how to wear wide leg pants

12 Super Flattering Ideas for How to Wear Wide Leg Pants

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The clothing store changing room is a confusing and frustrating place for so many women!

On Saturday, I overheard a woman in Loft asking a stranger for feedback about an outfit she wanted to wear to a baby shower. 

The week before in Anthropologie, I heard a woman grumbling to her boyfriend about the wide leg pants options. As someone who shares her body type, I wanted to say, “girl, I see you and I get you”. 

Since starting to study at an international style school (read my announcement about that here), I’m on a mission to help reduce the confusion about clothing. I have so many exciting things in the works to help you make sense of what you’re seeing in the stores. And to help you choose pieces you love and that work for your body.   

Today, let’s start with wide leg pants. If you’re struggling to make a pair of wide leg pants work for your body type, you’re confused by the different styles of wide leg pants, or want ideas for styling a pair, you’ve come to the right place! In this post, we’ll look at how to choose a pair of wide leg pants and then look at outfit ideas to see how to make the most flattering silhouette with them. 

How to wear wide leg pants by body type

I’m personally conflicted about wide leg pants. As a triangle body type, I have curvy hips and thighs and wear size 12 jeans and pants. Wide leg pants easily fit my lower half. And that’s something to love about them. Plus, there’s something effortless about a wide leg trouser that just resonates. But when I catch myself in the mirror wearing wide leg chino pants or jeans in a stiffer fabric, because of all the extra fabric in the wide legs, they create a short and squat appearance that I don’t love. 

I know I’m not alone in this conundrum. The round body type also has challenges wearing them since they add volume to the body.

They work differently for different body types. 

The inverted triangle with broader shoulders and arms, and slimmer hips, thighs and bottom will find them to be a great option. A wider leg provides balance to your upper half, creating a more proportionate look. Visible front patch pockets work great on you to add visual weight to your lower half. 

The rectangular body type is also a perfect match for wider leg pants. Since your hips and shoulders are proportional, wide leg pants help to create curves for you. Look for a pair that hugs and highlights your rear end and that has back pockets. And wear them with high heels that elongate your legs and enhance your height. Be sure to wear a belt to add waist definition. Choose a top that maintains your balanced proportions with your bottom half. 

For an hourglass figure with proportional shoulders and hips and a well-defined waist, wide leg jeans add emphasis to your hips. Make sure to wear tops that draw the eye to the upper half to create balance. And choose a pair that maintains the round curve of your rear. 

How to select the right wide leg pants for you 

There are some important elements to consider when choosing wide leg pants. You’ll want to think about the fabric weight, pockets, leg length, rise of the waist, and color. Let’s talk about how these factors make a difference.

The width of the legs and fabric weight

Wide legs are typically wide from the hips down to the hem. If you fold the hem up to the hip, the width is the same at both spots.

However, fabric weight and fabric content make all the difference in how they hold their shape and drape. An easy-fit draping fabric trouser will fall softly in waves. A thicker fabric like you find in rigid cotton chino pants and jeans will hold the wide leg open from hips to hem.

If you feel swallowed up by them and you’re worried about adding weight to your lower half, try wide leg pants with softer and stretchier fabrics that drape, rather than denim or chino pants with rigid canvas-like cotton.

Pocket size and pocket placement 

If your pants or jeans include visible patch pockets on the hips, they will be the first element you’ll see. 

If you’re an inverted triangle and narrower on your lower half, patch and visible front pockets are perfect for you since they add visual weight to balance wider shoulders.

If you’re wider on your lower half or you have proportional shoulders and hips, visible patch pockets on the hips can be tricky. 

For triangles, they draw the eye to your widest spot. It’s best to have no visible pockets on the hips. This is also the case if you are round. Even side pockets can tug and pull, adding the appearance of extra weight. If your pockets come sewn up, just leave them that way. Or if they’re open and pull across your midsection, a tailor can sew them closed.  

For rectangles or hourglass types, they can throw off your balanced proportions. So if you wear them, be sure to emphasize your top half to keep balance between the upper and lower half. 

Also, look at back pocket placement. If you want to de-emphasize your rear, choose pockets that are centered. If you want to widen the look of your rear, choose pockets placed out towards the side hem. 

Consider the length of the pants

You’ll see both cropped and full-length wide-leg pants in the stores. Traditional style advice says to choose pants that go down to your heels to lengthen your leg line and counter the short and squat look.

But that longer length can also make your bottom half look really weighty, especially in a thick material like denim. 

As you pull on thick denim full-length wide leg pants, you may notice there’s so much fabric in them that it feels overwhelming, especially if you’re used to wearing skinny jeans.

Here’s me in a pair of wide leg, very high rise, full-length dark denim jeans.

jeans and striped top
I returned these jeans.

