Why You Shouldn’t Wear Ankle Length Pants


Tonight I spent a couple of hours with some lovely image consultant students of mine, and we were looking at each others outfits and working out what we might tweak to improve.  One of my lovely students was wearing ankle length pants (which are a trend at the moment) and we played with the length to show her how she looked better when they were shorter, rather than sitting at the ankles which was making her legs look short and stumpy.  This was magnified by the high vamp, flat sandal she was wearing them with.

Unless you have ultra long legs (like a model), then ankle length pants should be avoided as they are almost universally unflattering.
If you feel you must wear them, they need to be skinny, not wide (which doesn’t suit the 8, X or A shapes out there) and worn with a high heel.

Alternatively, take them up to a more flattering place on your calf, and wear them with a higher heel and low vamp shoe to visually elongate your legs.
 All pics from www.nordstrom.com


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  • I don’t think taking up ankle length pants is a foolproof solution as the cut is usually not right. Well-cut pants begin at the waist, not the hem.

    Heels worn with ankle length length looks overdone to me. If you have trim ankles and slim hips and legs, wear them with ballet or other low-vamp flats (the Audrey Hepburn look), or flat, minimal sandals.

    She wore this flats even when her ankle pants were silk.

  • I wear my ankle-length (tapered) pants with 1″ clogs and I think that is how they look best on me. (I’m short.) It’s a definite casual-only look; I can’t pull off more formal or career looks with them.

    I made my pants myself so they are custom-fit. I’m not sure I could wear ready-to-wear without altering the legs. It’s important to get the line correct around the knee area.

    I have to agree with Duchesse that the heels look overdone, although I’ll admit they look more trendy. I guess that’s just a trend I’m skipping.

    Personally, I think “cropped” (mid-calf) pants are the most unattractive look available these days, no matter what the shoe. I will be glad to see that trend expire. I have yet to see anyone except very thin people who look good in them.

  • Hmmm. I’m over 6ft and wear crops a lot with flats. My legs are too long ie.inseam 37″ so most pants are ankle length. I try to find pants that appear too short on purpose (reality is I rarely find them long enough)
    I hate the wide ones though and always try for a narrow hem and fitted leg.

  • A request for help Imogen – I have just been given a peach jacket but I am not sure what really goes with it. Any ideas?

  • Interesting discussion as always, Imogen. I found that there’s a little zone of okay-ness on my lower leg where my cropped pants look right to me.

    At the calf as shown in these photos does not work, as my calves are muscular and widest right there. Bad, bad.

    I wear most of my summer pants about 4-6″ above my ankle bone and I like this quite well. I have my eye out for low vamp flats because of your advice.

  • Duchesse – the point to hem the pants at is dependent on your legs and their shape.

    If you have long legs you can get away with wearing flats, but I find that the majority of women have shorter legs, so they’re generally less flattering.

    Audrey Hepburn was also super slim, and wore her cropped pants slim and always black head to toe, so she hadn’t already broken up her body with a change of colour at the waist.

  • Betty – thanks for coming by. You might notice in the picture that cropped pants can be longer or shorter, and you will find if you play with hem length whilst looking in a full length mirror you’ll find your best length.

    Cropped pants of any sort are probably the most unflattering pants. I just think if you want cropped for feeling cooler, go shorter, otherwise go full length, ankle is a most unflattering length.

  • Sallymandy – it’s good you’ve found your best length. A low vamp shoe is the best option for leg lengthening with a cropped pant.

  • This is one big no no that I just can’t seem to stop doing. I tend to wear mine a bit longer than the models shown and always with comfy ballet flats never ever with heels as I don’t find them practical for shopping or busy chasing after a 3 year old lol! Does the same rule apply to leggings? One of my favourite summer outfits was a kaftan top with ankle leggings….and I’m short 5 foot 2*drops head in shame lol*

  • Zizzy – leggings (as long as they’re not worn as pants) can be calf or ankle length, they can actually be a great way of elongating the look of your legs and look fab with ballet shoes.

  • I still am not sure about wearing the capris when I am so short. The flattering place on your calf is still very low. Guess I better learn soon!

  • Just found this – after I’d completed making a disastrous pair of natural linen trousers from a Tessuti pattern. I’d seen a whole raft of photos so knew what I expected. Neat trousers for summer that finished at the ankle not above it. Measured my leg, added 2 inches to the length and the damn things still came well above the ankle and looked appalling! Luckily they had a VERY deep facing (cut in one with the leg) so I undid it all, adding three inches and making sure the ankle width was right for me, and added a complete facing. It has to reach the ankle to look good, and even then you’ve got to be careful with shoes. Still I think it now works. Phew!

  • I’m only 5 foot and I love the ankle pants. The new wide looking ones. They are so cute. I personally feel that you should wear what makes you happen and what you feel good in. I do appreciate all the comments though – I’m sure they are helpful to some.

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