Ask Allie: Cropped Wide Leg Jeans

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Question: could you do a post about styling the trendy cropped wide leg jeans? I have a pair in black like this that I scored at a thrift store, but I am 5'4″ and have curves and in my 30s.

Collage of nine women wearing cropped wide leg jeans featured by popular DC petite fashion blogger, Wardrobe OxygenI'm going to give you some advice that you likely don't want. But I see you readers as my friends and this is what I would tell a friend.

Hardly anyone looks good in cropped wide leg jeans. This is part of the trend that has been happening for the past decade where designers make traditionally unflattering clothes to evoke a feeling of I could care less, I'm so chic I can make a paper bag look stylish. Cropped wide leg jeans are always modeled on very slender tall women, often with a pair of aviator-frame glasses, a fitted tee with a witty saying in French, and a pair of $400 sneakers or $400 clog-style sandals. Even those tall slender women wearing those yellow-tinted aviators and foregoing a shower for dry shampoo would likely look better in a pair of classic Levi's 501s.

About a decade ago, I owned similar jeans. I got them from Gap, at the time they were called gauchos. I freaking loved those cropped wide leg jeans. I'd style them with a tube top or fitted tank, a funky necklace… and then wish I could go barefoot. Once I put shoes on my 5'3″ curvy frame I looked squat, thick, and dumpy. Go through my blog's archives and you'll see I either wore them with flip flops or with stiletto heels. Both looked lame, but they looked better than anything else. And I tried. Lord, I tried. I must have bought five different pairs of shoes to try to make them work with these gauchos.

I ended up cutting off my gauchos and turned them into shorts which went to many a music festival with me. When the trend returned a couple years ago I regretted cutting off my gauchos… for a hot second. And then I was glad I did it so I didn't have to try to force a trend to work on me.

Some things are just not easy to wear. It's not you, it's the clothes. If you have to work hard to make an item in your closet work, it doesn't deserve to be in there. No garment deserves so much attention and stress to work. Our lives are busy and stressful enough, our closets shouldn't add to it.

Collage of nine women wearing cropped wide leg jeans featured by popular DC petite fashion blogger, Wardrobe Oxygen
A few ideas on how to wear cropped wide leg jeans if they fit with your figure and personal style.

Sure you could wear these cropped wide leg jeans with some low-profile trendy sneakers or a pointed-toe flat or a pair of nude or soft metallic sandals that aren't too bulky. On top you can wear a fitted tee with a witty saying in French or any language, or a spaghetti strap silky cami tucked in with a scarf in your belt loops, or a slouchy off the shoulder knit top found at Anthropologie that can showcase your multiple delicate gold necklaces. But if you're writing to me to figure out how to make these cropped wide leg jeans work I am guessing it's because you either don't have these items in your closet or you do and you tried and it still doesn't look quite right.

It's not you, it's the clothes.

It's not you, it's the clothes.

Let me say it again because with popular trends and brands and Instagram you may not fully believe it. But it's true. It's not you, it's the clothes.

Your email is a good reminder to everyone, myself included that we are square pegs and a lot of fashion is round holes. We try to shove ourselves into those round holes with compression garments, uncomfortable shoes, and over-shopping thinking there's that perfect something that will make us suddenly chic. Style comes from within you, not within your closet. You are fabulous just the way you are. You deserve clothing that doesn't require so much effort and so little payback.

And once again for those in the back… it's not you, it's the clothes.

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  1. Hey Alison – several years late to this post, but it still applies. Love your honesty! I’m a 5’3″ 130 lb gal, and fussy about fit. I think everyone can wear wide legs but it is all about proportion- not just hem lines. A 5’11 model looks amazing wearing a 14″ (flat) wide leg, but in order for us petites to pull it off, that leg width has to be proportionally reduced as well. So if I’m 10% shorter, that leg has to be taken in by an inch or so, so you’re losing about 2″ in volume. Great if you can sew, and don’t care about losing french seams. Not so good if you need to go to a tailor.

  2. I am slightly confused I heard that the wide leg and high waisted IS for the 5 foot to 5’4 petite who is curvier to neutralize the hips? I hate the pear shape that I am and jeans are not my friends. I find wide leg dress pants to be the best slimming look on me but when going more casual I am at a loss. I don’t do casual well. Your article confuses me from what other personal stylist are saying is meant for pear shape types. I am not the type to go with the flow by any means but when you dont love your own shape you have a hard time loving yourself in anything I listen to outside sources more. I get it dont conform to stupid trends but is this a stupid trend? I eventually gave in to the skinny jean phase and it doesn’t look good at all tired of switching up and just want some advice on what’s best for the shape of a pear. I am learning to love myself as I am but its a long journey.

