Style Crisis: Wide-legged cropped trousers

Wide-legged cropped trousers

How do I fear thee, wide-legged cropped trousers? Let me count the ways….

If there were a record for the number of potential style crises embodied in a single garment, my wide-legged cropped trousers would win the prize, take the biscuit, have their cake and eat it too.

Some garments present challenges in their making. I’ve been working on a checked blazer on-and-off for months now. It will eventually see the light of day some time in the autumn (note: I’m not committing to a particular year) but when it’s eventually finished, I know that it’ll be the making of any number of outfits. In the meantime it’s the kind of project that deserves time spending on it.

My wide-legged cropped trousers, on the other hand, were a breeze to assemble. True, there was a bit of tweakery required with the fit but they’re a great project if you’re not too confident with your sewing skills. When it comes to wearing and styling them? Another tale entirely. Here we go…

Aspirational trousers

The goal here – a pair of wide-legged trousers, cool and comfortable to wear in the summer – but hopefully up-to-date on the style front. Definitely not on the agenda: cropped cargo pants of the type that featured in many a holiday picture in the 80s and again with the children in the early noughties. I was seeking something with a little more edge and definition. The inspiration? Those disconcertingly dour, minimalist images from the likes of Cos.

Cos wide-legged cropped trousers inspiration
Wide-legged cropped trousers from Cos

I’m a cheerier soul than these models usually appear to be (it wouldn’t be difficult) but I do like a trouser. This cropped and wide-legged style looked like a winner given the current heatwave where wafting = good.

Pattern selection

It was at the pattern-choosing stage that I encountered my first crop of potential style crises.

First up – trouser length and width. Here’s where a trip to the John Lewis changing rooms with an armful of cropped trousers, determined resolve, good humour and a frankly-spoken friend were all invaluable. Nope – no pictures. (I mean, seriously?) But I assure you, plenty of cackles and pithy observations. What I learned:

  • Too short and not wide enough – Only side pockets and my secateurs required to complete the look.
  • Too short and wide enough = culottes. The devil’s garment. Apologies if you’re an aficionado but I made a pair in my needlework class in 1975. I didn’t look like Agnetha then and have no intention of trying now.
  • Longer but not wide enough – Ride up my calves when seated. I struggle for elegance at the best of times. These would be a fatal handicap.
  • Longer, wider, gathered into a full waistband – Lo, I give you a bedroom valance circa 1981.
  • Longer, wider, more fitted around the hip – Bingo. Still a little unsure as to what the difference is between a cropped trouser and an inadvertently-uncool ankleswinger but am prepared to roll with it.

I’d had my eye on the new ‘Fifi’ from Style Arc and knowing that their trouser cuts tend to fit me well, I decided that this would be a good option. My theory was that the relaxed fit would mean that minimal adjustment would be required.

fifi-woven-pant for wide-legged cropped trousers
‘Fifi’ Woven Pant pattern from Style Arc

With this pattern however I needed to face up to my next style conundrum.This pattern has an elasticated waist. Cue doom-laden fanfare – the one I hear in my head as I inadvertently stray into The Wrong Bit of our local M&S. The bit that’s badly lit with an endless maze of elbow-height rails of ill-fitting elasticated nether garments. I know I’m perfectly at home in leggings or stretch trousers – but gathered trousers in a woven fabric give me the jitters.

“But Alice – you just made two jumpsuits and they both had elasticated waists”

I know, I know…. But they used much more fluid fabrics and were cut with narrower legs – also jumpsuit tops are an integral part of a garment – no tucking in required. And what if I wore my top untucked over fabric bunched into a gathered waistband? That’s hardly going to give me a line like Victoria Beckham’s, now is it?

The saving grace of this pattern I decided, was that the front panel of the waistband was non-elasticated. I decided to risk all and run with it. The Style Arc size 10 lay somewhere between my waist and hip measurements and one toile later, I realised that the sizing was quite large. The decision to size down was straightforward and easy since Style Arc always provide the patterns for the sizes above and below the one you purchase.

My one adjustment was to add some width to the trouser legs. I took a line from the mid-thigh point as I didn’t want to be swamped by excess fabric around my lower hip. I added on about 3cm to each side of the bottom of each pattern piece which probably added at least 8cm to the overall diameter of each leg once I’d cut them to length. I also added some extra length, just in case I decided to keep them longer or do something fancy with the hem – neither of which turned out to be the case.

Wide-legged cropped trousers pattern adaptation
My added leg width

Fabric selection

Ideally I’d have chosen to make my wide-legged cropped trousers in our ‘Gibson’ finely-woven midnight blue cotton twill fabric but this will have to wait until the weather turns. The current heatwave demands a more loosely-woven fabric and so I decided to go with our ‘Coreopsis’ crisply-woven maroon linen fabric.

