Poll: Ankle-Length Pants and the Office

So here’s the tricky thing about office style:  it changes from time to time.  We’ve talked before on this blog about how I’m a big fan of bootcut trousers because I think they’re the most flattering look — and how I think “shorter” pants (capris, floodies, pedal pushers, whatever you want to call them) are unacceptable for the office.  (Ain’t No Mom Jeans — totally unrelated to office style! — had a highly amusing post on them recently.)  But.  But!  There are a ton of gorgeous ankle-length pants out there right now, and I’m seeing them more and more often with suits — from both conservative brands and not so conservative brands.  Take, for example, this gorgeous Elizabeth and James suit (which was very nearly yesterday’s Suit of the Week).  One of my guest posters last year even said she thought the J.Crew Minnie was a wardrobe staple! (Is it just me or is J.Crew showing the Minnie pant ridiculously tight on the models this year?)  So ladies, I thought it was time for a poll:  do you think ankle-length pants are acceptable for a conservative office, where (on any given day) 50% or more of the people may be in a full-on suit?  Do you think they’re great for a more casual (pants and blouse) look, but hate them with suits?  Do tell.



ankle-length pants for office.indexed


  1. Avant gardener :

    I tried on a suit from BR with ankle pants and it looked incredibly stupid on my short, curvy body. I like the look on tall, thin women, but it’s definitely not something I can pull off.

    • Meh, I’m tall- maybe not so thin- and it just looks like I’m in third grade again and had a growth spurt since I last bought pants. I think this is one of those looks that only works in controlled lighting situations with excessively high heels and not in real life/ offices.

      • YES, I’m extremely tall, and I can’t do any bracelet-length sleeves or ankle-length pants. It just looks like I can’t find clothes that fit me.

        • I’m average height…ok, a little on the shorter side…and I feel like ankle length pants and 3/4 sleeves in a suit jacket make me look like my clothes shrunk in the wash. Funny the shorter sleeves don’t bother me when it’s a shirt by itself.

    • Agreed- i’m 5’5” and curvy, so unfortunately ankle pants make me look stumpy. I’m extremely jealous of my slightly taller, much thinner coworkers who pull them off well.

      They might work with my height if I were more petite, but I’ve got a bad case of thunder thighs.

      • Cornellian :

        Yeah. Even when I’m a 0 at 5’4, my thighs make the whole thing look out of proportion on me.

        That said, i did just order a pair to try out…..

      • No, I’m 5 feet even and less than 100 pounds and they still look ridiculous. I always thought on someone tall and thin they might work, but definitely not on me.

  2. Never for “a conservative office, where (on any given day) 50% or more of the people may be in a full-on suit.”

    Okay on a non-important day for an average office.

    • Agree.

      Any pants that aren’t full length are actually called out as banned in my office dress code. Some people would wear the pictured length on the Friday before a long weekend, but that’s it.

    • Research, Not Law :

      Agree. I work in a casual office where they are frequently worn, and I see no problem with it. But they are definitely a no-go in the office described by the question.

    • financialfashionista :

      Agreed. In a super conservative office, these would be a no. My office is business casual, and lots of the women wear ankle length pants in the summer.

      I also think styling and color play a big role. Ankle length floral print pants? Probably not such a good idea for work…… But in a neutral color I think they are a great staple for hot summers in a business casual environment.

  3. I would say that, if you should really be wearing a suit (based on office environment, meetings, other events), they are not appropriate. Also, I wouldn’t wear them if you’re trying to make any sort of impression (i.e., meeting with higher ups that you don’t see on a daily basis).

  4. Color is important. An associate in my business casual (no jeans ever) law office wore red ankle length pants with a tapered leg and was told they were “stupid” (by male partner). Obviously, there are better ways for that to be said, nonetheless, it appears that he deemed them inappropriate. I have worn a black and cobalt blue pair with a straight leg without comment or noticeble looks. Also, neon, even in accessories, seems to flop in my office.

  5. If the occasion calls for a suit, these are not professional enough. But I do think they qualify as business casual, especially in weather like we’re experiencing here, with 105+ degree temperatures.

  6. I wear ankle pants on a weekly basis… but I’m in Palm Springs and it’s a million degrees during the summer. I LOVE JCrew’s ankle pant. I think it is definitely one of those know your office situation.

