how to style wide leg pants

Wide leg pants are once again in the fashion forefront. If you are used to skinny jeans, it may be intimidating to consider this drastically different fit. But once you try it, you will see how comfortable, versatile, and stylish wide leg pants truly are – on all body types. Because they are loose-fitting, they provide a casual yet refined look, while still providing undeniable comfort. 

Ready to find your perfect wide leg style? If you need some advice on what to wear with wide leg pants, keep reading!  

What are Wide Leg Pants?

Wide leg pants are exactly what they sound like: pants with wide legs. Wide leg trousers, of course, are dress pants, but wide leg options range from laid back streetwear to business casual. Typically, the cut of wide leg pants is wider than a straight leg cut and will fall straight down from the hip — they are not flared out like bell bottoms. They can be made of any material, from tweed to chiffon to denim. At the hem, these pants tend to be at least 20 inches across.

At the waist, the cut varies. Wide leg pants might cinch in at the waist, have an elastic waistband, loops for a belt, or loops with a fabric belt attached. They can be high-rise, low-rise, or somewhere in between. Wide leg pants may have more material than you are used to, but that just makes it more fun to style up or dress down! 

The earliest version of wide leg pants were designed in the early 1900s for Western societies by Paul Poiret, who had been inspired by the harem pants of Eastern societies at the time. They were worn by high society socialites and esteemed figures like Coco Chanel. Because these loose fitting pants gave the illusion of a skirt, it gave women of the time a fashion-forward yet practical option for more freedom in fashion. 

By the 1990s, baggy wide leg jeans had triumphed in pop culture and fashion before giving way to the skinny jeans of the 2000s. But these comfortable and stylish options have made a comeback in a huge way! Now, there are several kinds of wide leg pant styles: cropped, menswear-inspired, and more. You may come across the terms “palazzo,” “gaucho,” or “culotte” in your quest to find your perfect wide leg pants. Here is a quick rundown: 

  • Gauchos extend only to the middle of the calf.
  • Palazzo pants have a lightweight, flowy feel. These are the most voluminous of the wide leg pants – the ones that may fool others into thinking you are actually wearing a long skirt. Palazzo pants run the full length of your leg. 
  • Culottes have the same cut as palazzos but are shorter, cutting off at the mid-calf.

You may notice these variations do not have English names. These European variations of the wide leg pants show their historic popularity in Italy, France, and Spain. Wide leg pants are popular worldwide! (See what we did there?) 

How to Style Wide Leg Pants

Before incorporating this latest trend into your wardrobe, let’s first discuss exactly how to style wide leg pants. It can be helpful to brainstorm some outfit possibilities first. Envisioning the head-to-toe ensemble and the circumstances of wearing these pants will get your creative juices flowing. Here are some common styles, scenarios, and outfits to help you figure out how to wear wide leg pants. Which one calls to you? 

Office Appropriate 

At the office, consider cropped wide leg pants with flats, a satin button down, and a blazer. To top it off, wear small hoop earrings or studs and sport understated nails, like a French manicure. For a slightly more casual office environment, dark wash wide leg jeans will work with a patterned blouse. Keep a cozy cardigan at your desk for when it gets chilly. 

Versatile Date Night

Wear your wide leg pants with a crop top, medium to large hoop earrings, freshly done nails, and a fun updo. Wide leg pants that give the illusion of a flowing skirt is a beautifully feminine look that is complemented well by a structured jacket. This outfit works for a dinner out, an afternoon at an amusement park, or a stroll through a park — you can be confident that you are looking amazing no matter what you’re doing! 

Comfy and Casual

The ideal casual wide leg pants outfit allows you to go about your day in ultimate style and comfort. Casual, everyday looks for grocery shopping or lounging around the house should be functional – but that doesn’t mean they can’t be stylish, too. With your wide leg jeans, tie a hoodie or flannel around your waist for a casual aesthetic, and put it on if you get chilly. Wear a T-shirt and sneakers and you’re all set!  