    1. Hi Yvette,
      Just putting in my two cents here, to address your concern as am also a curvy, pear-shaped petite.
      Petites come in all shapes and sizes. Petites can be slender or curvy and busty. Wide-legged, mid-rise dress trousers and mid-rise straight jeans look good on me, but high-rise anything does not look good because when i tuck in the top/shirt the overall look is quite top-heavy. Dressy trouser fabrics are flowy and not thick so it has a slimming effect, whereas denim is relatively thicker so it has the opposite effect of adding unwanted bulk, which is a big no-no especially if you do not have a slender frame.
      I too was contemplating on whether to buy a pair of wide-legged jeans but after reading this article I will stick to my mid-rise straight jeans. Fashion trends should work for all body shapes and sizes. I agree with this article. If I have to work hard to make a trend work for me then it’s not worth it.
      From personal experience I would say that Levis jeans are the most pear-friendly denim out there. Do check them out if you haven’t.
      It’s’s tough but not impossible to accept and love our bodies for what they are and then find your own personal style that works for it. Hope that helped.

  3. Love your response! It *is* the clothes.

    Growing up my mom, sister and I would shop together, and Mom always had the same response when something we tried on didn’t look right: “That does nothing for you.” She had it right — clothes are supposed to do something for you, not the other way around. Blame the clothes.

    A while back I went to a store where the salespeople help style you. The salesperson had me trying on pants — lots and lots of pants. None of them were flattering. The salesperson’s explanation: “You have athletic thighs.” Um, what?!? How did my legs become part of this conversation? The pants did nothing for me. Blame them — and kindly keep your thoughts about my thighs and their shape to yourself.

    Needless to say, I haven’t gone back to the store for any more “help.” I shop their online site only because I got a great striped sweater there that I love. (Since, I know you’re looking, here’s another striped top I wear all the time. The sleeves are cute, the fabric nice enough for under blazers at work and the neckline is just right: https://www.macys.com/shop/product/vince-camuto-drawstring-sleeve-top?ID=5507884)

  4. I’m a little disappointed in your reaction to this. Just because it’s not a look that you like doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering.

    I don’t care for skinny jeans, I don’t think they do anything for my curvy figure besides make my thighs look big. My figure is such that I really need to wear a belt with pants and that adds bulk under the long tops that often go with skinny jeans.

    High-waisted wider legged pants flatter me as they accentuate my waist and fall straight over my thighs. I’m under 5’5″ so cropped styles come down past the widest part of my calf, and leave my trim ankle exposed. I think they look good with deep cleavage shoes or open sandals. If you want to wear laced up sneakers with cropped jeans I think it’s better to go with mini-flares. I my high waisted wide legged pants with a short fitted top and/or jacket that hits no longer than high hip. While I have muscular thighs I don’t have a draping apron across the tummy and the flat front of the pants looks good.

    The downside of them, at least for me, is that they’re a pant that really needs warm weather. I don’t like them with socks or boots, so with a bulky top. So they aren’t a 3 season item and probably don’t belong in minimalist closets.

    1. It sounds as though you know how to style this look and that is fantastic! My post is for those who struggle to make a trend work for them. If you have to work at a look, it may not be the best choice. Life’s too short to work so hard to make clothes work. On the opposite, life’s too short to not wear what you love so rock those pants I bet you look fabulous!

    2. This! I’m laughing as I’m reading this blog post because that is *exactly* how I felt about skinny jeans for the 10+ years when they were the only socially acceptable option for younger women/girls in my age cohort and city. I have a severely pear shaped body (no, not fat) with a small waist and annoyingly large hips/thighs. Assuming I could even find pants that weren’t either too tight on my thighs or too large at the waist (which means they gape out when I sit down and may even slide down when I walk), it used to be insanely difficult to find something that actually looked good on my disproportionately wide butt. I used to sometimes wear out-of-style bootcut jeans because they were the only option I could find that kind of looked OK on me, although being as out of style as I was felt just as unflattering as wearing an in-style cut that just wasn’t made for someone with my shape.

      I’m so thankful wide leg jeans are in style now. Finally, pants that don’t define my thigh bulges/saddlebags/butt in all their awkward detail! Pants that balance me out! Pants that define my waist, that don’t just make me look fat, because you can actually see the thinner part of my body with the high waist! Pants that are made for tucking in a more fitted top and creating a silhouette that is flattering on pear-shaped women!

      These pants aren’t inherently unflattering. They’re just shocking to women who never had a major issue with the slimmer styles that dominated the past decade. Don’t complain that these pants aren’t made to flatter anyone — they’re just not made to flatter your body, and that says absolutely nothing about your own worth or the clothing designers’ worth.