Maroon linen fabric for wide-legged cropped trousers
‘Coreopsis’ crisply-woven maroon linen fabric

I love that the weave of this linen is so textured and the purple-brown colour is perfect for summer. Pre-washed, it retained its structure and crisp drape. As I worked through cutting and assembling my trousers it proved to be a stable fabric and easy to work with.

The inveitable ‘oops’ moment

Once my Fifi trousers were made up (which took only an hour or so) I was eager to try them on and check whether they fitted.


And there it was. I could indeed get them on and actually they fitted just fine, especially around the bottom and crotch (Thank you Style Arc!) However the point of an elasticated waist, I assumed, was to expand as the garment was pulled on and contract around the point where it landed. Whereas my trousers seemed to expand to the point of no return as they arrived at my upper hips – with barely any subsequent contraction at all. Frankly it was as if I’d tried to make a pair of leggings without spandex. Of course this could have been avoided with just one more toile but what can I say? Just call me reckless.

Easing them off again it was clear that the expansion required to overcome my upper hip had caused near-terminal damage to my waistband. What to do?

One feature of this trouser design that I like, is the way the seams of the front waistband panel run down into the pocket lines. Not wanting to mess with this, I dismantled the waistband then removed the darts in the trouser back. I added on the corresponding amount of ease to a re-make of the elasticated part of the waistband which I then re-attached to the original front panel, thereby preserving the position of the front seams.

Front panel of wide-legged cropped trousers
Here’s how the pocket line runs into the seam on the waistband

Once reassembled I was able to get my trousers on and off without undue stress. I’m not overly happy with the bunching around the back…

Rear elastic of wide-legged cropped trouser fabric
Up close and personal with the back of the waistband. (Also no prizes for spotting where I removed that back dart…)

…but I suspect that’s the inevitable consequence of an elasticated waist. I’m not sure what else I could have done without a wholesale re-draft and re-make – although suggestions, as always, are welcome.


With my wide-legged cropped trousers complete, I was then presented with my next style crisis. What kind of top to balance a wide leg?

I have a 1980s holiday picture in which I’m wearing a friend’s pair of cropped trousers with an over-large, cropped, round-necked, wide-sleeved white t-shirt which is draped around the top of my hips. No – not sharing – there’s only so much indignity I can take in a single post. It wasn’t a look to shout about – but attempting to learn from my mistakes, I could see that a more fitted top might work better with a wider trouser. However I didn’t have a decent fitted top to hand, nor did I have a jersey of the right weight and colour to work with.

I decided then, to go with a relaxed cotton lawn shirt.

Wide-legged cropped trousers
Spotted in the local nature reserve

The details on that will be in my next post – but suffice to say although I love the way the colours of the two fabrics work together, I still feel as if I haven’t quite cracked the styling. Wearing the shirt loose over the trousers isn’t a bad look – I suspect that I can just about get away with it as my trousers are fairly fitted around the lower hip but it seems like a cop-out. Tucked in, I can tell you, isn’t happening. I tried, I promise – I look as if I’ve been cut in half. I tried the ‘French tuck’ as promoted relentlessly by Tan on Queer Eye but again, I’m not sure I have the upper body length to get away with that.

In the end I went for a half-hearted untidy tuck which I’m not really happy with. I suspect that I’ll end up wearing my shirt loose; possibly open over a vest top.

I suspect that I should either have used a more fluid fabric for my shirt – or gone for a slightly fitted, shorter style. Perhaps? Please, for the love of all things trouser-related – will someone tell me what I should be doing here?

So, what’s the verdict?

The thing is, I really, really do like these trousers. They feel cool in the heat and airy to wear. The linen feels lovely and although yes, it rumples a bit, there’s real life in the way it moves…

Wide-legged cropped trousers
We’re walking…

…and I love the texture and the colour. I’m even happy with the width and length. There’s enough fabric here to allow the trouser legs to drape when sitting and they’re are loose enough not to ride up.

Wide-legged cropped trousers
Loving that Fenland sunset

I love the fit around the upper thigh, lower hips and bottom. I don’t feel in the least contrived or awkward when I’m wearing them – not a hint of culotte – although I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a full-length pair. So with my track record, not bad going.

If there’s a deal-breaker here, it’s the fact that for me, a non-stretch, woven fabric in combination with an elasticated waist isn’t a winner. I’d really like to spend a little more time on a properly-fitted pair of wide-legged cropped trousers. There are quite a few patterns to play with.

