How Long Should Your Pants Be?

A reader asked me about the length of my pants this week so I thought it would be fun to explore some options. Fashion is constantly in flux and wearing ankle baring pants is no longer the Pee-Wee Herman look, but no one wants to look dorky so let’s check out some options.

Pants need to be hemmed based on the shoe you plan to wear them with. The exception to this rule is skinny ankle and cropped pants. There are no longer hard and fast rules about the length of pants but the wrong length can look sloppy or chop your look off.How Long Should Your Pants Be?

Wide Leg Pants

We need to see your foot! These days, wide-legged pants are seen at all lengths from mid-calf down but a pant that covers your entire foot looks too long and makes you look like you have no feet. Wide leg pants should cover the top of your shoe and leave a portion of the heel and toe exposed. In heels or flats, aim for a length that is 1/2 inch from the floor. No, you can’t wear the same length with flats and heels, so decide how you’ll likely wear your pants and commit for each pair of pants.

Flare Leg Pants

Somewhere between wide and straight is the flare or bootcut legs. Depending on the width of the flare, these generally look best hemmed to cover the top of your foot, like the wide leg pant. Aim to hem these 1/2 – 3/4 inch from the floor.

Straight-Leg Pants

A straight-legged pant is usually hemmed to not “break” (bend) at the bottom which means no longer than the top of your arch. This changes depending on the heel height you wear them with. A slight heel will angle your foot down allowing for a longer pant leg. Flat shoes require straight pants to be hemmed shorter because your arch is higher in a flat shoe. Straight pants can easily look sloppy if hemmed too long so they puddle on the top of your foot.

Skinny Leg Pants

Skinny legged pants should be hemmed short enough to show your ankle. As with skirts, it is most flattering to hem your pants to stop at the narrowest part of your ankle. That means if your pants stop mid-ankle bone they will make your ankles look thicker than they are. Who wants that? Skinny leg pants are the most versatile because the length works with both heels and flats.


Crop Leg Pants

These can vary from just under the knee to several inches above your ankle and generally look best hemmed to a narrow spot on your leg. These can be hemmed to your liking and worn with both flats and heels.

What are your favorite pant leg types?

Thanks for reading and remember to always wear what makes you feel confident.

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  1. Lisa
    January 12, 2021 / 10:28 am

    I appreciate this little tutorial. I have owned a small alterations shop for about 20 years, and in that time pant lengths have changed. There are so many options! My customers expect me to know what the going length is for so many different types of pants ( and dresses)! I agree especially with your statement for wide pants- you should look like you have feet! I haven’t done a fitting in 9 or ten months, but I will print this and keep it handy for when I do get that pleasure again. Thanks!

  2. Gail Schwartz
    March 1, 2018 / 3:37 am

    I bookmarked this article to save for the future. No cropped pants for me. I am only 5’1” and they aren’t flattering.

    • March 1, 2018 / 8:47 pm

      Cropped is not flattering on me either although brands continue to make cropped pants in petite!

      • Jasmine
        January 9, 2021 / 4:15 pm

        For me, I like this because I’m 4’11 and sometimes a cropped petite is the only thing that sits at my ankle properly

  3. May 13, 2017 / 5:15 am

    I’ve been unhappy with my look in any of the cropped pants I’ve purchased in the past – your post helped me realize why: I’ve been buying them to end at the widest point in my calf, so it makes me look stumpy. I’m definitely going to find lengths that end in the narrower part of my leg. Thank you!

    • Jennifer
      May 13, 2017 / 10:08 am

      You are most welcome, Melody! Remember you can have cropped pants you already own or want to own, easily hemmed to a flattering length for you.

  4. Janet Williams
    May 12, 2017 / 8:41 pm

    Thank you Jennifer! While I’m thrilled we have choice, I find matching pants with shoes and top lengths with pants styles and shoes so bloody complicated I am nostalgic for my seventies t-shirts, jeans, and clogs! Life was so much simplier! ????

    • Jennifer
      May 13, 2017 / 10:02 am

      Things were simpler then Janet! 🙂

  5. Joanna
    May 12, 2017 / 9:32 am

    I find it hard to go back to a wider leg pant after wearing straight and skinnies. I do have a couple of pairs of trousers for dress though.
    Your advice on pant length is spot on, although I do not wear my skinnies above the ankle. That length looks great with heels, which I can no longer wear. I wear mine with flats ot booties or tucked into tall boots and for the most part they lay at my ankle. I do cuff my chinos to above the ankle, as they look cute with sandels or runners.
    I also wanted to mention that a pointed toe shoe, whether flat or heel, looks better with a wide leg pant.
    Love these informative posts!

    • Jennifer
      May 12, 2017 / 9:36 am

      I wear skinnies at many lengths depending on my shoe too. If it’s super skinny they have to clear my ankle strap so it depends on the shoe. I love them tucked into boots too!

  6. Suz
    May 12, 2017 / 8:43 am

    Very practical and useful advice. Thank you! Suz from Vancouver

    • Jennifer
      May 12, 2017 / 9:34 am

      You’re welcome, Suz.

  7. Cheryl Johnson
    May 12, 2017 / 6:35 am

    I enjoy wearing the ankle pant, skinny pant, and even occasionally the wide leg pant. The crop leg pant is yet to become a part of my wardrobe, for some reason I always see “Hee Haw” when I try them on. My legs are short and though at my age “never” is not in my vocabulary, they just haven’t worked. Thanks for your insight on pants, Jennifer…love your style!

    • Jennifer
      May 12, 2017 / 9:34 am

      Thanks Cheryl! I seldom, very seldom, wear crop pants too because I’m short and my legs are short for my stature.

  8. May 12, 2017 / 6:35 am

    My mom cracks me up (the 70+ model on my blog) because she hates ankle pants of any sort!! And when I ask her why, she says it’s because it shows her ankles. Yet she wears skirts all the time!!
    I’m super glad that the length can vary nowadays—it makes it fun!

    • Jennifer
      May 12, 2017 / 8:38 am

      Perhaps she dislikes them because they focus attention on her ankle but skirts focus on a larger portion of her leg:)

    • Erika
      February 28, 2018 / 10:22 am

      Jodie, I feel the same as your mom. I have very slim ankles. And with crop leg pants it looks as if something has shrunk seriously in the wash. In proportion to my hips my ankles look weird if I expose them with cropped pants. Straight leg pants which end where Jennifer suggested, on the arch of my foot, give me more confidence.

  9. Molly Bassett
    May 12, 2017 / 6:15 am

    This is very helpful. Thank you.

    • Jennifer
      May 12, 2017 / 8:37 am

      I’m glad it helped, Molly.

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