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Where My Pants End and My Shoes Begin

March 22, 2018

Don’t you just hate it when you put on that new pair of pants and your oh-so-cute top you bought to go with those pants…only to realize you have no idea what shoes should complete the outfit? Unless you’re a shoe girl, and some of you undoubtedly are, you probably sometimes forget to calculate in footwear and find yourself without the right shoes for those darling pants.

 Where My Pants End and My Shoes Begin

Several considerations factor into the pant/shoe equation. Of course there’s style. Are you going for a more relaxed and casual look or a more formal, business approach? But if matching shoes to pants were simply a matter of style preference, this would be a piece of cake.

Complicating the issue, we have more silhouettes and lengths of jeans and pants trending than ever before. Current styles include the classic straight, slim fitting skinny, more relaxed boyfriend and girlfriend (yes, they’re slightly different), high waist palazzo, boot cut, full, trouser and jegging. But you also have to factor in lengths. Some of the aforementioned styles come predominantly in one length, but others can vary from capri to crop to ankle to full length. And there are some styles we wear rolled up or turned up, while still others are worn cut off or even torn off at the hem.

Chuck Taylor Classic Converse in Navy

How’s a gal to know where her pants should end and her shoes should begin?

I’ve been asked recently to try to sort out the confusion. But we’re going to divide this post into two, so we can approach it from two different angles.

  1. Where should my pants end and my shoes begin? – Today
  2. What shoes should I wear with different pant silhouettes and lengths? – next Thursday

Honestly, learning to answer these two questions accurately can mean the difference between creating a fabulously long, lean silhouette and settling for frumpy and frazzled…even though you spent the money for fabulous!

In fact, keep that in mind. The goal of determining where your pants should end and your shoes should begin isn’t just about looking “okay.” Let’s not settle for “that’ll do.” Each time we purchase a pair of pants or jeans and coordinate them with a pair of shoes, let’s make sure we’re creating the most flattering silhouette possible. And if that style of jeans doesn’t flatter you, just don’t buy them.

Current pant/jeans silhouettes and where they should end

Keep in mind that while I’m using the term “jeans” frequently, all of this information applies to other non-denim women’s pants as well. Our jeans have very much influenced the styling of our dress trousers.

Skinny Jeans

Skinny jean or jegging
Talbots Denim Jegging – Cove Wash

The jegging and skinny jean feel a little different on the body, but the silhouette is the same. These jeans are meant to hug the body the entire length of the leg, creating the illusion of length on even the shortest legs. In fact, they are a great pick for the petite woman as well as the taller gal.

The skinny jean’s hem should rest just above the ankle bone, allowing for a little bit of skin to show between the pant leg and the shoe. That’s why this pant works great with both flats and heels. But more about that next week!

Ideally you don’t want to have to roll up these jeans. Then you would lose the long silhouette. It’s especially crucial for shorter women to buy or tailor these jeans to the right length. That’s why we need to pay attention to inseam. I found a great chart detailing inseam lengths for different heights of women and different styles of jeans at Stitch Fix.

If you wear these jeans too short, you’ll end up looking clueless and frumpy. And if they’re too long, you’ll look sloppy. Just don’t.

Straight Leg Jeans

Womans Straight Leg
Talbots Womans Exclusive High-Rise Denim Straight Leg Jean in True Blue

The straight leg jean should extend to right where your foot starts. They just barely sit on top of your foot and they may have a slight break at the ankle (See the tiny inverted bend in the fabric just a couple of inches above the hem in the photo above? That’s a “break.”) If they are too long, you won’t have a single break, but what is known as stacking or multiple breaks. Stacking looks sloppy. A long, clean line, like the one in the photo, looks sharp and slenderizing…even on this plus size model. And if these jeans are too short they look especially “high water”-ish. Again, just don’t.

Ankle Pants/Jeans

Talbots Chatham Ankle Pants in White
Talbots Chatham Ankle Pants in white

Ankle pants and jeans can vary in their silhouette, but preferably they should be at a length that best highlights the slimmest part of your ankle. Most stylists say they should hit a little higher than the skinny jean, but still just above the ankle bone. You want them short enough so that it does not mistakenly appear that they are simply skinny or straight pants that are too short on you. And you don’t want them so long that they lose the slimming and elongating effect they are intended for.

Classic Trousers

Jag Jeans Standard Stretch Twill Trousers - Nordstrom
Jag Jeans Standard Stretch Twill Trousers – Nordstrom

It’s funny. In all my research, the stylists say that dress trousers (think menswear inspired, full bodied dress pants) should fall to just 1/2 inch from the floor, allowing only your toes to barely peek out. But every single photo I see on store websites shows these pants falling to just at the bottom of the back of the sole of the shoe, right where the heel begins. And I agree with the photos. I understand that the point is to create as long a line as possible, but when trousers are too long it cheapens the look.

That said, you do want these pants to cover the back part of your shoe sole completely. And it’s certainly fine to have them long enough to where there is a single break in the front, no more. Remember, no stacking…and definitely no puddling.

