Image courtesy Banana Republic
Reader Kerry e-mailed me this question:
Whenever I buy new dress pants for work, I have to have the length altered. Each time, they languish in my bedroom while I try to determine which shoes I should wear to the tailor: should I wear the heels, the flats, the in-between shoes? If I have my pants shortened so I can wear flats with them, they will look silly with the heels and vice versa. But I don’t want to have a pair of pants for heels and a pair for flats, because a decent pair of pants is expense (plus tailoring) and I don’t want to have to buy “heels pants” and “flats pants.”
So, should I wear the middle of the road shoes (with just a bit of heel) when I go to the tailor and know that the pant length may be a bit off at either end of the shoe spectrum? Is it better to err on the side of the pants being a bit too long or a bit too short? Or am I supposed to suck it up and have shorter/longer pants depending on what shoes I want to wear? Am I over-thinking this?
So, pants. If you want the real answer, here it is: You need to have some dress pants that work for flats, and some that work for heels. You don’t have to buy two pairs of each pant style and get one hemmed for heels, one for flats … but if you want to look your polished and professional best, you need to relegate certain pairs to flats, others to heels. There are a larger variety of stylish hem lengths and styles now than ever before, but especially when it comes to dress pants there are guidelines that are widely followed: Trouser and wide-leg pants hemmed for heels should hit very close to the floor, about half an inch. These pants will not work when worn with flats because they will be so long that they’ll drag and get stepped on. Trouser and wide-leg pants hemmed for flats should hit very close to the floor, too, or create a slight gather at the top of the foot. These pants will not work when worn with heels because they’ll be too short to look appropriate and not quite short enough to look cropped or intentional.
There are workarounds, but they’re not ideal.
- You can use hem tape to make your heels-length pants appear shorter
- You can use these magnets to reversibly shorten pant hems, but they’re not terribly subtle
- For casual pants, you can cuff without any tape or magnets
None of these solutions will allow for a pressed, crisp-looking hem on dress pants, so if you work in a dressy or conservative environment they might not work at all. For more casual workplaces, you could probably sneak ’em in.
What does this mean for tailoring? That you should decide in advance if the pants will be worn mainly with heels or flats, and bring your most-worn pair of shoes in that style to wear for measurements. A slight wedge or heel will likely work with both heels-length and flats-length pants in some cases, but true flats and true heels will look awkward worn with a hem that’s too long or short. I know it sucks, and makes it virtually impossible to know which pants to assign to which shoes.* But aside from the temporary fixes listed above (which mean you could hem everything for relatively high heels), that’s what I’d recommend.
How do you deal with pant hems? Do you stick to all flats or all heels to avoid the issue altogether? Bite the bullet and buy or thrift pants and get them hemmed to multiple lengths? Which shoes do you wear when getting your pants tailored? Any other temporary fixes or workarounds to suggest?
*Shoe choice can factor in. For instance, my straight leg pants don’t look right to my eye worn with flats, so I always keep them hemmed for heels. However this is subject to personal preference. I would never say that everyone should hem straight legs for heels. But if you can determine which pant styles work with which shoe heights/styles for your figure, that can help in hemming decisions.
**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.