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Last week I mentioned the two delightful women over 50 I met at the mall. We went from talking about the outfit on the mannequin to talking about cropped pants. Neither one of their husbands liked cropped pants which prompted me to take a survey among some of the men I know. None of them like cropped pants either. 

One man, who wants to remain anonymous, says “cropped pants make women look frumpy.” The majority of the time I agree with him.

We all wish we looked as good as Kendall Jenner in a pair of cropped pants, but then she’s tall, reed thin and has great legs, just like a young Mary Tyler Moore who was model thin and had dancer’s legs. Remember the old Dick Van Dyke show when Mary would greet him at the door in a pair of capri’s? “Oh, Rob!” Most of us don’t look like that.

On the vast majority of women cropped pants hit us at an unflattering place on our legs, and they windup showcasing a lot of things we don’t want showcased.

Mark Grischke, who has the best eye of anyone I know, former content editorial director of Forbes Life and owner of Santa Fe Clay, said, “Only a few women have made cropped pants look chic. Audrey Hepburn was one, of course. Babe Paley and Slim Keith were two others. Grace Kelly wore them in To Catch a Thief, but they didn’t really flatter her, despite her beauty. Among recent style icons, I’ve seen Daphne Guinness pull them off, very successfully. But that’s because, like Audrey Hepburn, she’s blessed with a greyhound body that looks good in almost anything.”

Remember when we were kids and we outgrew our pants? We were mortified if we had to wear them because they looked goofy. So why are we wearing them now? If we’re tall, cropped pants look like they shrunk in the wash, but we’ve decided to wear them anyway. If we’re short, cropped pants make our legs look even shorter.

And if we have thick calves and ankles or we’re overweight… Never wear cropped pants!

Some women—who are short—wear cropped pants with a long top, but they windup looking like a long torso attached to a pair of really short legs. And contrary to style advice, wearing them with boots isn’t the answer either. 

In this outfit the boots only serve to emphasize that her pants are too short. It looks dumb.

This outfit also underscores her pants are too short. The only good thing about this outfit is the model is very thin, but if we’re not tall and thin, cropped pants and boots cut us at the wrong place and draw even more attention to our butt and our thighs.

Beware of wide-legged crops and flared cropped pants. Both stop the eye at a place on the leg that is dreadful.

In the last week I’ve seen a dozen women wearing short, cropped pants, what we used to call “pedal pushers,” some with the cuffs turned up. In every single case these pants leave us with nothing to look at except the cellulite on the back of the lower thighs, broken veins and unattractive calves, and from the front side…. Let’s just say most of us don’t look like this model.

Cargo pants are trendy this year as well, but they come with their own set of problems. Just like cropped pants, if we’re not thin, the side pockets on a pair of cargo pant legs make us look lumpy and heavy, and a pair of cropped cargo pants is a surefire recipe for frumpiness.

Can you image these on a woman who’s not built like Twiggy? If we have any kind of derrière and/or thighs at all, don’t buy pants with pockets on the back or the side!

Trends make women buy new clothes, but before we hand out our credit card, we need to be honest with ourselves about whether something looks good on us. Don’t buy something just because it’s trendy.

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58 thoughts on “TELL ME THESE AREN’T FRUMPY”

  1. On the one hand, yes, cropped pants aren’t flattering. On the other hand, I don’t care.
    I had a pair of wide-legged linen trousers that somehow looked stifling for summer. I cropped them. Are they flattering? No. But somehow the baring of that little bit of lower calf makes them seem summery and free and so I wear them happily. These days I dress to please myself. The last person whose opinion I would seek is my husband’s, who would rather than I take my wardrobe ideas from Ariana Grande.
    In essence, the best way to make anything flattering is to change my body. My body IS changing, but not the way I would like. All the fat from my butt is migrating to my waist, with no change in weight. Thanks, menopause.
    I like the Eileen Fisher silhouette, kind of Japanese, boxy, oblivious to sexiness. It screams intellectual and artsy. Minutes ago I was reading a NY Times article about Hudson Yards, and in one photo, a woman in a boxy top, flat shoes and wide, cropped pants (a frumpy hat trick, no?) is walking through the minimalist serenity of a new high-end boutique. Luxe, not sex.
    This summer, I say, free the ankle if it makes you feel good. And I far prefer seeing people in cropped pants than in shorts!

