long for heels

Full length pants that are too long for heels

Pants that are too long are often wide-legged or flared, like these pairs of jeans. If the hem covers the entire front of the foot and makes the wearer appear to be footless, they are too long. And, actually, this applies regardless of whether the shoes are heels or flats! We need to see at least a peek of foot.

Full-length pants at correct length for heels


If you’re doing full-length pants or trousers with heeled shoes, they should look like this. In my opinion, pants should not graze the floor, as that’s just asking to ruin your hems. About one inch above the floor when you’re standing straight will work just fine. See how just the tip of the toe peeks out? And in the back view, see how about an inch of the heel is showing? Conditions are perfect.

Full-length pants at correct length for flats


These guys are a little closer to sweeping the ground, so you could certainly go up a half-inch or so. You still want the hem to be pretty darned close to the floor if your pants are meant to be full-length, even if your shoes are flat or almost-flat.

Now, both of these pairs have fairly wide legs, although one pair is formal and one casual. Things get trickier if you’re doing slimmer styles like straight legs because the opening at the hem may ride on the bridge of your foot.

Straight leg pants with heels and flats

straight leg pants with heels and flats

Here are straight leg pants worn with both heels and flats. If the pants on the left were any longer they’d bunch over the bridge of the foot and get caught on the back of the shoe. If the pants on the right were any longer, they’d bunch over the bridge of the foot and drag on the ground. So: Better that your straight-legs ride a little higher than your trousers to prevent awkward encounters with your feet and the floor. But since we want full-length pants – especially dressy ones worn for professional purposes – to appear longer than this, straight legs may look a little less elegant. My guess is that ankle-length and cropped pants gained popularity because they look intentionally short instead of shrunk-in-the-wash short, which can happen with certain straight legs. And so …

Ankle pants at correct length for heels

Ankle pants at correct length for heels

SUCH a subtle difference between the straight legs above and these ankle-length pants, I know. And in some cases how high a pair of pants rides at the waist and how high your heels are may nudge them over the edge into ankle-length or just-a-touch-too-short-length. In my opinion, the key here is that we see the entire bridge of the foot and the hem hits at ankle height. You can go a bit higher or lower than this, too, and still be in ankle-length territory. Notice that one of the key differences between these ankle-length pants and the straight legs above is that this pair is slightly tapered.

Ankle pants at correct length for flats

Ankle pants at correct length for flats

If you’re doing flats with your ankle pants, ideally they should show a bit more ankle. Why? Because when they’re longer they’ll look just like the straight-legs above. Ankle-length pants are meant to look a bit short and show a little peek of skin. When you’re wearing flat shoes and the bridge of your foot is parallel to the ground and therefore downplayed, showing more of your ankle makes this style of pant look fun and intentional. This is especially true if you go for oxfords which cover your foot entirely. 

Skinny pants that are too long

Skinny pants that are too long

These are very mild examples, but show the issues that can arise with truly skinny pants. Now, if you’re tucking into boots, your skinnies can be miles too long and it won’t matter a bit. Cuff them and tuck them into your socks. Bam. But if you’re wearing super slim-fitting pants with heels and they bunch up at your ankles, they will look too long. If you’re doing skinnies with flats, same deal. With denim and pants made from fabrics that are slightly stiff, you can just tuck some of the pant length back into the pant leg itself for a French cuff and no one will be the wiser. No hemming needed, no bunching visible.

Skinny pants at correct length

skinny pants right length

Skinny pants that are worn untucked with either heels or flats will look the most polished and chic worn at ankle length or above. No bunching, no knocking into your foot’s bridge, a clean, neat finish.

