+ Career Style

Career Style: Cropped Trousers

On Monday, some of you expressed an interest in learning how to wear J.Crew’s new, cropped suit pants.  So I thought that I would accommodate that request.

Before we begin, let me say that cropped trousers will look good on only a limited number of women.  To wear this style well, you need to have long, slender (or at least proportional) legs.  This style will be a challenge for pear-shaped women (like me) and very tough for women who are long torsoed (also, like me).  That being said, here are some tips for finding cropped suit pants.

First off, the pants must touch or be longer than the ankle bone.  This will still give you the slim, modern look you want, but it won’t cut off the leg in a weird place and make you look stumpy.  

Secondly, the leg opening must be slim or tapered.  I’ve seen wide and flare-legged cropped trousers and they’re just ugly.  If you want the Audrey Hepburn look, you need a slim-fitting pant.  No exceptions.  Otherwise, you’re just wearing capris.  And we all know how I feel about capris. 

Third, be prepared to be honest with yourself about how they really fit.  I’ve tried on close to 15 pairs of ankle length trousers because Anh at 9to5 Chic makes them look so cute.  But I’m not built like Anh, God gave me hips and they don’t look lovely in slim, cropped trousers.  They look like I’m trying to smuggle bags of of money out under my trousers.  

So, if you get to the store and the pants don’t look good on you, walk away.  Not every trend is made for every body.

So how should you wear cropped suit pants?  Sure, you could wear them with the blazer, if you have the smallest tush known to man.  But if you don’t have a perfectly toned backside (and seriously, what office employee does?), you need to switch out the blazer for a long cardigan because these pants are going to be snug.  

(Also, this would be a good time to mention that with a tight fitting trouser, you need a thong or a lace boyshort.  Non-negotiable.)


Cropped Suit Pants



Here we mixed a long(ish) slim fit pant with a printed blouse and a slightly funky long cardigan.  I also added a blue bracelet to bring out the blue in the blouse, and pewter earrings to coordinate with the bracelet.  Lastly, the booties are totally adorable, but sadly, unavailable in my size.
Typically, when wearing a cropped trouser, the biggest fashion mistakes are committed with the footwear.  When wearing cropped pants you need to wear heels to lift the tush and balance out the leg line.  Unless, of course, you are a nine-foot-tall Glamazon with legs that go up to your neck, flats will make you look shorter and plumper.
This is no bueno.
You should also choose a shoe that shows some skin.  Here, the booties show a bit of the foot, but you could also wear a traditional pump or an open-toe shoe.  You need the skin to balance and elongate.
If you choose to wear cropped pants, be prepared to try on three or four pair.  Be prepared to size up.  Be prepared to not like them and walk away, but not blame yourself or your body.  I could lose 20lbs and these pants would still look bad on me.  So when I try them on, I don’t cry, I don’t feel sorry for myself, I say, oh well, and move on.  Be prepared to do the same.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll look amazing in them and wonder how you ever lived without them, but don’t blame yourself if you don’t.  Try them on.  Evaluate.  Decide.  


    leave a comment

  1. KLo says:

    I love this post! And wish I could find a blouse like this that I can wear. And I can't wait to go try on 15 pairs of cropped pants.

    March 9, 2011/Reply
  2. Caitlin @WoreOutVT says:

    First off let me say how glad I am that I found your blog! I love your writing style almost as much as I love your fashion sense. Thank you for providing us all with some no nonsense fashion advice. Oh and I totally agree with you that when it come to tight trousers the right under garments are crucial! My boyfriend and I will be visiting family in DC in April and I would love your thoughts on an outfit that would be comfortable enough for walking around the national mall all day but chic enough to wear out for dinner and drinks.

    March 9, 2011/Reply
  3. Sara says:

    Not sure if my first comment worked, so I am reposting.

    I have a question for you, Belle. Are slim, cropped pants really just a trend, not a classic wardrobe staple? Audrey Hepburn made the look famous, and she's a fashion icon (but maybe that's just my opinion). I only ask because I have no idea about fashion trends v. classic staples, and I want to avoid a fashion faux pas…

    March 9, 2011/Reply
  4. gingerr says:

    Belle – is this a professional look in your office? It isn't telegraphing executive-level to me.

    I've certainly seen gals walking around in outfits like this at work but it's pretty flashy.

    March 10, 2011/Reply
  5. Belle says:


    My office really has two dress codes: Monday/Friday and Tues-Thurs. I'd wear this on a Friday. But I usually wear a jacket Tues-Thurs. But I think most offices in DC (off hill) are much more casual than the Hill.

    March 10, 2011/Reply
  6. Belle says:

    Sara-If these work for your body type than they can be a classic. If it's iffy, I'd say you can wear it for a couple of seasons and then retire it.

    March 10, 2011/Reply
  7. VA says:

    From the perspective of someone working at a DC NGO, this would fall well within our office's “business casual” dress code – provided, of course, the fit is appropriate.

    March 10, 2011/Reply