Pants go to any length to be stylish

May 28, 2000|By Jean Patteson | Jean Patteson,Orlando Sentinel

Two years ago, we had shorts and we had pants. Shorts were short. Pants were long. No confusion.

This summer we have pedal pushers and clamdiggers, cropped pants and capris. They range in length from just below the knee to just above the ankle, and in width from skinny to elephantine. Some are finished with a cuff, others with a slit.

With so many variations, there's bound to be some confusion. What length and width is most flattering? What shoes and tops look best?

"There are cropped pants that are good for all sizes. Each style accentuates a different part of the body. That's probably why they've become so popular," said Karen Micciulla, vice president for product development with Liz Claiborne Casual in New York.

Claiborne, like many companies, is offering cropped pants in a wide range of lengths, widths and fabrics this spring. "And the good news is, they're not just for casual wear. There's a cropped pant that is appropriate for every event, 24 hours a day," Micciulla said.

The best way to find the most flattering, comfortable fit is to try on a variety of styles, she said. "Trust your instincts. Go with what feels right, what looks right to your eye. It's all a matter of getting used to a new set of proportions."

When selecting shoes or tops to wear with your cropped pants, you can use this instinctive approach as well. But if you don't quite trust your instincts, there are some general guidelines you can follow.

As a rule of thumb: The shorter the pants, the flatter the shoes -- and the more casual the look. Also: The narrower the pants, the more delicate the shoe.

Pedal pushers, which end just below the knee, look best with flat shoes, Micciulla said. These include chunky slides, low-heel sandals and flip-flops. Tucked-in tops work well with pedal pushers, as do shirts that hit the top of the hipbone.

Clamdiggers, which reach to the midcalf and which often are mistakenly called capri pants, are the most versatile of the cropped pants. When in such casual fabrics fabrics such as denim and twill, they look good with chunkier shoes -- clogs, slides and wedge-heel sandals. But done in dressier fabrics such as linen or silk, they need a lighter shoe -- a low-heel slide or sling-back, for example.

Many styles of tops also work with midcalf pants -- from casual crop tops, camisoles and boxy T-shirts, to dressier tunics and twin sets. "Jackets are also appropriate, especially for a business-casual look," Micciulla said.

But the classic top to wear with capri pants is the sleeveless, slightly fitted, jewel-neck blouse that buttons down the back and ends high on the hip. Done in a dressy fabric such as silk Shantung, and teamed with high-heel sandals, this combination makes a dynamite evening outfit.

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