Fit issues with full-length tapered styles

Fit issues with tapered pants

Based on what I’ve read and seen, full-length, slouchy, pleated, tapered pants are meant to pool a little at the ankle, so the pair on the left is fine. The pair on the right is tapered but not skin-tight at the ankle, so tucking it into ankle boots looks a bit off. There’s some pooching and bunching, and the curve of the ankle is obscured. Probably better to untuck your tapered pants or even cuff them so they hit at ankle height or above instead. Which segues nicely into …

Detailed hemlines make pants look intentional


Shorter length pants with gathers, ties, and cuffs are GREAT options because they broadcast intentionality. The bottom line is that no matter how long or short your pants are, you want to look like you’ve chosen their length on purpose. They’re not this long because you’re wearing your heels-length pants with flats today and they’re not this short because they’ve had an encounter with Hot Dryer. When they’re finished with hemline details, you’re telling the world that you know exactly how long your pants are meant to be and exactly where you’d like them to hit on your leg line.

Is all this written in stone? Will you burst into flames if you don’t follow these guidelines to the letter, measuring down to the centimeter where your pant hem hits on your ankle or foot’s bridge? Am I saying that these are the only ways to wear any kinds of pants correctly? Is getting your pant length just right going to make or break you as a fashionable person? No. Also no. Hells no. And allow me to give you a giant heaping pile of NO. The Pant Hem Police are especially lax these days because SO much comes down to personal style and preferences, and even if they weren’t this is seriously nit-picky, granular stuff. But since questions about the “right” length for various styles of pants worn with various styles/heights of shoes are posed to me on a near-weekly basis by clients, readers, and Corset customers, I wanted to outline the current guidelines as I understand and employ them myself. None of my figure flattery advice posts should be considered gospel, including this one, and I fully expect you to read them with a grain of salt. Style “rules” are merely guidelines, no matter who is dispensing them. I trust you to use your judgment. And I trust you to take what applies to you, discard the rest, and assume positive intent.

So! Was this helpful? Do the guidelines make sense? What combinations of pant-length and shoe-style are you most likely to wear? Are you wearing ankle-length pants these days? They certainly are the dominant style, it seems. Anything you’d add? Anyone wearing straight-legs and have some additional input for making them look great? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!

Related posts:

All images courtesy Nordstrom

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Related Posts

Reader Request: How to Shop for Boots


Reader Krysta e-mailed me this question:

I would love to hear some input on the process of finding a good pair of boots! Growing up, boots were always worn with a specific functional purpose in mind, either for dirty messy work or getting in/out of the ski lodge while on vacation. In the past couple of years, as I’ve grown into putting effort into my style, I’ve also started looking for a nice pair of boots. However, everywhere I turn, it feels like I can’t find anything that hits the perfect trifecta of fitting my style, fitting my pinched-penny budget, and fitting me. Looking online at sites like 6pm gets me closer, but I have no idea how to even guess if the boot will fit in the height and calf (valid concerns when you fall well outside the norm in leg-length!). I’d love to be able to pull out a pair of trusty boots as the weather turns cold and wet, but I just can’t seem to make the jump!

I sent Krysta links to my numerous posts about selecting and buying boots, but also realized it might be valuable to compile that information here. Especially since many styles of boots are on MAJOR sale right now (in the northern hemi anyway) and it’s a great time to nab a bargain. For specifics of boot shopping, buying, and wearing, scroll to the end for a list of related posts. But for an overview of boot shopping and selection, read on!

Pre-shopping quiz

Before you head out to ANY stores, sit down and have a think. There are hundreds upon hundreds of boot styles out there, and if you dive in without a plan, you will become overwhelmed and cranky and possibly buy a pair that you’ll regret. So, pour yourself a cuppa and take this pre-boot-shopping quiz:

What are my measurements?
Grab a tape measure and get cozy with your calves. How long are they from arch to mid-knee? How big around are they at their widest point? And although this doesn’t fall under “measurement,” consider where you’d like your boots to hit. For tall boots, an inch or so below the kneecap is ideal. Mid-calf and ankle styles have far more leeway.

