How to Wear Cropped Pants and Not Look Like a Soccer Mom, Even if You Are a Soccer Mom

How to wear cropped pants Cropped pants are like the shorts equivalent for women who hate baring their legs.  For some reason, those few inches of skin that shows seems more summery.   I am one of those people who refuses to wear shorts and you would have to basically threaten me with a hot branding iron while listening to Justin Bieber on a continuous loop and getting root canal, to actually wear a pair.  In today’s One Item, Five Fashionable Ways I am going to give my tips on how to wear cropped pants.

Call them capris, call them pedal pushers, or call them cropped pants, it really doesn’t matter, women of all ages have embraced them.  That’s right, from teens in their cute little matchstick pairs, to the elderly on line at 4:30 pm early bird dinner special, along with everyone in-between, just about every woman owns at least one pair.  If there are cropped pants out there for everyone, how to you make them stylish and right for you?

Fit

Fit is probably the most crucial when purchasing the right pair of cropped pants.  With all the different styles to choose from, it’s probably best to purchase a pair where you purchase most of your jeans and other bottoms.  The next important aspect of getting the fit right is knowing what style is best for your body.  With the wrong silhouette, a pear shaped woman can look like a human bowling pin, a tall woman like Eddie Munster and a soccer mom looking like, well, a soccer mom.  My apologies in advance to all of you offended soccer moms out there, but, let’s be honest, even a soccer mom doesn’t really want to look like a soccer mom.  Yes, cropped pants can either make you look super cute or super dumpy, and often it’s the fit that is the determining factor.

Cropped pants if you are short: I get asked by petite women all the time if they will look short in cropped pants.  My answer is always the same, “You will look short in whatever you wear because you are…short.”  The reason I say this is because I hate to see petite women pass up this style simply because they’re read over and over again that cropped pants will make a petite woman look shorter than she is.  This is not to say that there isn’t some truth to this but I think there are some work-arounds so that a a shorter woman can embrace this versatile pants style without losing the few extra inches she is desperately trying to hold on to.  My advice if you are petite is to keep the pants slim and close to the legs.  No wide leg crop pants for you, shorty.  Next, think about the overall picture of your outfit.  While a pair of cropped pants may shave a little height off, countering this with a small heel, tops that shape the waist, and wider necklines will bring height upwards and offer some balance.  Keep it slim, keep it lean and don’t pull the eye down when wearing cropped pants with wide pant legs.

Crop pants if you are tall: Being tall you probably feel like every pair of pants on the planet are cropped.  However, there are still some tips for you.  First, purchase true cropped pants.  A common style of cropped pants are ankle length pants which, for you and your glamazon body, just looks like your pants are too short.  With cropped pants, what you want to do is choose cropped pants that fall mid-calf or higher so the crop looks like it is on purpose, not like they are accidentally too short.  Secondly, and this is going to sound weird, avoid 3/4 sleeves with cropped pants.  The reason is because with cropped pants and 3/4 sleeves everything looks outgrown, hence the reference to Eddie Munster.  God, I hope you are old enough to get that reference.  If you aren’t, Google it.

Crop pants if you are pear shaped: Having a larger bottom half of my body I’ve been mortified in photos when I’ve seen myself in cropped pants.  Here I was, feeling all “Audrey Hepburn” cute when, instead, I looked like someone pulled the rip-chord on my thighs.  Seriously???  Ugh!  You have to be really careful in cropped pants when you have large thighs.  First, make sure that the cropped pants you buy don’t taper or peg too much at the hem or else you get the human bowling pin look I mentioned earlier.  Some crop pants flare ever so slightly at the hem (like a baby boot cut) and this little extra can bring some body balance your way.  Secondly, make sure that the length of your cropped pants don’t end at the widest part of your calves, especially if you are bottom heavy with large calves (a.k.a. me).  Girl, I feel your pain.  With your cropped pants also avoid ankle straps, dark shoes and completely flat shoes, all which will just make your bottom look bigger.  Have you ever noticed that when you try on pants you stand on your tip-toes?  There is a reason for this, you are instinctively lengthening your legs by doing this.  The key is that any part of your body that you lengthen will automatically look slimmer.  By avoiding ankle straps, dark colored shoes and totally flat shoes, when worn with your cropped pants, you will add some length to your legs and make them look bulbous.  Lastly, like my tip for petite women, broaden your shoulders with wide necklines, like boat necks, and avoid halter tops…unless you want to look like a big triangle.

Cropped pants for tummies: Have a tummy and think that those new pleated cropped pants will be the answer for you?  Buzz…wrong.  There are a few reasons this won’t work.  First, whoever once claimed that pleated pants were for women with tummies was wrong.  You get nothing from pleated pants besides more bulk where you don’t want it.  Secondly, what are you going to do with your shirt, tuck it in?  I think not.  So now you are stuck with a top layered over pleated pants.  Forget it, unless you are trying to win a “my tummy looks so bad in this outfit contest”.  Go for clean and flat over the tummy of your cropped pants.  Contour waists are also wonderful for tummies.  A style like this will be favorable for you.

