There’s so much talk these days about the difference between fashion and style, personal style. How women needn’t be slaves to the most recent trends, how we should dress to please ourselves, how style is what we do with the clothes we buy. Okay. I agree with all that. But what the heck do we do when we can’t find anything that flatters and looks good on us? When the stores are filled with trends that leave us cold?

Let’s talk about the long and short of personal style, shall we?

Of course, we could shop our own closets, try to remake new outfits with old pieces. We could shop in vintage or thrift stores. Yep. We could do that. And I do do that on occasion. I also take old pieces to the tailor to have them altered. Like I did with my old Max Mara pant suit last spring, when the pants had to be let out… considerably. Sigh. I’ve also had ginormous eighties shoulder pads removed from an Alfred Sung houndstooth blazer from the eighties which I still love and want to wear again. And in the past I’ve had pant legs narrowed, or let down, or hemmed and cuffed to make them more current.

In my youth, pant legs were the bane of my existence. In fact pants in general were the bane of my existence. When I was a teenager jeans and dress pants were usually too baggy in the butt or too short in the legs for me. I’ve written endlessly here on the blog about the Sisyphean task of shopping for jeans. But since the demise of the hipster, low-rise jean, and the advent of the high-waisted skinny jean I’ve been pretty happy shopping for jeans, and for pants in general. I’ve found that I can easily find jeans and other pants which flatter me, and which don’t make me feel as if I’m walking around in someone else’s clothes.

Until lately. Lately I’ve been trying on a plethora of ugly pants. As my grandmother might say, there are more ugly pants in stores than you can shake a stick at. Ha. I love that expression.

A case in point. Recently I’ve been shopping for plaid pants. Plaid pants that are cropped to a flattering length, and which will look great with my burgundy loafers, and maybe my burgundy Akris sweater, or my Uniqlo down vest.

These Veronica Beard and Aritzia pants were definitely built for someone else… not me.

Here are two of the many pairs I’ve tried on in the past few weeks. A beautiful pair of plaid Veronica Beard pants, on the left, that I had great hopes for, but which looked ridiculous on me. Too baggy on my hips, and cropped at a distinctly unflattering length. The pants on the right are from Aritzia. They were comfy, and fit me around the waist perfectly, but the width of the leg and the length just looked silly on me, I thought. In these pants I felt like I was seventeen again, and not in a good way. I remarked to the salesperson at Aritzia, that these pants somehow made my legs look stubby, and that’s hard to do since, according to Hubby, I have “high hips” and am about 96% leg.

When I came home from the mall, I checked out both pairs on-line. And even on the models, where one assumes the pants fit as they’re supposed to fit, I thought they looked unflattering.

Veronica Beard at Nordstrom, and the Babaton “Jimmy” pant at Aritzia
I did eventually find a pair of cropped plaid pants which suit me, and which look good with my burgundy loafers, and my Akris sweater, and even my down vest. The pants are from Rag and Bone. They have a slim leg which is a better fit for me, but like all the other pairs I tried, they were too short. Luckily the seamstress at Nordstrom was able to let the hem down, so they look less like pedal pushers and more like ankle pants. It’s amazing how much difference an inch of pant leg can make.
Feeling pretty pleased about my new (longer) Rag and Bone plaid pants.
When I went to pick them up earlier this week, Liz and I had a chat about pant leg length. About what is flattering on different people, and how sometimes it’s hard to find the right length. How easy it is to be swayed by styles we see “everywhere” at the moment, and how hard it is to resist the temptation to buy pants that don’t do us any favours.
Of course whether a style suits us is a very individual thing, isn’t it? Liz, who is about five foot two, wears a similar pair of Rag and Bone pants to ones I own. They hit her just at her ankle. She said she could roll them to achieve a length that is more cropped, and more in keeping with the original design of the pant, but she feels that a shorter crop on her diminutive frame isn’t flattering. She prefers a more stream-lined look, one which lengthens her leg. And me… in the same pant I look like Olive Oyl, with too much skinny ankle sticking out. An added inch makes the pant length look perfect, to me. Less awkward, more chic. And here’s the thing; it’s much easier to shorten pants than it is to find enough material in the leg to lengthen them. Just saying.
A slimmer line and a longer leg than the other pants I tried suits me better.
My new pants look great with my Akris burgundy sweater, and with my Uniqlo down vest. And, when I pulled them out of the closet this afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that the soft grey in the plaid works perfectly with my old grey cashmere turtleneck from Vince. I love this sweater, and I haven’t worn it much in a couple of years.
So really that’s the long and short of what I wanted to say about personal style. Some fashion trends leave me cold… like the cold-shoulder top. Pun intended. Others like wide-leg, cropped pants may appeal to you. They may look fabulous on you. I like them too, on some people. Just not on me. Despite their proliferation on-line and in stores, wearing them makes me feel as if I’m wearing someone else’s clothes.
Maybe that makes me look as if I don’t like change, as if I’m stuck in a rut and won’t take a fashion risk. Maybe I just need to get used to them. Maybe next year you’ll find me all decked out in wide-leg, cropped, pedal-pusher-length pants.
Maybe. But, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
So, how about you my friends? Any fashion trends that are grating on you these days?