They hug the hips and lessen my curves from the front view, which I don’t mind. But visually, because of the very high 12-inch rise, my belly region looks wider and more pronounced. And my bottom half is all I see here, even with a white boat neck striped tee that should draw attention to my top half. In the end, I decided to return these jeans after taking this picture. I just don’t love them on me. 

I like long wide leg pants better in a soft draping fabric, like in a trouser pant like I’m wearing here. 

jean jacket and long wide-leg pants

These black trouser pants have an 11.5-inch rise in the waist. They are slightly slimmer in the thighs than your traditional wide leg pants.

My favorite way to wear them is with sneakers for a casual yet elevated look. 

Another way to lighten up the drape of a wide leg pant is to go for cropped wide leg pants that stop at the ankle or just above the ankle. They’re all over the stores right now.

I’ve always loved ankle-length pants and they’re a signature style for me. It’s a controversial choice because shorter pants mean your legs don’t look as long. But I love them. Have always loved them and don’t have any plans to stop. I’m also happy showing my ankles. If you want to keep them covered, then a full length trouser is better.

Another bonus, ankle length pants show off your cute shoes! 

Consider the rise

A higher waist will help lengthen the look of your legs. With a high waist, you increase the space devoted to your midsection. Your belly or rear may appear wider and more pronounced in them. Stylistically, if you want to enhance your rear, then high-waisted pants are great for that.

I’m thrilled about the return of high rise jeans for how well they contain my hips and bottom half. But it’s a delicate balance. A super high rise of 12 inches makes my belly look bigger. My ideal rise is around 10.5 to 11 inches. Or an inch or two below the belly button.

Consider the color

Colors draw the eye in. So if you’re trying to draw attention to one aspect of your body, wear a lighter shade or color there so the eye follows. A darker color is slimming and because it holds less light, your eye isn’t drawn to it.

For me, I want to draw attention to my slimmer upper body so I’ll wear lighter colors, bold patterns and bold colors up top. In pant styles that are harder for me to wear, I’ll choose them in a dark color. That’s one way to wear a style you love, even if it’s a trickier fit for your body.

If you want to draw the eye to your bottom half and away from your upper body, experiment with white, khaki and colored wide leg pants. 

Now, as I share these guidelines, really, anything goes with fashion. If your heart wants lighter or colored pants, go for it! That’s why this blog is called Be So You! And that’s why you’ll see me wearing pink wide leg jeans in my next blog post. The heart wants what the heart wants. It makes life more fun to follow your heart.  

How do you decide which pair to buy? When you’re trying to decide what pants to buy, take selfies in them and then look at the pictures and ask yourself what you see first, you or your pants. If your pants are all you see, then your pants are wearing you rather than the other way around. You deserve to be seen!   

In the pictures that follow, you’ll discover the styling tricks I use to create a flattering silhouette with wide leg pants.

How to style wide leg pants

When you’re styling wide leg pants, your goal is to create balanced proportions so your hips and shoulders appear to be the same width. You also want to lengthen the look of your legs. 

Are you ready to look at some outfit formulas with style tips for how to wear a pair of wide-leg pants? Let’s dive in!

Wear a fitted top

The easiest way to balance the volume of wide leg pants is to wear a fitted top. Tuck it into the pants to create a defined waistline and an hourglass shape. 

Wear the style of fitted top that’s best for your body type. Since I’m smaller on the top, I’m wearing a crewneck top with puff sleeves. The sleeves add width to my shoulders, since they are narrower than my hips. This helps to create balanced proportions between my upper and lower body. I’m also wearing a statement bib necklace, which draws the eye up toward my face and away from my lower half. 

cropped wide leg trousers and fitted puff sleeve top

These black pants are a cropped pair of wide-leg trousers from J.Crew. Black pointy toe flats help to lengthen my leg line, which I need since the pants are ankle length. 

Pair black pants with a black blazer 

An easy way to appear more slim is to pair a black blazer and black pants. Wear a neutral color or any color other than black under the blazer and the eye is drawn to the vertical sliver of color coming from the shirt. Any feature that has your eye drawn vertically rather than horizontally is slimming. I kept the bib necklace on from the last look, which draws the eye up to the face, and away from the lower half. 

black blazer and black wide leg pants

I’m also keeping on those black pointy toe flats to elongate the leg. 

Wear platform heels 

Anytime you want to counteract boxy cropped pants and make your legs look longer, the obvious way to do that is by wearing heels with them. Chunky stacked heels are my favorite way to add height and take up space within the hemline. I love these platform heels with wide leg pants.