    However, I do think they look weird as suits…

    • Yep – I have JCrew’s ankle pant too – I think it’s called the Paley pant… and I love it. A couple colors in my closet and I think it almost looks more polished and fitted than a “regular” bootcut pant. I’m 5’4 and 125 lbs. The pants in the picture above are a couple inches shorter than the Paley.

  7. I’m guilty of wearing ankle to the office in the summer, but my office is business casual federal agency legal office. Obviously I would not wear them if I was meeting with anyone or going to court. When I wear them, I wear them with a blouse and a blazer of some sort and mid heel pumps.

  8. Not sure about pants that stop above the ankle bone, but a semi-skinny pant that hits right below the ankle bone is one of my current favorites for non-suit days (and they’re almost as comfy as sweats): BR Martin fit skinny pant.

  9. My last work environment was business formal and it specified in the dress code that women were only allowed to wear full-length pants. For some reason, I keep wanting to do ankle length pants – I think black ankle length pants, flowy tank and cardigan or jacket would look nice – but I haven’t found a pair yet that work for me. And I worry that ankle-length pants look dangerously close to leggings. The only time I wear leggings is when I’m running and it’s super cold.

  10. Shoot, all my new pants are ankle length… Guess it’s a good thing I work at a biz casual firm, eh?

    What else would you wear with flats and not look frumpy? Heels are out of the question due to an injury.

    • Can you wear wedges?

      • About once a week or so. I’m 3 months into physical therapy and just don’t want to risk it.

        My pants are straight leg hitting at or just below the ankle. Very nice material in grey, navy, and black.

        FWIW, I’m one of 6 female attorneys in the office, 2nd most “senior.” The most senior is rarely in the office. One of the more “junior” female attorneys has been wearing ankle pants regularly and looks really good. No one has commented.

        The guys wear the Silicon Valley “uniform”: slacks or jeans (usually jeans) and a light-blue patterned button-up.

        • In this situation, your ankle pants sound not only appropriate, but also like your best option.

          Unfortunately for me, I’m in a more formal office, am in court often, and am short + curvy, so I have yet to find a situation where ankle-length pants work on me.

          An aside: hope your recovery is speedy!

        • Wow, I had a really bad reading comprehension fail earlier. Aside from the ankle pants, you could wear skirts with flats or dresses. I think if you have any that may be a bit shorter than you’d normally like (for example an inch above the knee) you could wear those with flats. The shorter length plus the flats helps with stumpification.

          Also, you can maybe invest in some more formal looking flats. Less ballet, more shoe if that makes any sense.

          Hope you start to feel better!

        • I would (and do) wear pants that are hemmed to fall/break on my flat shoes where they would fall/break on heels if they weren’t hemmed, if you see what I mean. But you might not want to hem your pants if the situation is temporary. Actually it sounds like ankle pants are perfect for you/your office.

    • phillygirlruns :

      i also wear ankle-length pants in the summer at my business casual firm, but if you’re looking for alternatives, i like wider-leg trousers with flats.

    • karenpadi,

      You are excused from this poll because you work in Silicon Valley. Conservative *for the Valley* is not the same as conservative on the East Coast. At all. Not even a little. Tailored, chic-looking capris are normal here, even for higher-up women.

  11. Vaguely related TJ:

    I’ve always read in style/office wear guides that knit suits are less formal than the standard woven polyester ones. While I can see where this would be true, do you ladies think it’s also true for St. John knits?

    I have a St. John pantsuit that I love and generally use as my “power suit,” but it’s a knit jacket. I do think it looks way better and more formal than any of my poly Banana Republic suits.

    • I do think they’re less formal (and I wouldn’t recognize a St. John suit if it bit me in the nose, so I think this applies across the board). Having said that, knit jackets seem to be pretty standard office wear for women of a certain age (and for some reason I can’t put my finger on, tend to look better on older women too), and if you’re able to afford St. John I’m guessing you’re in that demographic, so wear it to your heart’s content.

      • If you are in a situation where you need to wear your ‘power suit’ and the St. John makes you feel powerful, you win. Extra power points always go to those who look authoritative in ‘non-button down shirt under a Brooks Brothers suit’ type ensembles.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      I used to think they were less formal, until I started work. A senior female partner in my firm wears St. John almost exclusively, including to jury trials. She looks totally kick booty power suity in her St. John. Never again will I question St. John formality, though it may be a decade before I try to rock it myself.