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43 thoughts on “The Long and Short of Personal Style”

  1. Any fashion trends that are grating on you these days?

    Hmmm … here goes:

    1. It's hardly a "trend" anymore, but I really don't care for "statement sleeves." What statement are they making, other than "we're down here dangling in the way of everything our wearers need to get done during the day!"

    2. I don't care for hems that balloon and then tuck under (I don't even know what that's called). Maybe it's a "statement hem" that says: "I'll cost you a fortune to dry clean me, be impossible to iron, and add the appearance of extra pounds where nobody needs them (fatter thighs, knees and calves, anyone?).

    3. Mini-anything. I will admit that mini-anythings are friendly to girls and young women. Heck, I was once married in a lime green micro-mini dress with matching panties. But that's not been my strong suit for a very long time. Yet there they are on the runway, rebuffing me, saying, "Why are you even looking at these clothes!" Fair enough. 😉

    4. Fringe. We already did that. Many times.

    5. Too many weird colors in a single outfit. I'm talking 35 or 40. The only designer who gets weird-color combinations right is Dries Van Noten and those who do knock-offs of his work. And clearly there aren't enough DVN knock-off artists.

    Ann in Missouri

    1. Ah yes… the statement sleeve. Although I did buy a sweater last year with elbow length bell sleeves for party wear. I accidentally tried on a sweater this fall with those really, really long sleeves. Not sure what the point of those sleeves are. Saves on gloves maybe:)

  2. Thanks for making me snigger early in the morning with the photo of the right hand pair of trousers…you made the right choice, I think. As a notorious short-arse, even considering trousers like this would be a serious mistake and I am happy to have finally found trousers that fit perfectly in H&M. It has only taken about 45 years. Style v Fashion is always a good question. I am currently very pleased to have found that a favourite cardigan of mine, bought some years ago, now fits me beautifully so I am going to put that on today with glee. I second Ann on statement sleeves; I bought a lovely shirt earlier this year with magnificent sleevage only to find that it had mysteriously caught on someone's cigarette whilst I was wearing it. I have managed to fix it but ironing these sleeves is something I am going to take advice on. Literally. Can't work it out at all…

  3. The Rag and Bone slacks look perfect on you! I started laughing out loud when reading about "ugly pants." My husband walked by some Nordstrom windows recently and asked, "what's up with all the ugly pants?"

  4. Yes it's a minefield out there and ugly pants is a good description! I like the cropped pants look but with a boot at this time of year. Still a delicate balance and lots of trying on needed to find the right shape and I agree many photos of models don't look great. On a positive note there's a great variety of trouser shapes around this season. You chose well. Iris

    1. Thanks, Iris. I'm always surprised at how stores which sell on-line choose to merchandise their wares. On more then one occasion I've purchased a piece in a store, then for interest checked out how it's styled on-line. Nordstrom's on-line styling is abysmal, I think. They often make the piece look worse than it does in person.
      I like the look of a cropped pant with an ankle boot too. Just not the combination of pant and boots seen in the Aritzia on-line shot I've included in this post. Wrong boot, wrong pant, IMO. I'll be trying my new plaid pants with my old Chelsea boots to see how they look.