Here’s an outfit I wore out to dinner the other night. This is a great look for date night.

trench coat outfit with platform heels

These chino pants are a cotton-elastane blend so they drape a bit. I’m wearing them with a green blouse with a high neckline that draws attention to the face and away from the bottom half. That sliver of green fabric peeking out of the trench coat creates a slimming vertical line.

Match your shoes to your pants 

I can’t help myself from loving this look! Wearing black Adidas tennis shoes that match these black cropped pants helps to lengthen the leg line. Anytime you wear the same color shoes and pants, you extend the leg line. 

sweater and cropped wide leg pants

The bright pink sweater draws the eye to the upper half of the body. It’s an unexpected, fun and sporty look. 

You may be wondering how to wear white sneakers with wide leg pants. I prefer to wear them with long trousers that are wide-legged. 

Wear full-length trousers with white sneakers

To make the legs look longer with my white sneakers, I wear them with full-length black wide leg pants. 

white sneakers and wide leg pants

This is a casual look with my gray sweatshirt and black sling bag. You’d be sporty and stylish wearing this to a sports game. 

Wear a column of one dark color 

Wearing a column of one color on the top and bottom is a great way to create a slimming silhouette overall and a very chic look. Here I’m wearing an old Ann Taylor blouse with a column of vertical stitching up the center of the blouse that cleverly draws the eye up and down.

black pants and top

These are cropped wide leg trouser pants from J.Crew. Black pointy-toe heels elongate the leg and add height with these ankle-length pants. 

Wear a lighter color up top to draw attention to the top rather than the bottom

As I mentioned above, if you want to draw attention away from your pants, wear dark pants and a lighter color up top. Here I’m wearing a white and pink striped boatneck top. The stripes draw the eye to the top of the body. And the boatneck makes my slim upper body look more in proportion to my wider hips. 

striped top and cropped black pants

On the bottom, I’m wearing my black chino cropped pants. I’m deliberately letting the shirt fall at the waistline. When I show the waistband and button in these pants with a 12-inch rise, my stomach region looks much more pronounced. Covering the waistband takes the focus off of my fuller belly. A shorter top that’s not quite a crop top would be perfect with these pants.

Let your toes peep out of your shoes

This look is very similar to the last one. But I’m wearing the cropped wide-leg trouser pants instead of the chino pants. Notice how there’s no visible button on the waistband to draw the eye like a bull’s eye. 

striped top and black pants

I’m wearing ankle wrap sandals that match my skin tone. Anytime you show your toes in your shoes, that peek of skin helps to lengthen the look of your legs. Choose an open-toe shoe with your wide leg pants to help make your legs look longer. And a skin tone color is especially elongating. 

Choose hip-length fitted and structured jackets 

When it comes to pairing your wide leg pants with a jacket, a hip-length jacket that has structure works. Like this denim jacket that ends above the widest spot on your hips.

jean jacket and cropped wide leg pants

Wear a long duster sweater

A longer duster sweater can also work. Wear a matching top and pants and create a column of color. Adding a duster over top creates a sophisticated look.

duster cardigan outfit

If I had it to do over again, I’d choose a cardigan without pockets on the hips since those draw attention to the lower half. And I prefer to de-emphasize that area.

The pointy toe flats help to elongate the legs. 

Wear a striped button-up shirt

A striped button-up shirt is one of my favorites. The collar and v-neck opening and the line of buttons up the center draws the eyes up and down. If you’re trying to add visual weight to your upper body, one or two breast pockets helps to do that. 

striped shirt and cropped wide leg pants

The black patent leather loafers add some fun shine that helps the eye move around. 

Wear cropped wide-leg pants with black ankle boots

If you’re looking to wear wide leg cropped pants in the winter, choose a pair of black pointy toe ankle boots that fit easily under the wide hem of the pants. These have a 2-inch heel to give some height and the pointy toe makes the leg look longer.

black ankle boots and wide leg pants

I kept on a column of black with a black cardigan sweater, buttoned up like a shirt. 

The key to great style

The key to great style is to learn the rules and then break them on purpose. Style guidelines are here to empower and inspire you to try clothing combinations that feel great on.

Once you know how to put together a look that works for your body shape, you can intentionally break the rules and cultivate a sense of style that unapologetically feels like you. I’m always rooting for you! XO, Marya

Hi, Friend. I'm Marya. I'm so glad you're here!

I’m here to help women feel good inside and out through approachable everyday style inspiration and encouragement for midlife. Once upon a time, I worked as a therapist and coach. Now, I’m a holistic style blogger studying style coaching! Be So You celebrates leaning into who we were meant to be! 

Read about my  journey to self-discovery at 40. Follow me on Instagram here and Pinterest here. Send me a quick question through my contact page here.  

Fit Note: I’m midsized at 5’6″, 160 pounds, with size 12 jeans.

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