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Yes, You Can Wear Wide-Legged Pants Even If You’re Short

It just takes a couple of key tricks (and a great tailor).

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Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

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Being short has its perks. Minor comfort on an airplane is one of them. Shopping for clothes is not.

At 5’2”, I have the stature of Reese Witherspoon or Mary-Kate Olsen sans slim-hipped physique, which has always given me a bit of skinny-jean impostor syndrome. They look acceptable enough on me but are not naturally what flatters my figure best — a high waist and a wider leg would definitely serve it better.

Seeing nearly every minimalist-chic clothing brand congesting my Instagram feed with elegant wide-leg-trousered models, my comfort-lust had me foaming at the mouth in anticipation of indulging my thighs, soon to be freed from their skinny-jean casings by the culotte-ed and palazzo-ed glory of wide-leg pants. (At least that is what appeared to be implicitly decreed by the indie fashion labels paying for their sponsored Instagram posts to butt in on my scroll.)

However, there are several caveats to pulling off jumbo pant legs if you are not a willowy waif in stilettos (or, more appropriately, simple mid-heel mules).

Everlane Wide Leg Crop, $68
Everlane Wide Leg Crop, $68

Get a Tailor

Where your pant hem falls is of utmost importance in the pursuit of the illusion of height. If the intended effect is to look like an elegant ~*influencer*~ and not like a child standing on another child’s shoulders underneath a trench coat, you’ve got to nail the hemline. Which brings us to the most obvious fashion problem solver: a tailor.

You’ve got to decide what kind of shoes (heels or flats) you’re going to wear with full-length palazzo pants and then hem those suckers to wherever they’ll hit just above the ground (but absolutely never touching the ground, lest you wish to appear as if someone spiked your drink with a shrinking potion and it’s just starting to kick in). It’s all about keeping the line of the pant leg draped straight down, not bunching at your feet.

Opt for Cropped or Ankle Length

Forgo the headache of having to always wear heels with your wide-leg pants and opt for the cropped or ankle-length cut (any higher and you’re getting into culotte territory), which makes your ankles look like delicate twigs while gracefully skimming over your hips.

Fun trick: For someone like me at 5’2” with a 28-inch inseam, buying “ankle length” trousers often means I get the full-length effect sans a trip to the tailor. Who decided that a 28-inch inseam is default ankle length? I’ll have to thank them for that loophole.

Or Just Cut Your Own Hem

The good news is that apparently it is a very cool look to leave the hem raw or unfinished, so you can virtually cut any of these jeans yourself to your desired length and just let them unravel ever so chicly. Some would have you believe that the mullet hem is something you should do but honestly, the whole thing reeks of micro-trend, which will probably have you lopping off that party in the back next week.

Beware of Scale

The model in the Urban Outfitters product listing will make it look like these wide-leg culottes are modestly calf-grazing, but don’t be fooled, my shimpy one — they will most likely come up at perfect ankle length for you. What is the perfect ankle length? Ideally, right above your ankle bone. It’s all about showing some ankle; after all, ankles are basically the décolleté of the legs. Keep in mind that a high waist gives the appearance of longer legs, while low-cut waists tend to visually stunt your height, with the girth of the pant leg only further contributing to this funhouse effect. A crop top or tucked-in bodysuit can do your stature much more elegant justice than something like an oversized T-shirt if height is your concern.

Rachel Comey Wide Leg Denim Pants, $345
Rachel Comey Wide Leg Denim Pants, $345
Zara Cropped Mid-Rise Jeans, $49.90
Zara Cropped Mid-Rise Jeans, $49.90

Embrace the Mom Jean

If you are intrigued by wide-leg pants but aren’t totally yet sold, a way to dip your thighs into the wide-legged waters is by looking into mom jeans, or the answer and solution to the butt-disappearing boyfriend jean: girlfriend jeans. These modern (and slightly ironic) iterations are much cooler and more flattering than their predecessors. It’s easy enough to simply cuff them at ankle length, but it’s that clean line look that really elongates. I don’t doubt that once your thighs get a taste of all that wiggle room, you’ll be fitting your mom jeans into heavy wardrobe rotation.

Then Advance to Kick Flare Level

Here’s a wildcard — the kick flare, a.k.a. short flared jeans. They sounded like a nightmare to me at first, but then I saw them on Alexa Chung and immediately bit my tongue (then again, Alexa Chung is very tall and thin and could wear a polka-dotted burlap sack and it would make me want to buy that burlap sack). It’s a wide, wider, widest situation as the eye traces down the leg, so a heel in any form would do this look best.

One Must Know the Rules Before One Can Break the Rules

If all of the above makes logical sense to your sartorial brain, please bear with me for this one. You can go full-on chic shrimp, donning a pair of Common Projects sneakers (or those very fancy Céline slip-on sneakers that look a lot like Vans slip-on sneakers) under your cropped wide-leg sweats for a thoroughly minimal normcore aesthetic.

Yes, you will probably look real petite, but not only can this look cute, it mostly just takes a too-cool-to-care attitude to pull it off with aplomb. A fashion Don’t thoroughly owned by you is always going to be a much more interesting look than a fashion Do worn with resentful compliance.

Honestly, there’s no height-related excuse as to why you can’t give wide-leg pants a go (unless you hate them and think they’re ugly — in which case, oh okay fine). But in conclusion: tailors. Show some ankle. When in doubt, mules.