  5. I'm with Liz–cropped pants on a short person merely makes them look even more squat. I also have to agree with Ann and most of her references. All I can think when I see statement sleeves is how the devil does anyone get a coat on with all that extra fabric? And when it comes to wearing bizarre colour combinations or mixing plaids–well, at my age, I would simply look like I'm incapable of dressing myself anymore.

    1. When I was still teaching and low-rise jeans were ubiquitous, I remember seeing more than one hapless teenager with a long body and short legs make herself look ridiculous in low-rise jeans, and high-top sneakers. Sigh. But fifteen year olds are nor known for bucking a fashion trend. I was the same at that age.
      Love your last comment. We have to be careful at our age to look as if our ironic fashion choices are ironic, and not sad. Ha.

  6. Yes,you've chosen well,agree with Iris-I like the pants,the combinations and how you wear them
    We have a similar history of pants and jeans disasters (completely agree with your theory that it is more difficult to make the trousers longer than vice versa-argh!)
    I'm 175 cm with very long legs and the pants are still sometimes too short in a bad way (although rarely). I prefer them to be around ankle lenght. I wear wider trousers,sometimes, ( one winter white and the other silk evening kind) but it seems that,after all the cigarette or slim versions, I've lost the art of walking in them
    My checked pants are Prince de Galles from Marina Rinaldi,bought online because they didn't have the size in the stores both here and in Milano,very poorly sewed (I had to take them to the seamstress -I wanted to wear them and not to wait for replacement,but it was a huge disappointment)
    I pass a lot of trends ( I always wear something in leo or check-so sometimes I'm in and sometimes out of trends),but could be inspired and regularly change the way of styling my old things

    1. Thanks, Dottoressa. You are taller than me, so I can imagine that you've had similar pant leg issues. There are cropped pants that look chic and others that look as if my legs grew overnight and they became too short all of a sudden:)

  7. I love Ann in Missouri's list! Statement anything gives me pause – whose impractical idea was it to put sleeves in the spotlight? And I agree with Sue about "cold shoulders" – Ugh!! This is an assault on the senses that needs to go away and never come back. As frustrating as it can be to search for clothes that offer form and function, I relish the opportunity to put into practice six decades of wisdom and discernment. I now know what I like, what works with my wardrobe, what flatters my body, what offers long-term value (as opposed to a trend that will fade to black in a year or less) and what makes me feel like me. I would also suggest that many of the current trends (Ann's reference to the mini for example – especially the gathered, pouffy mini) look [almost] as ridiculous on the 20 year-olds wearing them as they would on me, so it's not strictly a matter of ageism. Sometimes I think designers have run out of ideas and are just messing with us. Great pick Sue – thank goodness for good tailors, I say. Is anyone being taught to do this anymore?

  8. I think you've made the right decision. The Rag and Bone pants look perfect, I really like them with your grey sweater. I completely agree about an inch or so making a difference in getting the right length. I think the models often look way off with proportions (Eileen Fisher comes to mind as her cuts are roomy, anyway) as they are tall and stick thin.

  9. Hi Sue,
    I love, love those pants!! (and shoes). They are the perfect fit.
    Now….how will you style them for our Canadian winters? Socks or dark trouser socks….bare ankle? 😉

    1. Ha. No bare ankle. I may be able to wear my loafers this week, since the snow has almost gone, but I'll wear them with pantyhose. But when it snows again it will be socks and boots until spring. Unless I'm changing footwear for an indoor party.

  10. I am more like your Nordstrom salesperson, being short. Still I have found wide leg cropped pants that I feel are flattering on me, most recent was a pair of Eileen Fisher in a soft viscose knit that move well. I often like the length of pants off the rack though I know that they were meant to be shorter on most people and are full length for me. I think pants shopping has gotten easier than it used to be. I love your plaid pants with the gray sweater, and those loafers are divine. You have so much style, and it's good that you toughed it out to find something that really works for you. Thank you for all your posts, about fashion and other matters. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season, and no ugly Christmas sweaters!

  11. Love the new pants, but agree the finding process is awful. I'm short and slender, so the wide crop pants and trainers trend pull all the emphasis to my ankles and feet and make me look lopsided. I spend hours trying to find comfortable shoes that don't overpower me. Why is all this so difficult?

