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What are the proper hem lengths for women’s pants? And how do you hem your pants if you commute in flats but wear heels at work?
Reader Y wonders about flared pants, but I think she brings up a great point about hems and women who commute in shoes other than their office heels.
I’m a 25 year old working in Boston, usually in nice business casual offices. I don’t need to wear a suit, but I do need to look good. I have a number of flared (not too heavily) in my wardrobe and I don’t know if I can wear them to the office. Do you have any tips on length? What shoes can/should I wear (especially since I put on other shoes for the commute from and two work that are often flat)? Will they drown my height? If they can’t be worn…can I get them hemmed or something? It feels like such a waste to have them sitting there.
Thank you for the question!
Psst: check out our latest thoughts on the best trouser lengths for women!
Are Flared Pants Appropriate for the Office?
When I first saw this I honestly thought, oh come on, of course you can wear flared pants! But then I started wondering if perhaps this is just a peculiarity to my age (35), since I grew up seeing lots of flared styles (and still think the bootcut is one of the most flattering pant shapes of all time).
By contrast, skinny trousers and capris often look inappropriate to me — too 1950s, too Audrey Hepburn gamine to be taken seriously for the office. But then I thought of some of the extreme flared styles we’re seeing right now and thought, ok, fair question — I dislike those because they’re too 70s.
My advice is that if anything is too reminiscent of any particular era other than “right now,” be careful about wearing it to the office. For example, the French Connection trousers (named “Galaxy Groove”) seem a bit too, well, galactic and groovy for the office.
What Are Proper Hem Lengths for Women?
I think the really interesting question in Y’s email, though, is about hem length, particularly once you factor in commuting shoes. I was just admiring someone’s outfit yesterday, but for the fact that her pants were 3 inches too short for her shoes. Sigh.
As we head into spring, lots of people will be commuting in flats — some (clutch your pearls, ladies) even may commute in flip-flops. This definitely poses problems with pants, because (for most pants) your pants should be long enough so only about an inch of heel is left showing, and almost the entire front part (“vamp”) of the shoe/your foot is covered, leaving just the toe part sticking out.
I’ve just whipped together what hopefully will be a handy visual guide…
Where Should Pants Hit on Heels?
(It’s amazing how often I see poorly styled pants and shoes on store and brand websites — in general I think J.Crew gets it right the most often.) I think that if the hem length is wrong, it’s very easy to make even an expensive pair of pants look really cheap.
How to Hem Pants for Heels, But Commute in Flats
So how do you solve the commuting problem? You have a few options…
Use Special Products to Temporarily Hem Your Pants
I’ve never tried them, but I’ve heard of Zakkerz (now discontinued, but they used to help you “hem” your pants on the go)… readers have also mentioned Sole Clips.
Commute in Wedges Or Heeled Commuting Shoes
My own trick (and one other people swear by!) is to commute in wedges.
Our Latest Favorite Heeled Commuting Shoes
If you’re hunting for commuting heels, as of 2024 we’d recommend brands like FLY London, Dansko, Eileen Fisher, Børn, and Miz Mooz. These help you maintain height for pants hemmed for heels — but with more comfortable shoes for your commute.
Another option: wedge sneakers.
Our Latest Favorite Wedge Pumps
As of Dec. 2023 there are a lot of wedge heels for work lately that look great for commuting or learning to walk in heels… Nordstrom especially has a ton, as does Theory, J.Crew, and Vivaia! Some of our current favorites:
Our Latest Favorite Wedge Booties
In 2024, wedge booties are hard to find, although platform booties and thick lug soles are very popular. Some sleek options for work might include these affordable wedge boots from Dream Pairs, these comfortable Dr. Scholl’s wedge boots, and these nice Anne Klein wedges.
Swap Between Kitten Heels and Flats
Another trick I used to use was to keep a pair of kitten heels at the office — the low, low heels were comfortable all day and frequently let me “keep” the same hem I wore with flip-flops.
Our Latest Favorite Kitten Heel Pumps
Our Latest Favorite Kitten-Heeled Boots
Our latest favorite affordable kitten-heeled boots in 2024 include those from Madewell, J.Crew, and Dolce Vita; for more expensive brands check The Row and Totême. (These AGL ones are a bit high, but might also fit if you’re on the hunt.)
Our Latest Favorite Low Heels in General
Readers, what are your thoughts on hems and commuting shoes? How do you deal with commuting in different shoes than you wear all day? Also, what are your thoughts on flared pants at the office?