      I would echo the sentiment that it’s not you, it’s the pants. If they don’t work for you, congrats — you’ve discovered the clothing struggles that come with body diversity, the struggles that women with a different shape had to deal with for the past decade when they were the ones who the pants weren’t made for. Don’t complain that this particular style needs to leave when it’s the only truly flattering option for some of us who had to suffer for so long, and when you have plenty of other options that are in style right now.

      I’d be willing to be you still look great in other options that are in style, maybe straight leg jeans or mom jeans or high-waisted skinnies. If this particular option doesn’t work for you, it’s not the end of the world.

  5. I love anything with wide legs! I think they especally work if you’re like me with a waist one size smaller than your hips and generally not great legs. My vote for shoes is a substantial looking wedge. I’m 5’9″ so that works in my favor for this look too.

  6. After reading Allie’s advice and all the comments, I went to the original poster’s link to see her pants and found this banner ad:

    “The most flattering pant you’ll ever try”

    Oh, so funny!

  7. I love this so much!!!
    I haven’t even been bothered to try this trend, because I just know how much work it will be. I haven’t got time for that! I want clothes that look good with minimum fuss at the shops or afterwards. At 5 foot, these are going to be hard work and frankly they don’t even look that comfortable…

  8. I’ve got a slightly different perspective…at 5’9.5 and self consciously slightly knock kneed, they make me feel tall and elegant and perfect. I love them!!!

  9. Hallelujah!! I was just online browsing today and thinking to myself that so many of these silhouettes are just playing around with weird angles to add to tall, slim frames.

  10. I also had a pair of wide legged cropped pants 10 years ago! They were khaki and I bought them from the Gap. And I too wore them with a tube top and a chunky necklace! And they did terrible things for my belly and my thighs. They looked awful. Never again.

  11. Thanks so much Allie! I don’t think those stupid pants even look good on the tall, thin models. The pants just have a ridiculous silhouette. OK, so if one’s intention is to be funny and make people laugh, why not go all out? Wear full clown make-up, costume, shoes. That way, there will be no doubt that one intentionally is looking silly.

  12. I want to look good in wide legged crops! I’ve tried a pair and ended up returning them. I kept eyeing a pair online at Nordstrom (Ashley Graham) and yet I know that they won’t work for me! I’m 5’10 and I think the only way they look decent is if you wear a good heel with them and my knees/hips don’t like that much these days. 🙁

  13. Thank you for your honesty! And the reality you articulated about models vs most bodies. There are SO many trends that are in this category. We have a family friend named Barbara who is built like those models. Every time my DH suggests I try something on that he sees in a catalog, I have to check and then often say, Sorry, that’s a Barbara outfit. Luckily, he has finally picked up on it and can now notice it himself. Progress.

    And just NO to those pants. I, too, wore them as gauchos back when I was younger and thinner. And they still weren’t flattering. 😉

  14. Allie,
    Thanks for your perspective. It is so refreshing to have a fashion blogger give permission to just pass on a [ridiculous] trend. This is why I’ve kept up with your blog for so long. <3

  15. Thank you for your candor. I keep being tempted by the way they look on the models but then I remember that I’m six inches shorter and probably fifty pounds heavier.

  16. Love this post. I have a favorite pair of wide-legged PJ pants, and when I saw they had come out with the same ones in a cropped style, I was excited because I thought I could continue to wear my faves in warm weather and snapped them up. However, I cannot even bring myself to wear wide-legged cropped PAJAMAS IN MY HOUSE, they look so terrible. Just the freaking WORST.

  17. This is an AWESOME post. Thank you for the clear-sighted pragmatism.

    It’s not us. It’s the clothes. <3

  18. Hi, I agree with you. I tried some on in Talbots. The ladies working there told me not to buy them. They said if we, the consumers, don’t buy the trend it will go away. they had the same opinion you do. These are not flattering. I too passed on these.

  19. THANK YOU! As always, but especially with this post, your honesty is like that fresh breeze that we sometimes need to clear away the cob webs. This post, when paired with all your interesting thoughts on fashion, beauty, etc, is why I keep coming back.

  20. You tell it, Allie! This type of give-it-to-us-straight advice is the reason you have such great credibility. I actually read the initial reader’s question and said, “Hmm. I’ 5’3″ and curvy, too; I should read this in case I get a pair of wide-legged cropped pants this summer.” Yeah, no, won’t be doing that because Allison said “no way!”

    1. LOL I’ll admit I did start thinking how to style them but it was so hard for me it inspired me to write this kind of post instead. Even I get caught up in trends!

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