  12. I love the Rag and Bone pants. I love the Rag and Bone line in general, although I seldom find this brand in thrift shops – people must wear them into oblivion or they are snatched by friends/family in the wings. And a big hello to the word ugly again. It's such a wonderful phonestheme. I often bristle when I read it in relation to style but here it is just right.

  13. Hi Sue, glad you finally found, what I hope is the perfect pair! (Even though you had to have the length altered.)You deserve to after all that research 🙂 Once again, I do believe the V word applies! Ha ha I find Boden petite length to be just right for me … being slightly less than 5 foot 4 inches, but I struggle with most brands … trousers always need shortening. Other than the layering of many puffa style coats, that you discussed on the blog a while ago, I can’t think of any trends that really grate on me … I guess I just ignore them 🙂
    Hope you’re having s good weekend!

  14. Styles come and go…I never want to return to a style that was popular in my more youthful days. My personal preference is having my ankles covered by pants that lie perfectly against the shoe or boot…that is the one way I have found to lengthen my legs as at 5 feet 5 inches tall I need all the help I can get in that department! For me ankles showing just make my feet appear bigger and my legs shorter…neither of which is desirable. My wardrobe relies on classic styles and colours (black and white primarily). Other colours are added but only those that are good for my personal colouring not those dictated by fashion merchandisers. If there is one thing that I have learned about fashion is that if it doesn't look good in the fitting room it won't improve once purchased and worn outside the shop. Investment pieces are too expensive to waste on fleeting trends and my fashion 'rut' is changed up by using beautiful fabrics and accessories. The colours in your new Rag and Bone pants blend perfectly with other pieces in your wardrobe…well done! Cheers, Alayne

    1. I agree, Alayne. Chopping up the leg-line with cropped pants will make one's legs look shorter. How could it not? I still love the look of perfectly cut black trousers that fall just so over low black boots.

  15. Oh my, I do love this outfit on you….everything is perfect! The style, the length and the oversized sweater – all of it looks fabulous. So glad you finally found something after your prolonged search.
    We live in a cold climate (Wisconsin) but yesterday it was 45 degrees so I took a chance and wore loafers with no socks – nope, didn't work – I was freezing. I guess I'll just have to wear boots and socks for the next five months (and long underwear, mittens, scarves, hats, etc.). *sigh*

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I'm going back to my loafers this week since we've lost our snow temporarily. But I'll be wearing pantyhose under my pants to avoid freezing my ankles. Then it will probably be straight back to the boots and long underwear!

  16. The 'cold shoulder' has sadly hit Scotland and predictably it doesn't really work – think 'blue shoulder' or 'goose pimple' shoulder (I refuse to use the North American 'goose bumps', which is making inroads here, and annoy my 20-something children by correcting them if I hear the bumps). Trousers are a nightmare to shop for. I now sub-contract to the free personal shopper service at John Lewis. Even if I don't end up buying from them I get a good idea of what length and shape will suit me. Coincidentally I'm looking for a pair of tartan trousers just now for my work as a tourist guide. Your shops seem to stock plenty as a seasonal stalwart – here it depends if it's been part of the European fashion collections, and otherwise they reside in very staid country wear shops that instantly turn you into your aged great aunt, or in tourist traps.

    1. Plaid has been huge here this year. But I hear you about NOT wanting to look like your great-aunt. Unless your great-aunt is aged but still chic. Ha.

  17. Ha, you're so funny. I do like the pair you bought the best. I find for myself too, the pants with a slimmer leg look a lot better on me. I think the wider leg pants looked good on you too, though. You're lucky because I think you have long enough legs to be able to pull off the wider leg pants too. Hope you have a great holiday weekend.
    x, Julie |

    1. Thanks, Julie. If the wiser leg had been a different length, I might have considered them. Not the Veronica Beard ones, though. Hope you've had a good holiday weekend. Here in Canada it's just a regular week.

    2. Ha Ha… missed that one! I need to be more careful with my replies. I missed another one above calling the pants "shinny" leg. I am a notoriously bad typist. I have to check my posts five or six times, and then I usually miss one or two typos and correct them the next day. You must have jet lag… looks like you're up super early!

  18. Your new pants fit you perfectly, look great, and make several new outfits with items already in your closet! Ironically, if you look at the picture of the pants on the Nordstrom website and really enlarge it, you'll see that they let the hem down totally – you can see the serging!

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