True / Bias have their popular ‘Lander’ Pants

Lander+pant option for wide-legged cropped trousers
‘Lander’ Pants from True / Bias

as well as their ‘Emerson’ Cropped Pants

Emerson Pants for wide-legged cropped trousers
‘Emerson’ Crop Pants from True / Bias

I like the lower waistline here – but these would definitely require lengthening to make them work in my wardrobe.

The ‘Persephone’ Pants by Anna Allen are also an option…

Persephone pant option for wide-legged cropped trousers
‘Persephone’ Pants from Anna Allen

…although again these have quite a high waist which might not work with my shorter torso.

A bit of guidance, please…

It’s frustrating to have a garment that I like, and which works in its own right – but not know quite what to do with it. Are my misgivings about elasticated waists justified – or do I just need to stop fretting? Did I get the length right – or might I have gone longer?  And most importantly – what kind of top works best with a wide trouser?

All the details on my shirt will be in my next post. I do definitely like it but I’m just not certain it’s the top for these trousers. Is it the wrong design, the wrong fabric choice or the wrong way to wear it – any insights?

Finally – any suggestions you have for wide-legged trouser patterns would be gratefully received – I have a length of our navy cotton twill saved up specially…

Thank you for dropping in – please do let me have your style solutions!

PS – A big ‘thank you’ to Katie for her photographic patience. A cheer too for the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust for creating such a wonderful environment at the Willow Tree Fen reserve which we’re tremendously lucky to have on our doorstep.

20 thoughts on “Style Crisis: Wide-legged cropped trousers

  1. Karen M says:

    Think the way you’ve styled these is lovely – just perfect for this weather. I tend to wear mine with a close fitting t-shirt as I like the look to be all about the trousers! I made the Flint trousers by Megan Nielsen – have you seen those? No zip or elastic required just an ingenious way to open the waistband at the pocket – give them a look. I used a dark blue with white polka dot and get lots of compliments.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Well, thank you for the reassurance, Karen! I’m sure that I’ll be happy with a shirt on some occasions – but I do like the look of the closure on the Megan Nielsen pattern (which I hadn’t seen – thank you) – the thing is that having a lovely detail like that, you’d want to show it off. I think your t-shirt suggestion is a good one since you could tuck or crop accordingly. I think I’d want to find a non-draping jersey for it – then perhaps make it to fit. Probably in a colour that tones with the trousers so I don’t end up chopping myself in half. Duly added to my list – much appreciated!

  2. Karen Greenhalgh says:

    Well that was hilarious, sorry, also interesting, but hilarious. Not just me then that makes things, looks at it and thinks hmmm, but what the heck to wear with it.
    I like the look, it suits you and they fit great. Also love the fabric, although not a fan of ironing so I tend to avoid. ?
    Not sure I can advise on suitable unculottey trousers, the only pattern I’ve tried is the Burda 6856, which I’ve actually made 3 pairs of one option (wide leg that you could shorten) No elastic in sight by the way! To view said trews I’m kgreenhalghart on Instagram as I’m down with the kids ? Clearly, using that phrase means I’m not!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Dude, rockin’ pattern suggestion there… (Ouch ? strayed out of my comfort zone and into an unfamiliar wilderness there….) Seriously though – thanks for the pattern suggestion – it looks very nicely fitted on the rear with those double-darts and well worth spending a bit of time on, I imagine. Also the slightly dropped waist on View A would make me happy.
      Thrilled that I’m not alone in the ‘made it, so what now…?’ camp. What a relief to get to that point and then have people give ideas – I might actually stand a chance of wearing them in real life which I’d love to do. Just dropped in on your Instagram – you fitted those trousers magnificently! (Really amazing artwork, too…) Thank you very much indeed 🙂

  3. Barbara Rogers says:

    Love the trousers Alice, . Think a loose cropped top (doesn’t look as though you have a tummy to hide) would work well with these trousers. How about cropping the shirt to hang two/three inches below waistline? Pin it up first before chopping to see if you like the look. (sorry – i’m sure you would anyway) You would then see the detailing on the trouser front and it should hide the bulking at the back.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Barbara – so pleased you like the trousers – thank you! I think your idea of pinning up the shirt to have a look-see as to how it might work is a great one. I have a suspicion that using this pattern (which is quite relaxed in cut) as a cropped shirt might make me look a bit too ‘boxy’ up top but it will give me an idea as to how a shorter cut design (albeit one more fitted in design) might work. Thank you! Now, why didn’t I think of that… *rolls eyes*

  4. Miga says:

    You could go for an ogden cami (everyone has made at least one) and that would avoid the whole tucking in malarkey, plus keep you cool. Alternatively, Simplicty 8601 is a nice easy to make top. I’ve just made one of View C (sorry no pictures taken) and can recommend, although I did read bloggers’ reviews first to see what the pitfalls were and made adjustments accordingly. Again this would avoid the whole tucking in dilemma. As for the waistband dilemma, how about shirring?

