Cropped pants have been mainstream for three years and there is no stopping the trend for Spring and Summer. Note that by cropped pants I mean lengths that finish just above the ankle bone or a few inches above it. They come in a wide variety of silhouettes, from tapered to flared hems and from fitted to baggy styles.

Cropped pants have a notorious potential for being unflattering by cutting the leg in a way that can be visually shortening and stumpifying. But after dressing numerous clients in an assortment of cropped pants styles it is clear to me that this isn’t always the case. You can often make cropped pants work by paying attention to one or more of the following five variables.

  1. The footwear silhouette: Wearing heeled or flat footwear that in some way closes the gap on the ankle visually lengthens the length of the pants, which offsets the stump factor. Wear booties or sandal booties with higher shafts, or footwear with ankle straps that are positioned above the ankle bone. 
  2. The length of the cropped pants: Most cropped pants are too long because the models are generally taller than average. If you are going to show your ankles, SHOW your ankles. Make the silhouette fashionably intentional so that it doesn’t look like you’re wearing normal length pants that are too short. This is especially true when you are wearing footwear that does not close the gap, like regular pumps, loafers, flats or sandals.
  3. The contrast between your pants hem and your footwear: Creating a low colour contrast between pants and footwear elongates the leg line. This is most effective when wearing footwear that closes the gap like ankle strap styles or booties with higher shafts.  
  4. The height of your top: Wearing a tucked top, semi-tucked top, or a cropped top that showcases the waistband of the pants lengthens the leg line from the thighs up. 
  5. The height of your heels: Higher heels generally lengthen the leg line and make you look taller.

Here are some examples to make things more clear.

In this first picture the Zara model is wearing heeled, high shaft sandal booties that close the gap thereby, satisfying #1 and #5. The cropped pants are also a little shorter, which satisfies #2. There is however, a high contrast between the booties and the pants, and the top does not expose the waistband of the pants. #3 and #4 have not been employed, but the look is just flattering enough. The leg line would look even longer if the sandal booties were white (low contrast).

Zara - 1

The Ann Taylor model is wearing her crops shorter than ankle length with a tucked top and heeled pumps, satisfying #2, #4 and #5. The gap has not been closed with high shaft footwear, nor do the pumps create a low contrast with the pants.

Ann Taylor

The second Zara model is wearing flared cropped pants with ankle strap flats that are low contrast to the colour of the pants, satisfying #1 and #3. Although the top is untucked, the top and bottom are low contrast to each other and create a column of colour that further elongates the leg line.

Zara - 2

The Free People model is wearing her cropped flares shorter than ankle length with a partially tucked top, satisfying #2 and #4. The shorter length makes the style look deliberate, and not like she’s wearing bootcuts that are too short.

Free People - 1

The second Free People model is wearing her kick crops shorter with a tucked top which satisfies #2 and #4. The column of white lengthens the line of the outfit, but she could have left the top untucked for a similar effect. Although not strictly heels, the flatforms do add a bit of height.

Free People - 2

The Nordstrom model is wearing black ankle length flared trousers with heeled black sandal booties and a tucked top, satisfying #1, #3, #4 and #5. Note that the same would have been true if she was wearing flats.


I wear high-shafted ankle booties with my shorter length, high-waisted cropped pants. I also tuck my top, which means that I’m employing #1, #2, #4 and #5. In warm weather, I will wear white ankle strap flats (Franco Sarto Holts) with a white tucked shirt. In this way I will be employing #1, #2, #3 and #4, because the white ankle strap flats create a low contrast against the floral pants. 

Feel free to ask questions below if anything isn’t clear.