      • Senior Attorney :

        I agree. I think St. John knits are a law unto themselves — as well they should be at those prices!

        • I agree. In a town like DC, St. John signals serious mature business professional or government official. I’ve grown tired of their knit pants, though, and like the look of a tweed St. John jacket and coordinating woven pants. St. John actually makes beautiful woven pants in complimentary colors. And the knits are extremely comfortable and forgiving on the more “mature” figure.

          • Whoa-oa. Just googled St John, loved the Houndstooth topper but OMGeez for $1,500 it’s gonna be awhile…

          • I only buy the stuff on sale. It goes down 40% at the end of a season, and up to 60% by the end of sale season. If you’re interested, get a Nordstrom personal shopper who works in St. John and have them call you when your size/style goes on sale. They are usually more than happy to order it for you. My shopper even sometimes goes so far as to order it into her store before the sale day so I make sure to get my size.

            The knits are also supposed to just last forever, so if you get a jacket for ~700 on sale, you can plan on having it for years and years. My $100 jackets usually end up looking pretty shabby after a year or so.

      • SF Bay Associate – Love this phrase: “She looks totally kick booty power suity in her St. John.” I have seen attorneys in St. John and agree, at least in Seattle for court.

    • Thanks for all the thoughts!

      I tend to work in more business casual (wear a jacket if you’re going up to the C-suite) corporate environments. Also, I’m actually nowhere near the normal St. John demographic: I’m 26. I just really love the stuff. Hopefully I’m not being blind and am actually pulling it off without looking matronly! :)

  12. I wear ankle pants in my somewhat casual law firm, but I would not wear them on a suit-required day (e.g. court, meeting).

    ALSO YOU GUYS, it’s my second-to-last day of my summer associate period and I just got my offer for after graduation. I’m on cloud nine. I’m also well-dressed, thanks to all of you.

  13. If the rest of the outfit is conservative – color, jewelry minimal, structured blazer, neutral top, closed toed shoes – then I think they’d pass as a suit just as well as a suit with bootcut pants would pass. The point would have to be truly ankle length though. Any I’m-almost-a-capri alternatives would seem silly when the rest of the outfit is such a classic getup.

    Better a deliberate ankle pant and a nice heel on tall women than a tall pant that is just slightly too short for her high heels or forces her into matronly shoes.

    • Ha, that last line is how I feel about jeans. Most of my skinny jeans hit just above the ankle. While I wish they were a touch longer, I’d rather wear them than a slightly wider leg that’s still an inch short.

  14. I answered it depends. Maybe at a business casual to casual office in the summer (and if you have no meetings). And also — ideally if they flatter your figure, which unfortunately for me…they do not. Because they ARE cute.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I agree with this. My supervisor wears them a lot and looks fantastic in them, but I’ve only seen her wear them in the summer and only on days she isn’t going to court or meeting a client in person. I wish they looked good on me, but my long torso and short (chunky/muscular) legs just make them look funny.

  15. They’re actually allowed at my accounting firm office. I think they’re more casual and should be reserved for more casual days. Personally, I also don’t like them. I’m 5’11” with a 35″ inseam and have spent my entire life looking for jeans/pants that did not hit me at my ankles. A pair of my skinny jeans shrunk after I washed them and they are now ankle length pants. I feel like this trend is mocking me.

  16. eastbaybanker :

    I’m not worried about ankle pants at the office. I bought my first cropped pants from Zara last fall in a gray tweed and they quickly became a wardobe staple for my business casual office. I just bought a berry colored J Crew Cafe Capri (called a capri but really ankle pants), which I plan to wear on a casual Friday with a white cotton blouse while most are in polos and jeans.

    I think there’s a huge difference between showing a couple inches of ankle, and actual capri pants. I don’t think actual capri pants cut mid-calf are ever office appropriate.

    • phillygirlruns :

      i have the cafe capris in kelly green and a pink/coral. they also fall just around my ankle, but i’m short (5’2 or 3). i don’t limit them to fridays, but then i am in a small office and am generally OK wearing that kind of thing as look as i look put together and intentional.

      i tried the minnie pant but it just looked scandalous on me – i have far too much junk in my trunk to ever consider wearing those to work.