Which neutral will I wear most?
Very few women would describe fire engine red or emerald green boots as their ideal. Neutral shades are the most versatile, which makes them your best bet for wise investment. So ask yourself which neutral will get the most wear. For most women, it’s black. But cognac brown goes with EVERYTHING and generally looks more expensive. Also gray is fabulously flexible, and is becoming easier to find in all styles of boot.

Is a heel practical?
If you are on your feet all day then super-tall heels are right out, but can you deal with 1″ or 2″? Are you better off with a flat/riding boot style? Or will these be boots that never walk more than five blocks at a time? Be honest about heel height. Boots with a heel that hurts will not get worn.

Are my feet fussy?
High or fallen arches? Bunions or corns? Need loads of support or flexible soles? Read customer reviews online, check construction, ask questions, do everything you can to make sure that your potential new boots will caress and love your fussy feet. (Check Barking Dog Shoes’ boot recommendations for some ideas.)

Do I have fitting concerns?
If you have wide or narrow calves, small or large feet, or any other traits that make boots tough to fit, you may prefer to shop in person. But if not, I highly recommend going online. I’d try scouring Zappos, Nordstrom, and 6pm for starters to get as much info as you can about brands that will fit your needs. Try Barefoot Tess for larger sizes and DUO for wide and narrow calves. (More resources below.)

What’s my budget?
Multi-purpose boots can be bought cheap, but real leather and quality construction will last longer and be kinder to your feet. Still, never, ever spend more than you can truly afford.

The next and final question on the quiz deserves a little more focus, so let’s tease it out a bit.

What’s my preferred style?

There are hundreds of boot styles available, and with the world of Internet commerce at our fingertips it’s easier than ever to find your dream pair. Do you want riding boots? Heeled tall boots? Short moto boots? Mid-calf slouchy boots?

In my opinion the five most versatile styles of boot are as follows:

  1. Sleek, tall flat boots – riding boots and tall moto boots qualify
  2. Classic tall heeled boots – just below the knee with a 2″ or higher heel
  3. Ankle boots – new to the classics category, but ubiquitous and fun
  4. Tough boots – combat and engineer styles, but also anything with loads of buckles and hardware
  5. Cowgirl boots – even if you aren’t a Western dresser, these can be remarkably useful especially in summer

The first two are the most basic and classic, of course, but if you’re not into tall boots the other three offer great alternatives. Naturally, your perfect boots might not be on this list, but if you’re not sure where to start, these styles have proven themselves over the years as reliably versatile. (Rain/snow boots are essential in many climates, too, but I’m focusing on fashion boots here.)

Once you’ve narrowed down your style choices, start refining by making some decisions about shape. I am most likely to wear classic tall heeled boots and to me, the shape of the boots shown above represent the tall-boot baseline. Those beauties are Frye Marissa Back Zip boots and they’re fantastically spendy, but you can find similarly-shaped boots just about everywhere: Tall shaft, medium heel, solid color including the heel and sole, absolutely no detailing. Even if those boots look far too dull for your taste, it’s often best to begin with a very plain, sleek, pared-down design and THEN start adding embellishments like buckles, slouching, exposed zippers, etc.

So what are your ideal boot’s essential features? A block heel? Below-the-knee shaft height? Full zip? Suede, leather, or vegan? Build your perfect boot in your mind, then see if you can find something similar in the shops or online.

Searching and shopping

You’ve thought, compared, researched, and considered. Now it’s time to shop! If you’re shopping online and can afford to do so, I highly recommend ordering your top three pairs from a free shipping/returns place like Zappos so you can compare them in person, take notes, and send back the duds. If you’re shopping in person, try to visit three or more stores before making a purchase … or have enough budget flexibility to buy more than one pair, compare at home, and make returns. It will likely take some time to find your ideal pair, even if you’ve done your homework. But the payoff will be a pair that lasts for years and suits your style perfectly!