    • TOF, I’m in agreement about shorts, but I can’t bring myself to deliberately look bad… That’s after I bought a pair of pleated, wide-legged pants from Zara a few years ago. My best girlfriend since high school snapped a photo of me in them and is keeping it in case she needs to blackmail me. Seriously! I looked so hideous in them that she wouldn’t even let me touch her phone for fear I’d delete the picture. And yes… men want sexy, so I get the Ariana Grande look… Great comment, by the way! I’m not plugged into sexy, but I do care what I wear and how I look, not at home so much because I don’t have a man around, but when I step outside, I want to feel good about myself. HUDSON YARDS!!! I so want to see the shops there! xoxox, Brenda

  2. Thank you for saving me from a regrettable fashion mistake:). I was considering how to alter a pair of Capri hiking pants to make them more flattering, I saw the picture highlighting the article and had a good chuckle! Nope, no alteration will help – time to let them go.

    • Irene, I’m happy you won’t be spending all that time on alterations just to realize they’re probably worse looking than before you started. Love this comment! Thanks, Brenda

  3. I love an ankle length pant (not a crop) when I go on a vacation where a lot of hiking is involved. I wear athletic shoes and hate pants crumbled up against the shoe. I also love cargo pants for travel because I can hide cash and an extra credit card in the pockets (it is important to wear a slimmer, tucked in top). I often travel alone and I don’t want to put all my valuables in the bin when going through security. I highly recommend Athleta brand for adventure travel to look athletic and stylish (also many items wash and dry really fast). I work hard to be slim and fit at 70 and I don’t want to look frumpy. I also think it is important to take a selfie in the dressing room mirror to see how you really look to others (check the rear view).

    • Madeline, That’s a great suggestion to take a selfie from behind so we know what we look like. Like you, I work hard at staying slim and fit and I’ll be 70 in June, and I’ve always wanted to look nice. The best thing about longer pants is when we sit down, the hem line doesn’t show so much leg. When I hike I like a covered ankle because they protect me from sticker burs and brush. I travel alone as well so I hear you about not having everything in one place. Thanks for the tip about Athleta. I’ve been on their website a number of times but haven’t bought anything. Awesome comment!! Thanks, Brenda

  4. I agree 100% – I’m 5’2″and I banished these from my wardrobe FOREVER long ago. I also believe women should wear what makes them feel good, empowered, comfortable, etc. – so if women want to wear these, go ahead, ladies, but also know that yes, they DO make you look dowdy and frumpy. And I’ve never felt empowered knowing I looked like that…

    • Mary Katherine… Beautiful name! At 5’2″ you’re smart to banish cropped pants but then proportion is something you’ve always dealt with when it comes to clothes. I’m with you about doing what empowers us, but when I look frumpy, I’m the opposite of empowered. Thanks for reading and leaving me a comment, Brenda

  5. I live in Florida and you can tell who the snowbirds are by their cropped pants. Actually, more like pedal pushers. When capris were popular in the early 2000s, I wore them. Now, I like ankle pants when the weather is warm. I am in my 60s and work out because I like to feel good and look good. Pedal pushers, cropped pants, or whatever you call these days are definitely frumpy!