    • I’m 5’11 and unfortunately bought the cafe capris before I realized there was a tall version. So they’re quite a few inches above the ankle. Since they’re such a bright purple, I save them for casual Fridays anyway, but I think if they were a bit longer I could wear them at my business casual office regularly.

  17. on this note…my office is “officially” business formal. The men wear suits, but sans jackets. The women, however, never wears suits, except for the summer associates. It seems like the older one gets here, the more casually one dresses.

    Which leaves me in a bind. I do want to follow the rules, but I don’t want to look childish or, alternatively, stuffy, by not wearing a suit. Lately, I’ve taken to wearing pencil skirt + shell without my jacket. The women in my office tend to wear pants + cardis, sleeveless sheath dresses, and colorful pencil skirts, and I’ve seen a few ankle pants here and there. I’ve never, ever heard anyone comment on others’ dress. Still, what people are saying isn’t necessarily what they are thinking. So, what to do? It’s odd that there is such a discrepancy between what the men and the women wear, and part of me thinks I should wear a suit just so I can be as formal as the men, but the other part of me thinks that I look much more polished in a dress and heels than i do in a pantsuit. I do love ankle pants, and admit to having worn a black wool pair on fridays.

    • In situations like this the authority that you project is going to be more important than your attire (as you seem to be dressing in-line with your peers). Generally, if you feel best in a dress and heels you will come accross as more confident when wearing them. You don’t mention your age or position; if you are (or look) very young or junior, you may want to err on the side of more formal. It is true that as women get older or more senior they are able to look beyond the navy pantsuit.

    • I would wear something that would be considered a suit (or suiting separates) if you threw a jacket over it. IMO this is the sartorial equivalent of a man taking his jacket off. So no jersey, skinny pants, etc, but a pencil skirt and blouse or a sheath are totally fine. And do keep a jacket or two in your office to throw on just in case.

    • I have been cultivating a sort of work uniform lately. My workplace is also officially quite formal but, in actuality, really runsthe gamut. On all but certain official occasions, it’s very easy to get away with quite a bit (and yes, like in Halp’s office, some of the folks who’ve been here longest get away with the most). But I realized that “getting away” with something wouldn’t really work for me either personally or professionally, so my solution on non-suit days has been button down blouses/shirts + pencil skirt. I think it’s hard to initially find button downs that are comfortable and fit without gaping (esp. if you’re busty like me), but they do exist (or can be tailored) and once you find brands that work, it’s so awesome. I always feel really polished and professional and whether I have a blazer in my office or not, it always feels like I do by implication. In fact, I always feel like that outfit basically says, “hey everyone, I am working hard over here so I took off my jacket…” I know that sounds really silly, but it really works for me.
      And, also, because it’s such a classic outfit I feel like I can wear some of my more fun accessories. I also do sheath dresses quite a bit, but those work best for me in more substantial, conservative fabrics (except my eyelet which I will not give up for summer no matter what Kat or anyone else thinks). For some reason, I don’t like pairing sheath dresses with shorter cardigans (makes me feel like I am PTA president or something) but longer ones really work quite well. Or I’ll do a non-matching blazer with the dress; something that wouldn’t quite work as a full suit b/c of color or texture usually works best.

  18. Diana Barry :

    I hate the Minnie pants. They look really weird on me- on one size I was swimming in them, but the next size down was inappropriately tight and not flattering at all, made my thighs look really thundery.

    I don’t wear ankle pants at my office bc the assistants wear them – the whole issue with not-looking-like-an-assistant that we talked about earlier this week. I do think they look sharp, but NOT with a suit. Bleh.

    • Gooseberry :

      I hate the Minnies, too! And I really, really, really want to love them (or, more, I want them to look good on me). But, alas, I look frumcentral in them.

    • I had the same problem with the minnie pant. They are not a magic pant (or whatever they adverstise it as)! Any pant that makes a 5’7″, 130 lb woman feel fat is not magic. I also do not think they should be worn to work. Niether should leggins or skinny jeans, ever.

  19. I think they would be ok in a business casual office, on a Friday.

  20. PharmaGirl :

    I have actually just started wearing ankle pants for the first time ever. My company is business casual and the attire ranges from frumpy to perfect business attire to way-too-short-skirts on women who look like they’re going clubbing. I try to wear a more structured top or blazer with ankle pants to keep the outfit on the formal side. Otherwise I think it veers into dinner-date territory.

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