I will go ahead and say that you have to know exactly what size heel you will be wearing these with, and you must stick with that size heel when wearing the pants. More on this next week.

Wide Leg or Palazzo Pants

Italian Cady Trapunto Tie Waist Trousers
Italian Cady Trapunto Tie Waist Trousers – Nordstrom

These palazzo pants or wide leg trousers are meant to be flowy, but also elongating. So you want to wear them even longer than the dress trousers. They should fall to just 1/4″ above the ground in order to achieve that long silhouette. Otherwise it’ll look like your pants are too short for you. Once again, you must pick a heel size for these pants and stick with it.

In contrast, there are palazzo pants that are cut to be worn above the ankle. They, of course, are the exception.

Wide Leg, Trouser or Boot Cut Jeans

Joe's Honey Curvy Boot Cut Jeans from Nordstrom
Joe’s Honey Curvy Boot Cut Jeans from Nordstrom

Boot cut, wide leg and trouser jeans potentially create the longest and leanest silhouette, especially when worn with high heels. In order for that to happen, these jeans must fall to 1/4″ from the floor. Only your toe should peek out from under the legs of the jeans. You should barely get a glimpse of the heel in the back. If these jeans are any shorter, they appear to be a mistake, and you lose the silhouette you were hoping for.

On the other hand, you don’t want these jeans to drag the floor, of course. Just make sure you settle on one size heel for your boot cut or wide leg jeans. And if you like them so much that you want to wear them with both flats and heels, you’ll need to buy two pair and hem them to the two different lengths.

Cropped or Cropped Flared Jeans & Pants

Variety of Cropped Jeans from Talbots
Variety of Cropped Jeans from Talbots including, left to right, Denim Wide Crop in Sailor Wash, Denim Girlfriend in Camden Wash, and Cuffed Denim Straight Crop in Taylor Wash.

These pants have a wider range of acceptable lengths. Generally they should hit you below the mid calf, but above the ankle bone. But once again you want to aim for the length that flatters your leg and height the best. As a general rule, you should show as much skin as the width of your hand, from thumb to pinky. That means a taller, bigger boned woman will show a little more of her ankle and lower calf than a petite woman, keeping things in perfect proportion.

Capri Pants

Capri pants are generally hemmed mid calf, higher than crop pants.

Honestly, while I’ve worn capri length pants in the past, I choose not to wear them again. They’re fine for a picnic, hike or casual day working around the house. But honestly, ladies, the hem tends to hit us at the thickest part of the calf, which is not flattering. They’d don’t elongate the leg; instead they cause it to look shorter and thicker.

Capri pants are still available in stores, although I didn’t locate any on Talbots’ or Nordstrom’s websites, so maybe that tells us something. But don’t let me keep you from your favorites if you like to wear them. Maybe it’s just me and my thick calves!

A Few Final Words

It’s easy to get caught up in the trends, but honestly every cut of pant is not necessarily for every body type. And, as usual, fit is key.

Try on the pants in the store or, if you ordered online, in your home. Use your cell phone to take photos of yourself in a full length mirror. Then leave the store, go have lunch or coffee, and look at the photos. Do the pants hit you at a flattering place on your leg, showing the slimmest view of your ankle?

And if you purchase pants that are too long and need to be hemmed, hem them…or take them to a tailor. Really, only boyfriend, girlfriend and maybe some straight pants should be rolled up if at all possible. Be sure to have them fitted for the shoes you will wear with them consistently. It makes a difference.

Well, I hope that was helpful. I know I learned a lot. I’ve been wearing a couple of my pants at the wrong hem length, and I want to fix that. It may be as simple as choosing the right shoe. And we’ll talk about that next week.

By the way, I’m linking this post with Jo-Lynne Shane’s Fashion Friday. Check it out!

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Blessed for My Day

Sometimes we don’t like rules, huh. I know some women’s style blogs are even built on the basis of disregarding conventional fashion guidelines and “wearing whatever I please.” But while turning a deaf ear to fashion advice may not harm anyone or anything, disregarding God’s precepts for living will eventually bring destruction. And just like I’ve offered some well-tested advice today that is meant to help us look our best, God’s commands are for our good. In fact, His way is always best…no exceptions to the rule. If you’ve been struggling with obeying God in a certain area, why not confess your stubbornness and ask God to soften your heart to Him? I’d be glad to pray for you if there is a particular command you are struggling with.

How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who walk in the law of the Lord. ~ Psalm 119:1

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xoxo, Kay
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3 thoughts on “Where My Pants End and My Shoes Begin

  1. I’m nearly 6 feet tall , what type of jeans would you recommend for a tall person . Thank you .Karen

    1. Hi Karen. Have you tried Long Tall Sally? Their jeans are 50% off today. You really can wear any style you like depending more on your proportions and body shape. But you do want them to be the right length that they’re meant to be. So I’d definitely shop y’all sizes. A boot cut jean will look great on long legs as long as they’re the right length for your body. And straight leg jeans are another good option and very current.