Bold and Bright

Even if you don’t feel confident in the moment, dressing like you do is the quickest way to “fake it ‘til you make it.” A wide leg trouser could be one half of a power suit when paired with the right blazer! Wide leg pants are inherently bold, so maintain that confidence with your color theme and accessory choices. Select a bold belt to lengthen the appearance of the legs. Incorporate colors that exude power, like bright red and deep yellow.  

Retro Throwback

When it comes to how to style wide leg pants like the style icons that came before us, take inspiration from the decade in which they really took off in youth fashion. The 1990s popularized the modern wide leg denim look, so it makes sense to pair them with sunglasses that have a ‘90s flair! Wear oversize, ovular, or tortoiseshell frames with your baggy wide leg distressed jeans. Add a colorful, striped shirt or sweater along with a scrunchie and a choker, and you’ve got yourself a cute retro outfit!

Sweet Summertime

When you think summer, you might think comfy shorts — but it’s time to expand your horizons! Wide leg summer pants made of cotton or linen protect your legs from the sun, from sitting on a hot surface, and from bug bites! And sometimes, the air conditioning during the summer is absolutely freezing (we’re lookin’ at you, grocery stores!) and pants can keep you comfortable in those situations. And wide leg pants allow for air flow because they are not skin tight, making them perfect for those summer nights or fall afternoons. They will keep you feeling comfortable and stylish, even when the weather isn’t.

Vacation Vibes

Wide leg pants are your ultimate partner for comfortable travel wear. These breezy pants are perfect for those days that include the car, airport, and an evening stroll on the beach – no change necessary. Ideal for the fluctuating temperatures that travel exposes you to, these pants will keep you comfortable, cool, and confident as you snap photos along the way. Wear them with a cute jacket for a sophisticated look while sightseeing, or over a bathing suit for those summertime beach vibes!  

Outdoor Festival

Wide leg lounge pants in bright colors or a funky bohemian pattern are the perfect statement to make at a festival of any kind. Whether the festival is music in the desert, a mindfulness retreat, or a neighborhood art fair, wide leg pants exude a carefree, relaxing, and creative vibe. You will feel free to stretch and dance in these pants, especially when worn with sandals and a comfortable tank top. 

Don’t Forget Hats!

The sun shines year round, and hats can do wonders for protecting our faces. Even in the fall, consider wearing a large sun hat with your wide leg pants. Wide leg pants draw the eye toward your bottom half, but a wide brim hat will balance it out, calling attention to your top half as well. Extra wide brim hats and pants will in turn make your midsection slimmer by comparison. And for wide leg cargo pants or jeans, a casual hat like a beanie or baseball cap completes a streetwear look. 

3 Tips for Styling Wide Leg Pants

  • Your choice of shoe can dress up or down your wide leg trouser. When dressing them up, you do not want them to drag the floor. So, wear a heeled shoe, such as boots or stilettos. As for how to wear wide leg pants casual style, wear flat-soled shoes, like sandals. Having your pants touch the floor at the heel gives a casual skater look when worn with sneakers.
  • When it comes to tops to wear with wide legs pants, different shapes and styles will create different silhouettes. Because wide leg pants create a loose-fitting bottom-heavy shape with straight lines, you may choose to incorporate a top that shows off your curves. Alternatively, current trends are on the loose-fitting, boxy side – so a shirt in that vein works as well, and will surely be comfortable. 
  • Lastly, the rise of the pants will inform you of what kind of top to wear as well. High-waisted pants call for tucked in shirts or crop tops. Medium to low rise pants go great with a wide range of shirt options. The options are endless! 

Complete Your Look with UNIONBAY 

Whether your go-to look is business casual, boho-chic, or an aesthetic all your own, UNIONBAY offers the clothes and accessories you need to style wide leg pants. We design our comfortable classics to inspire everyday confidence in you, as well as clearance items at the best prices. Browse our collection of women’s bottoms and women’s tops for inspiration today!  

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