Fabrication

Most summer cropped pants and capris are made in stretch cotton, a lovely fabric for this style until you bend and stretch in them all day and the knees start to bag out, you’re pulling them up and have to wash them each and every time to just get them back into shape.  There is a reason why your cropped pants bag out, it’s the Lycra in the fabric that has poor recovery. To avoid this problem in the future, first buy the smallest pair of stretch cotton cropped pants you can get your body into because they will stretch.  Secondly, do a streth-test on the fabric of the pants before you buy them.  Take the leg of the pants and stretch it.  If the fabric doesn’t spring right back into shape the recovery of the Lycra is poor and they will bag quickly.

How to Wear Cropped Pants

Okay, now lets talk about styling as I think styling has just as much to do with fit does as to how stylish or how frumpy you will look in your cropped pants.  Check out these outfits using a cropped pair of pants from J. Crew, and additional tips, and don’t forget to also shop for cropped styles at the end of this post.

Outfit #1- Play with color. 

Crop pants are typically worn in a casual manner.  How much creativity can you get out of a pair of cropped pants and a top?  Well, a lot, actually.  Take this outfit, for example where I played with color.  Interesting color combining can often make the most basic of outfits look more creative.  I styled these J. Crew cropped pants with a coral Mango blouse, a yellow pair of ankle strap ballerina flats, turquoise cross body bag and tied everything together with earrings from Anthropologie that pulls in all the colors.

Outfit #2- With a tunic

A tunic can be chic and elegant to wear with a pair of cropped pants.  Plus, if the top is long enough, like this one from Topshop, a blessing for women with thighs.  Wanting to create a smart casual look, I kept it simple with a refined statement necklace, leopard sandals, an orange Furla handbag and gold bracelet.

Outfit #3- To work

Just because your office is a cropped pants friendly zone does not mean you can wear them to work like you would on the weekend.  A little decorum, please!  Cropped pants for work require a little extra effort than that t-shirt sitting at the bottom of your drawer.  Here, I styled these crop pants for work with a Tory Burch tank, a white blazer from Reiss, the same orange Furla bag, a pair of orange earrings from Bauble Bar and a pair of basic d’orsay Sam Edelman low heeled pumps in nude.  Ladies, avoid stilettos and cropped pants for work, it just doesn’t work.

Outfit #4

Now let’s take these cropped pants super casual.  Invariably you will be grabbing a basic t-shirt to wear with them.  Given my earlier tip about widening the shoulders, I chose a boat neck Boden top in lilac, which works beautifully with the khaki color of the pants.  Next, I styled the look with green sandals.  Want to know one of my pet peeves?  When women rely too heavily on those basic, dumb black slides that they wear to death and are so exceptionally boring.  I understand the thinking behind it, they will go with everything, but so will a pair of green sandals.  Ditch those ugly black slides that were popular in, like, 1996 and try something different.  To finish the look I brought the colors together with this printed handbag and an Echo printed scarf that you, obviously, don’t need to tie around your neck as dorkily as it is photographed here.  Just give it a wind around the neck so you don’t look like an uptight priss.  Lastly, for ease, I added an easy-on, casual bracelet from Max & Chloe.

Outfit #5- For fun

If your fun expands past breaking up fights between your kids in he mini van as you shuttle them ungratefully to and from whatever extra curricular activities they do, to hopefully get them a scholarship somewhere (or at least make them more well-rounded), you can wear your cropped pants for fun casual things, like going out to dinner with girlfriends, barbecues with adult beverages and conversation or maybe, gasp, a date with your husband.  These pants are ready for some sun with this navy dip dye top from DKNKY, a pair of blue metallic python shoes from Jessica Simpson, very cool necklace from Anthropologie, a bright blue MICHAEL Michael Kors handbag and the same gold bracelet as used earlier.

Shop for cropped pants

Now that you know how to make crop pants look stylish, why don’t you shop for a pair.

  • Amanda

    OMG! Just stumbled across your blog & Bridgette, this article is brilliant! I’m 5’0″ and thought I shouldn’t wear capris because of my height. Fabulous advice, I am buying some capris this weekend & have the perfect low heels to wear with them. Thanks!!!

    • Hi Amanda and welcome! I am glad you found this post helpful and that your wardrobe options just expanded! Enjoy your cropped pants!

  • Kathleen Hansen

    Oh, Bridgette, you had me right up until you called petite women “shorty.” Why is it that many people feel it is appropriate to comment on petite stature? Can’t control it, heart not height is my rule of measure. Please reconsider your remark.