    • Kathy, That’s so interesting that snowbirds wear cropped pants!! I need some new workout pants but I’m passing on tight fitting, cropped pants. The last time I went looking that was all I could find. I’m tall and thin, but I’m not wearing those, and cameltoe at my age is definitely not sexy. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. Brenda

  6. I could not agree more! I see frumpy looking women every day that would look so much better in an ankle length pant

    • I so agree, Kerry. I wonder if they don’t know they look frumpy or they don’t care? Not everyone has a good sense of proportion and/or style so it that’s the case, I can’t fault them. xoxo, Brenda

  7. Wear whatever you like regardless of what onlookers “think” and whatever that is they won’t say it to your face.

  8. Amen to this! I just can’t wrap my mind around the wide leg crops and cargo pants are beyond unflattering on me. At least I’ve stopped trying the latest pants fad on in the store and seeing them add pounds where I don’t want them. Age has its benefits. 🙂

    • Laurel, I bought an online pair of wide-legged pleated pants from Zara, hoping the pleats and the fabric would make up for the awkward crop but… NO!!! I can wish and hope all I want that they’ll suddenly become… not even chic, just not hideous, but it’s not gonna’ happen! xoxo, Brenda

  9. Agreed! Frumpy, frumpy, frumpy! I like slim summer-weight, ankle-length pants. I’ve never thought cropped pants were any cooler, and they were certainly less flattering.
    I’ve started wearing summer dresses, both casual t-shirt style with tennies, and a bit dressier with sandals.
    Comfy, cool, and I feel chic.

    • You have such a great figure, Donna, and I’ve never seen you anywhere near the land of frumpy. I don’t agree with the “they feel cooler in the heat” reasoning either. I’ve been looking online… the only way I shop now… and haven’t found an everyday summer dress I can afford, plus I’m going to a beach wedding this summer and would like a summer dress to wear there as well. xoxox, Brenda

  10. To each her own …. but not for me. The look above of olive pants with boots is awful. I being 60+ never wear shorts…. never I work out in a skirt. I wear dresses/ skirts….. love! The only way to travel as well. Mix / match. Tops over dresses to stretch your wardrobe and tights or leggings with these as well.

    • Hi C, You’ve got the formula down pat! I’ve never tried a dress or skirt over leggings, but wear dresses with a white t-shirt underneath or a jacket over. Thanks for the suggestions, Brenda

  11. I struggle with this a lot because I want to look nice but I rarely wear shorts anymore. But I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to only promote something for “skinny women”. I am working hard to embrace my body and have my friends do the same. I just wonder where the concept that being thin is the only way you can wear some styles. Or look good. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve read it, but I am trying hard to change that idea.
    Since I grew up with a mother that sews, I do believe that the fit and silhouette can make a huge difference. That and what you wear with them too. Because while we talk about cutting off our legs, don’t skirts and dresses do the same thing, really??
    I’m not trying to be argumentative, I get this comment a lot when we were capris too.
    Besides, I just got this sweatshirt that says Perfectly Imperfect….and have been loving that idea. Maybe we can have cropped pants be part of that??

    • Hi Jodie! Love seeing you here! You’re so right about the importance of fit and silhouette. That said, not every style is meant for every body type. We’re not promoting things just for” skinny women.” We’re talking about embracing the body we have–tall, short, fat, thin, old, young–and dressing to make the most of our assets while minimizing those things we don’t want to highlight. I’m not sure why you’re “trying hard to change that idea.” We all want to feel good about ourselves, but there is no getting around the fact that some styles aren’t attractive on everyone… like cropped pants. Skirts and dresses don’t cut off the legs in the same way. They have a singular column that flows down the body, much more pleasing to the eye than the double whammy of two, separate columns that do nothing but point out thighs, butts and emphasizes that unflattering part of the leg. Capris are cropped pants, just slim fitting, but again, they don’t look good on every body type. Thanks for weighing in on this discussion! xoxox, Brenda

  12. Dear Brenda, a bit of common sense at last. Those dark blue sporty crop pants are the worst of a bad bunch. Whether we like it or not, the truth is that how you look and what you wear is your image to the world. It speaks volumes. I am so tired of seeing frumpy middle aged women. I saddens me. Have they given up, did they care in the first place, can they not go to a cosmetic counter and ask for advice about how to apply makeup so it makes them look better not worse, can they not tell that that linen dress is the wrong colour, crumpled and shapeless, and makes them look ten pounds heavier, can they not see the pale legs with the veins that makes everyone want to avert their eyes, do they own a freaking mirror? Brava to those brave ones of you who have responded that you’ll wear what you like and not give a damn, but I am in the other camp, and I do care how I look, and the image I am sending out to the world, and the message I am sending to myself, because when I am wearing smart clothes and put together, I feel better. I also care because I have a lot of younger female friends and I try to be a good example to them that age does not mean ‘frump’. Rant over.