Related posts:

Online boot-buying resources:

  • DUO: Expensive, but beloved for creating hard-to-find narrow and wide calf styles
  • Widewidths: Wide calf options in classic neutrals
  • Zappos and 6pm: These companies have amazing selection and make searching easy. Watch product videos to get a sense of how boots look in action and fit.
  • Nordstrom: Loads of options from budget to designer
  • Barefoot Tess: A great resource for sizes 10 -15

Image courtesy Zappos

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Related Posts

This Week I Love …



So here’s the story: I’ve owned Clarks in the past, and knew that the brand reliably designed comfortable, high quality shoes. But I hadn’t owned a pair in a while, so much of my enthusiasm was secondhand: Clients LOVED the brand, readers LOVED the brand, bloggers who talk about fussy feet LOVED the brand. Enough folks loved the brand that I knew it was a good one.

But now that I’ve worked some pairs into my own shoe collection? I’m a little obsessed. Just to get this out there, no one is paying me to write this. There will be affiliate links in here, but I am honestly just so jazzed about this brand and so excited to see them churning out gorgeous, chic, wearable styles each season that I’ve chosen to gush entirely on my own. I am stalking Clarks now the way I stalked Fryes back in the day. I am recommending this brand to my girlfriends and they are quickly becoming as obsessed as I. Let me show you why:

clarks majorca isle

Majorca Isle – $174.17 – $259.95

Rich burgundy color + moto styling = total love. This is a mid-calf boot, so may be a little trickier to style for anyone worried about bisecting and visually widening the calf. But it also comes in black and dark brown, which may be easier to match to tights, leggings, and pants.

clarks decade rana

Decade Rana – $46.99

I absolutely adore my slightly higher Wessex Wyvern pumps, but have been eyeing these Ranas for months. Simple, graceful, and one of the most appealing 2″ heels I’ve seen in ages. And with Clarks design and construction, they’re guaranteed to be wonderful walkers. Also comes in a darker, chocolate brown and basic black. A great option for someone who loves the look of a heel, but needs a sturdy, short one for comfort reasons.

clarks valley lounge

Valley Lounge – $100

I am yet to get on board with this high vamp, slipper-esque flat style, but it is trendy as trendy can be. Proof that the Clarks folks are keeping current and busily churning out well-made, comfortable versions of hot shoe styles. This pair gets high marks for comfort and style, and will be a great option for warmer winter days and wear beautifully through spring and summer.

Indigo by Clarks Heath Harrier

Indigo by Clarks Heath Harrier – $89.90

And speaking of trendy, get a load of these fantastic booties. Same shape and features as more expensive options from highfalutin’ brands, but with all the quality and walkability of Clarks. YES. (The Indigo by Clarks sub-line churns out many of my favorite styles. My own booties shown above are Indigo from the Mission family, similar to these guys.)

clarks mission brynn

Mission Brynn – $167.99

In the market for a clean, classic, versatile cognac leather boot? Here you go. I have tried on this style in the store and it is marvelously comfy. Too wide in the calf for me (I’m a 14-incher), but oh so tempting. Especially at that sale price.

clarks valley moon

Valley Moon - $44.99 – $85

Such a lovely, subtle captoe flat. Trendy enough for a teen, but classic enough for a working woman. If the low-contrast, black-on-black doesn’t work for you (and there’s a patent cap/black suede version, too), you can pick from four other combos including tan/black, pink/bronze, and caramel/gold. This style also comes in C widths!

Speaking of which, I do wish Clarks did a bit more in terms of size diversity. The Clarks site offers narrow, medium, wide, and extra wide options for a few styles, but wide calves aren’t yet in their inventory. Hear that, Clarks? How about it? I know a whole bunch of women who’d love to buy your boots if you made them wide enough in the calf!

Who else out there is a Clarks fan? I know this brand has some heritage in the UK … any of you Brits Clarks lovers? Any of these styles tempting you?

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Related Posts