Three Rules for Women’s Pant Lengths

I was once in the dressing room of a store and a girl told the tailor to hem her pants to an in-between length so she could wear them with flats or heels. I cringed. A frequent fashion error that women (and men) make is wearing pants that are improper lengths. If they are too long it can look messy and ill-fitting while too short can cut off leg lines and look choppy. The correct pant length can be attained by following these three rules.

1) Flats OR heels, not both.  The same pair of pants cannot (except cropped, see below) be worn with flats or heels. Have a few pair of pants that are tailored to each height. With heels the hem of the pant should be about half an inch above the ground, or just enough to not drag when you walk. Standard heels are 3.5″ so just take your favorite pair when having your pants hemmed.  Flats should also be just high enough to not rub the floor.

2) Cropped/Ankle pants.  A pant length that does work well with flats or heels are cropped pants that hit right around the ankle bone.  Ankle pants should have a slim leg and be tapered at the ankle otherwise you will end up with capri pants. These look great with heels as they create a long leg line as well as adding a hint of skin. Ankle pants also showcase pretty flats as the pant leg is not covering the shoe.

3) Never Wear Capris-Never.  Whoever invented capri pants, both dress and casual, clearly never looked in a mirror. Capri pants cut off around mid-calf and give everyone an awkward leg line. There are more flattering cuts for everyone so even if your office is 100 degrees, resist the temptation and just wear a skirt.


  1. Avatar Serge says:

    As for Capris, it’s not that nobody should wear them, it’s that the people who DO wear them are precisely the ones who SHOULDN’T. They look fine on long-legged thin women in flats, especially if they happen to be riding a Vespa. For everyone else, they make you look stumpy.

    Your tips on what goes with flats and heels is right on. Another fashion faux pas too many women make has to do with how revealing the shoe is. The more of the foot is shown, the higher the pants need to be. If you’re wearing sandals, for example, the hemline should be above the ankle at the very least.

  2. Avatar Stephanie Lee says:

    “Standard heels are 3.5””
    Well, maybe that’s what some gals wear, but I have a lot of heels in my closet of varying heights, but none go above 3”. Because if they did, I would fall over! (And that wouldn’t be very professional, would it.)

    Seriously, if you keep your heels on the shorter side, I think you can get away with fudging this as long as your pants aren’t too short. You know, let them be on the shorter side when you’re wearing heels, on the longer side when you’re wearing flats, and worry about meeting your work deadlines or whatever.

    Addendum to the never-wear-capris-rule: Exception if you’re Audrey Hepburn.

  3. Avatar Susan Gainen says:

    For law students going to their first clerk positions, ask three questions (even in the 21st century):

    1. Is there a presumption of hosiery?
    2. Are closed-toed shoes required?
    3. If your job may have you in court, ASK whether pants are acceptable. There are still courts where judges still frown on them.
  4. Avatar Vincent says:

    I disagree with the “never”. But people should realize that capris are not appropriate business attire.
    When Audrey Hepburn first showed up in them in Sabrina it was supposed to be scandalous because they were at best vacation beach wear, and not something you went visiting in. (she visits Bogart wearing a trench coat and takes it off to reveal capris and a black shirt beneath – much to Bogart’s apparent shock)

  5. Avatar Chrissy says:

    I agree about capri pants! These are horrid on everyone and so unflattering. I would say that standard heels are more like 3″. All the business women I see are wearing their flared dresspants dragging and covering their stilettos. Mine always drag as well as all my jeans. Here are my bell bottom work pants and my flared jeans lengths with heels. Thanks for a great article.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      I’m no female fashion plate, but I do know that cuffs dragging on the ground looks sloppy, not stylish.

      • Avatar Chrissy says:

        If this is true then there a lot of slobs out there! This look is very common and stylish. Niether one of my pics show a sloppy look. These are very nice looks and my work outfit has a perfectly appropriate and typical pant length worn in the corporate world.

        • Avatar Sam Glover says:

          Yes, but your cuffs aren’t actually dragging on the ground in the jeans picture, at least. It’s an important difference.

          • Avatar Chrissy says:

            Doesn’t matter. This is just an example. My other jeans do drag and there is a reason almost all women wear their flare jeans and slacks dragging the floor. It’s sexy, flattering and professional.

        • Avatar Panache says:

          People often do wear their pants dragging on the floor, doesn’t mean if the whole world does it it looks great. It doesn’t!! Also if you have great shoes, why not show them off!!!!
          Many people just don’t know what looks good, don’t care or don’t want to pay a tailor.
          I am on the shorter side and have had to have every pair of pants I wear hemmed. Petite pants don’t fit, I am only short in the legs. It costs a lot and I can never just buy a pair and walk out the door, but I don’t worry about my pants wearing out at the bottom, look wayyyy more professional and get to show off great shoes. What’s not to like?!?

    • Avatar Panache says:

      From the pictures it looks like one pant leg is dragging the ground and the other not. Don’t know if it’s just the picture, the way you are wearing your pants or a disparity in your legs.
      Many, many people have one leg shorter than the other, extremely common. The same amount of shoe that is shown and where the pant sits relative to the ground should be the same, another reason many people have to use a tailor.

  6. Avatar BonBons says:

    What’s the fuss? Women who dress well know when their skirt length is becoming. Ditto for capris. Wear them hemmed at their most becoming length. More important is the physical condition of the body wearing them.

  7. Avatar Yo Mama says:

    If there is something I hate are self proclaimed fashion police officers. Most fashion rules are idiotic. Some idiot 99% have never met in NY, Paris, or Milan telling everyone else what, when, and how to wear. Seriously people, if people minded more in their own business and not that of others, this would be a much happier world.

    To wear capris or not to wear them, that is not the question. The question is why are you so unhappy that you have to mind?

    I seriously do not care what others think. I wear what I do because I like it. I do not follow trends. I don’t care for what others are wearing. If you like it and you think you look good, then the hell with others. I live by a very simple rule. Live and let live as long as you are hurting others.

    Come on people, stop letting others control you so much and live your life like tomorrow was you last day. Because one of these days it will be your last. If you knew that today was your last day, would you care so much what others thought of you? Would you want your last days trying to please others? I doubt, even though I am sure there is some idiot out there would would spend their last day buying the latest and greatest fashion to go out with in style. If that is you, then for crying out loud, you deserve to die like an idiot.

    Sorry for being so blunt, but I hate people who go around criticizing others. I could sit here and say how stupid pants that drag on the floor look. I have seen some that look even dirty. To me that looks like you did not care or could not afford to get your pants hemmed. But see, who am I to judge, you like pants that look that way, they make you feel good and beautiful, then by all means wear them. You are 50 and want to wear short shorts, hell, by all means go for it! Let others be unhappy and to worry about everything.

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