    • Such a negative comment. I don’t think Brenda meant to attack other women. Are those women with veins to hide under long garments when the temps soar? Not all women have the money to dress well, a fashion sense, or the body to look good, in or out of clothes. We are fortunate to have slim bodies still, to have money to buy quality clothes, and to have enough fashion sense to know what does and doesn’t become us. Let’s be kind to one another, please.

      • Joanna, No, You’re right. I’m not attacking other women. I think TJ knows that. She’s expressing her frustration and probably sadness at how a great many women feel about themselves. So many have given up, regardless of whether we have slim bodies or the money to buy good clothes or we know how to dress . It’s a frame of mind I think. Please read my comment to TJ. Thanks for adding to the conversation. I appreciate it. xoxo, Brenda

    • TJ, Brava! “Age does not mean ‘frump.'” I don’t think today’s young women will have that problem when they get older. I fear their problem will be they’ve microbladed and Botoxed and filled themselves to the point they bear no resemblance to their younger selves. And I’m with you when it comes to dressing. I dress to make me feel good about me. Looking good is part of our self-esteem. There are a lot of women who don’t know how to dress, just as there are many who’ve given up! The daughter of a woman I know told me her mother had given up, and that makes me so sad for her because “giving up” manifests itself in more areas than how we present ourselves to the world. It encompasses how well we take care of our teeth and our body, our hygiene and our diet. Giving up is a slow, depressing death. xoxo, Brenda

  13. I live in Az . It is hot here people! That said, I don’t wear cropped anything. It’s caftans for me.

    • Caftans! There’s something exotic about that word, don’t you think, Marilynn? It’s hot here in Texas as well. No cropped pants or shorts for me, and while I love caftans… on me, I want to belt them. They look like I’m trying to hide my figure. xoxo, B

      • Marilynn, Steer clear of dark colors when it’s hot. They absorb more heat. Focus on white and light colors. No denim. Perhaps JCrew might have some lightweight pants. Dresses and skirts. I wear lots of long sleeves here in San Antonio in the summer, but they’re lightweight. Wear a wide brimmed hat… anything less is wasting your time when it comes to protecting you from the sun. xoxox, B

  14. I see your point. They are not particularly flattering or chic on most women, but I do wear them sometimes in warm weather for hiking and such when a skirt can be cumbersome. Somehow they are quite a bit cooler than ankle length pants. Speaking of ankle length pants, that is all I can find these days and I find them awkward looking . I really like a pant to touch my shoes in the front. Totally agree about the cargo pants except Athleta’s modified version which gets the pockets off the hip area.

    • Penelope, I hike but want my ankles covered because I get caught by prickly things like sticker burs and thorny vines, and unless you’re wearing something like denim, I don’t see that they’re cooler. Some pants are way too long, but like you, I like for the front of my pants to touch my shoes. Question: Where does Athleta put the cargo pockets? Please tell me it’s not the thighs… xoxox, Brenda

  15. Our summers are hot here, and I have not bought or worn cropped pants, I prefer dresses, I feel cooler in them. As I look at most people I feel they don’t realize that there are better options, and I do wonder if people hate alterations , So they just buy “ short pants”.

    • Great point, Eileen! It hadn’t occurred to me that instead of altering the length of their pants, people buy cropped pants! I need to find some summer dresses!! I’m off to look online! Thanks so much! Brenda

  16. I agree that a capri or cropped pant often looks awkward. Only a few can pull it off and look good. I think cropped pants look best with a heel. I’m going to pass on Thursday trend. As a tall person, I’ve spent my whole life looking for bottoms long enough. It seems contrary to my style. I do like a slim fitting pant that comes to just above the ankle (our slimmest part). It’s a flattering look for those of us who prefer pants to skirts.

