Tips for Finding the Best Pants for Every Body Type
I recently went on a mission to buy a new pair of khakis. Sounds like a simple task, right? Ladies, you know that’s not true! I spent hours trudging from store to store trying on pair after pair. For me, the frustration of shopping for pants is second only to buying a new bathing suit!
I persevered, managing to FINALLY find a pair that fit relatively well and actually looked OK. It would have been much easier and taken less time had I done my research beforehand. Well, better late than never!
I have compiled a list of handy tips to help find the best pants for every body type. I hope this will make your next shopping expedition a little less stressful. Imagine that, we can now enjoy shopping for pants!
Straight-leg pants are an ideal style for any body type. I’m not talking about skinny leg pants. Straight legs have a uniform width from the thigh to the hem—not too narrow and not too wide. The look is flattering because it creates a straight visual line along the leg.
Straight-leg pants camouflage wide hips and heavy thighs, thus slimming your silhouette. Be careful to avoid pants that taper even slightly at the ankle. This will throw things off balance and make your hips look wider. Obviously, this style is also great for slender women and those of us lacking in adequate rear padding. Tall or petite, slender, or plus-size, straight-leg pants are a winner for every body type.
The gaucho cut resurfaced several years ago and is still on the style radar. Gaucho pants fit like regular pants at the waist and upper hip. They began a gradual flare at the mid- to lower hip, continuing to the hemline—typically just below the knee. Gauchos are a great option for summer, as they give you the cooling benefits of a skirt and the modesty of cropped pants. You can find them in casual and dressy fabrics. You can even wear them in the winter months. Choose a weightier fabric and pair them with tights and knee-high boots.
If you are tall and have long legs, gaucho pants are perfectly suited for you. However, other body types can pull off the look by following a few rules. If you are petite but have a long torso and legs, you can rock gauchos just like your taller counterparts. If you have a short midsection and legs, stick with gaucho pants that have a less dramatic flair and longer length. Pair them with heels or thin wedges to add height. Also, stay away from dark colors as they will add the illusion of weight to your lower half and shorten your petite stature. Light color gauchos will help elongate your body.
Tall, full-figured women can also wear this style with no problem. If you are plus-size with a short torso and legs, follow the same rules as petites. Another caveat of wearing gaucho pants involves any size woman with heavy calves and thick ankles. In this case, opt for a longer-length gaucho—almost a palazzo pant with a moderate heel, to draw attention away from the lower leg area.
Boot Cut Pants
These pants feature a traditional fit through the waist and hips, with straight legs—the only difference being the slight flare as they reach the hem. The boot cut was obviously designed to fit over work and cowboy boots. Today, it designates a versatile pant style that can be worn with any type of footwear.
If you have a full figure, boot cut pants will give your legs a longer, leaner look. Petites will benefit from this style by wearing heels to help elongate the legs. Boot cut pants provide the same benefits as straight-leg pants. They make you look slimmer, complement your curves, and are a great match for any body type!
I wish I had better news, but this is something I can’t budge on. Sadly, skinny pants are not a look for everyone. They may be very fashionable, but many women have issues with them. If you’re on the fence about skinny pants, here’s the number one thing to consider: they were designed for and look best on women with a svelte figure —one that is not too thin, not too full.
The good news is skinny pants look good whether you’re petite or tall, but if you are harboring extra pounds or have a naturally curvaceous figure, you probably want to steer clear of them.
What did we do without cropped pants? The Gods were smiling on us when designers introduced them several years back. My hope is they stay around for a very long time! For those of us who like to be comfortable in the summer heat, but feel uncomfortable wearing shorts (i.e., exposing our thighs to the general population), cropped pants give us the best of both worlds.
You can own the cropped pant look, but you must find the right length for your body type to pull it off successfully. If you have large calves, select cropped pants with a hem that falls below the widest part of your calf. Ankle length are the perfect compromise for women with heavy legs.
Petite women should be aware that cropped pants can visually cut the length of your legs, making you appear even shorter. To elongate the body, petites and full-figures should choose straight leg cropped pants and avoid cuffs, cargo pockets and other decorative accents. Keep it simple.
Tall women should stay away from cropped pants that hit just above the ankle. Go with a mid-calf length to avoid looking like you’ve outgrown your pants. If you have thin legs and ankles, find a cropped pant that fits slightly closer to the leg—that tip is applicable for women of every size.
As with most pant styles, tall, slender women have no problem wearing wide-leg pants. There are a number of stylists that believe full-figured and petite women should avoid them altogether. I happen to disagree. I believe, with a flattering fit, most women will look fabulous wearing wide-leg pants.
Wide-leg pants are not designed to fit tightly through the hips—the leg should fall straight down from the hip to the hem, with no curvature in the side seam or inseam. Believe it or not, a pair of properly fitting, wide-leg pants can create and long, slender profile. Dark color fabrics will further enhance that effect.
If you are petite, consider this rule for wearing wide-leg pants: if you’re on the slim side, pick high-waisted styles (sans pleats) to give your legs the appearance of length. Pair your wide-leg pants with a chunky heel to also elongate the leg—this tip applies to everyone.
Finding the Right Fit
Finding the right size and fit is critical for selecting any style of pants—no matter your body type or stature. Baggy pants will increase your girth, and tight pants will emphasize things we typically want to hide. When trying to determine the proper waist size, you should be able to place two fingers comfortably inside the waistband to ensure a comfortable fit.
When shopping, it is always a good idea to bring along another set of eyes—preferably someone who will give you an honest assessment. If not, you will have to rely on your own judgment and that of the salesperson—and as we all know, salespeople don’t always have our best interests at heart!
I spotted a great sizing guide from Talbot’s website. I have taken their size, waist, and hip measurements, and consolidated them into one nifty chart. Do keep in mind, however, that sizing varies greatly between manufacturers and price points. For instance, a pair of size 10 Merona pants from Target will run smaller than a Ralph Lauren size 10. To be on the safe side, check online sizing charts for the manufacturers you intend to shop and go with their sizing parameters.
And don't fret too much if you can't find that perfect fit in the store. If you are handy with a sewing machine, you can do your own pants alterations. I happen to be between sizes right now, so I try to find the best sale price I can, then take them in to be altered. Alterations (with the exception of hemming) can be pricey, so shop around for the best deal and avoid lined pants—lining increases the price substantially.
You're now armed with all the information you need to find the best pants for your body type. Go out there and have fun shopping!
Questions & Answers
I have thin legs so what kind of pants should I wear?
Wear straight leg, wide or boot-cut pants to conceal your thin legs. You can also wear pants in light colors or bold patterns.Helpful 6
Where do I find wide leg pants?
Do an online search to find wide leg pants. That way you can compare the style and price you want.Helpful 3
What pants should I wear if my hips are slightly curvy?
It is best to find a mid-rise or just below the waist to keep the pants up over the hips. Also, look for a boot cut, flared or straight leg pants to balance out your curvy hips. Stay away from skinny jeans. Hope this helps.Helpful 2
I have heavy calves that are bigger than most women in my size. What style do you recommend?
Straight-leg or wide-leg pants are very flattering. The wider leg opening easily conceals large calves and creates visual balance. Hope this is an option for the body type!Helpful 1
Where can one find a long, wide leg pant for a reasonable price?
Do an online search to find wide leg pants. That way you can compare the style and price you want.Helpful 1
© 2012 Linda Chechar