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Aha – excellent idea, Miga! ‘Everyone’ being everyone except moi, apparently. And yet – I do like a cami – and it could be a nicely-draping option too *eyes up shelves of fabric* I seriously have no idea why that hadn’t occurred to me. And if that’s not a perfect illustration as to why I go public with these dilemmas, then what is?
      I will confess that I have not shirred since I was knee high to a grasshopper (they grow big in these parts) – and again you’re quite right. Time to dig out my ‘O-Level’ sample book. Your work here is done! For this week, at least…

  5. Hayley says:

    My standard rule is loose trouser = fitted top, and skinny trousers = loose top. So I’d go with a fitted t-shirt. The trousers are lovely!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you very much indeed, Hayley! I think you rule’s a good one. For me then it’d a case of picking a jersey fabric that has a bit of structure to hold the fit. On the case….much appreciated!

  6. Let’s Get Sewing says:

    I love these! I do love most wide cropped trousers as a general rule though, I find that they are easy to wear, look good and are comfortable. Personally, I usually wear mine with a fitted tucked in tshirt or a boxy cropped top.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you! I must say I was surprised at how comfortable they felt – we’ve all (well – lots of us anyway) spent so much time in tight-fitting jeans that it’s easy to forget that it doesn’t have to be that way! I am definitely on the hunt for the ‘ultimate’ fitted t-shirt fabric – good to have a mission!

  7. Samantha Stanley says:

    Lovely trousers and fab with the colours in that shirt! I understand where you are coming from with the elasticized waist conundrum. I have just made a pair of shorts from the linen remnant I bought from Clothspot a few months ago with an elasticized waist and wore them on holiday. They are based on the bottom half of a jumpsuit pattern. I worked a couple of buttonholes on the front and added a wide-ish drawstring and the illusion works extremely well. I tend to do the “frat tuck” with my tops at the moment, just tucking in a hand’s width at the front and letting the sides hang down with the back covering the waist, which I find to be quite flattering when wearing a wide trouser and top. The rule about tight top, wide trouser / loose top, tight trouser is supposed to be a bit dated at the moment as the look is all about being “just flattering enough” or so I am told. A hi/lo top would do the same thing if you are unhappy with the tuck and that one works really well with high waistbands too.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Ooh now Samantha – “just flattering enough’ – it sounds like a real tightrope to walk! I shall do my best – and thank you very much for the reassuring comments. If the ‘frat tuck’ is the same as a ‘French tuck’ then I have been doing that with my shirt but I find I tend to over-think it – but I am trying to resist over-tweaking it every time I catch sight of it in a mirror! I have a top in a more draping fabric that I have tried with the trousers and the half-tuck works better with that I think. My next move will likely be a camisole with enough ease in it to try the same thing. Thank you again!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Caroline thank you for the introduction to ‘SusieSoSo’ – I do like her Musings – a lovely find! I do see what you mean about that top with the wide-legged crops – she wears them well. I think you’re right – it’s to do with the proportions. Her top is less loose than mine, slightly shorter and it does work. Much appreciated – and I’m so pleased I’m not the only one who can dither around these things!

  8. Janet says:

    I know this post is old but I personally wouldn’t style these trousers like that. I would wear it with a cream or black turtleneck or a black button up long sleeve shirt tucked in. I find those pants look best with either long sleeve or tank tops, not so much with t-shirts. They are really nice pants though!!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Janet – glad you like the look of the trousers – and well-spotted that I had trouble deciding how to wear them! 😄 It was the end of a really hot summer so turtlenecks weren’t an option but I should probably have bitten the bullet with something more fitted and/or tucked in. I’m busy finishing a pair for spring wear in chillier weather so I’ll see if I can do better second time around!

  9. Marie K Lee says:

    Hi hi- I just came across your post because I’m almost finished the Fifi and have come across the same frustrating issue with the bunching around the back. Were you able to solve that issue? Thanks!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Marie,
      The short answer is no – I’m afraid I didn’t. I think the only other thing I could have done, would have been to go up a size – but then I’d have lost the fit across my bottom and got even more bunching – but it might have been a more even transition. My solution since has been to avoid elasticated trousers – however I do have another pattern waiting to go (the ‘Sidewinder Pant’ from The Sewing Revival) which has a similar front and elasticated back. I’ll blog or Instagram them when I’m done (next month probably) – and I will toile these ones first!

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