    • Joanna, I’m tall as well so it’s always been a problem finding pants… or jeans… that are long enough for me. My favorite pants are slim fitting. Back in the day I bought “cigarette” pants, but pants now with the same name are even slimmer. Tuesday I’m seeing a friend who used to be a women’s clothing buyer. I’m interested to see what she thinks about current styles. She always looks fabulous! xoxox, Brenda

  17. My mother was a big fan of Mary Tyler Moore and she took on MTM’s style as her own, wearing slim Capris pants and short, boxy tops that zipped up in the back. She was oh so chic with her ballet flats, envelope clutch, and yes, that string of elegant pearls that completed her effortless look. I wanted desperately to achieve that fashionable look, but I am not built like my mother, so I will adhere to my fashion formula: slim ankle pants, simple top and funky jewelry! Yes, I have worn crops and shudder when I think about how I looked like a tree stump! Leave the crazy fads to younger folks who may escape trends unscathed, I will stick to my simple formula! Great post, Brenda!

    • Sharon, We can wish with all our might but 99% of us are never going to Mars; we’ll never star in a Broadway play, win the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes or look good in cropped pants. That’s just a fact of life. Depending on if our legs are slim or not, we can wear bigger tops with slim bottoms. It’s the yin and the yang, the contrast we’re looking for. If the pants are tight, like yoga pants, we should cover our bum and our camel toe…. Who came up with that term? It’s not my favorite, but I can’t think of a delicate term to use. So happy you liked this post, Sharon! xoxox, B

  18. This was very interesting to me, because I am often thankful for the cropped pant. Being a person who is not reed thin, is 6 feet tall, and does not have good legs (especially at 65), cropped pants are the only way I can wear something besides a long pant. Once stockings and long skirts went out of style, I could no longer wear dresses. I’ll stop wearing cropped pants, no matter how unflattering, when midi dresses (real midi dresses that six-foot-tall, 65-year-olds can wear) AND stockings, come back around.

    • Barbara… Stockings… I miss them as much as I miss having a thick head of hair!! I hear your pain! Midi dresses…. They all look like they were designed for young women! Grrr… Have you tried googling “midi dresses for tall women?” xoxox, Brenda

  19. Stacy and Clinton always said cropped pants make you look as though you’re standing in a bucket. haha I’ve never been a fan of capri pants, I’d rather wear a dress, skirt, or shorts. But I’m going to Italy for April, and I’ve been told that ‘flowy’ (my daughter’s term) cropped pants are what a lot of women are wearing now. I just got mine yesterday from Athleta. They’re perfectly proportioned for me (petite sizing) and the quality is excellent. I’m only 5’2″ and not rail thin, but they look good.

    • Patricia, Hmm… Flowy cropped pants for 5’2″, not rail thin… sounds like a lot of things going against you. Just because they’re proportioned for petites, doesn’t change the bucket image for me. Enjoy Italy! xoxo, Brenda

    • Flowy in Italy could mean thin linen , and , at the ankle, and their linen is softer than ours. I will be in Italy in April as well, so we’ll see….

  20. I agree with everyone that cropped pants are not flattering on the majority of women, but I am wondering why shorts are so poo-pooed by everyone. I live in Charleston,SC and it is very hot and humid here in the summer and I wear shorts. I only wear the 10”, which hit just above my knee in a more tailored style. Are you girls telling me that I need to stop? By the way, I’m 66.

    • Hi Pam, Most women don’t wear short because they don’t want to expose that much of their legs whether it’s because they have cellulite, a few extra pounds, varicose veins or their thighs spread out when they sit down, which can be very unattractive. It’s hot and humid here in south Texas but I wear lightweight, ankle length pants or midi/maxi skirts and dresses. What you’ve described are “pedal pushers,” which are still cropped pants. They’rejust shorter and hit you on a different part of your leg. Only you know if they flatter your figure. Brenda

  21. I enjoy Capri pants, especially in the AZ heat! Just purchased a lightweight black pair in polished cotton to dress up, dress down with cropped tops or oversized white sheer blouse. But I’m blessed with trim legs. There are other styles that look silly on my small frame and I definitely take a pass. Women need to be honest when looking in the mirror…wear what flatters and pass on fashion that does not.

    • Hi Mary, Sounds like you may be one of the minority who looks good in cropped pants. You must be thin if you’re wearing cropped tops as well. We’d all fare better if we wore what flatters us, but too often we just buy what’s trendy and don’t really think about the flattering aspect. Thanks for adding to the conversation! Brenda

  22. I wear a longer type of cropped pants and I do think it depends where on the leg they hit. No one would look good in the blue ones on this post. I wear my pants in white with a sexy top and go on about my business. I have never found a pair of shorts that I would wear out of the house.

    • LOL! Victoria, I have never found a pair of shorts I would wear IN THE HOUSE! Those days have passed me by. Which blue ones? They’re both problematic! Thanks ever so much for adding to our conversation, Brenda

  23. You have started a great debate Brenda. I don’t wear cropped or shorts. I do know some women my age who look great in them though and they are tall and slim…

    • Thanks for confirming, Hilda! I keep thinking about Jodie’s earlier comment, “I just wonder where the concept that being thin is the only way you can wear some styles?” comes from? She makes it sound like we’re discriminating against women who don’t meet that description. No. We’re trying to help them look their best. xoxox, Brenda

  24. Take a look at 9to5Chic & fashionjackson on Bloglovin. They wear cropped pants (just above the ankle) and look amazing in them.

    • Hi Joanna, I’m not sure I’ve found the exact one you’re referring to. Could you send me a link? I’ve found a 9to5chic… the blogger is young and thin and looks adorable in everything. The other one is Fashion Jackson… same story. Young, thin and adorable! They’re both women like Kendall Jenner who can wear anything. Thanks, Brenda

  25. I’m 70 – a well-enough proportioned 5’1″ at 118 pounds – and I really don’t know what I’m supposed to be wearing at this time in my life. I live in SW Florida. I’m having trouble with the whole “fashion at my age” thing. I’ve taken to wearing skorts during the long, hot summer daily living and walking dogs. I like them to the top of the baggy skin at the top of my knees, but they’re hard to find so I wear them a bit shorter. I have a lot of tees. I like the 3/4 length sleeves to hide another sin -floppy upper arms- but they’re hard to find too. Tees seem to suit me best and I’m comfortable in them. So my wardrobe consists of skorts, skirts, long pants, tees, sweaters and jackets in a fairly classic style. Some jewelry. No scarves — they seem too hot here. However, I still feel out of sorts. Boring is a good description. What am I doing wrong? And is there an answer?
    P.S. I do have a couple of pairs of the talked about “pedal pusher” pants but rarely wear them, possibly because I feel awkward in them. Guess skirts will replace them.

    • Hi Cherie, You’ve summed up my problems perfectly plus everything I have I wear with a white cotton t-shirt. It’s so discouraging to go shopping because clothes aren’t made with us in mind so I’ve been thinking about summer skirts and midi dresses I can dress up or down. This week I received a pale yellow midi skirt I ordered online at Anthropologie, and I love it! It’s lightweight and I paired it with a white cotton t-shirt, a silver belt and silver espadrilles and a long necklace and wore it to dinner last night with my girlfriends. You might also try JJill and Soft Surroundings. About feeling boring… Maybe it’s the clothes you’re choosing and the way you’re styling them. Look to the brands I mentioned as examples of how to make something look really pretty, like this long skirt and black t-shirt. Only two colors plus an added pop of color with the necklace. Stay away from boring colors like khaki and don’t buy anything that is too busy or has too many colors. Let me know what you think. xoxox, Brenda

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