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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 5, 2006

Perfecting the pairing

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kristen Cosmi models cuffed Diane von Furstenberg shorts with Dolce & Gabbana platform shoes.

Photos by REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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As a general guideline, the wider the pants leg, the flatter the shoe. The more narrow the leg, the higher the heel. Anything that ends just above the ankle needs a heel to elongate the look. (A reminder: This length can make anyone appear shorter.)

The platform shoe, the hottest footwear option right now, will go with any of these pants options. Ballet flats are also versatile.

Here are some other ideas for pairing pants and shoes.

Narrow-leg cropped pants: A peep-toe slide with at least a 2-inch heel.

Short shorts: Platforms or wedges all the way. (Stilettos are a no-no too tarty.)

Knee-length bermuda shorts: Platforms with gladiator-style straps, peep-toe flats or a flat thong.

Leggings: Wedges or ballet flats work best. Beware of high heels!

Gauchos: Peep-toe platforms with ankle straps, ballet flats or flat sandals, especially gladiators.

Slouchy, hip-slung wide-leg cropped pants: Driving moccasin, flat thong or ballet flats. Boots are also a good option, but not the ones that only go up to the ankles.

Narrow just-below-the-knee clamdiggers: Chunky sandal with a high heel or ballet flats.

Narrow-leg, full-length jeans or pants: A heel as high as you can stand it, in a pump, slide or strappy sandal.

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Kristen Cosmi models Cynthia Steffe slim-fitted Bermudas with Juicy Couture platforms, on the right, at Neiman Marcus, Ala Moana Center.

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Kristen Cosmi pairs gladiator sandals by Michael Kors with a 2*Brand skirt layered over Alice & Olivia leggings at Honolulu's Neiman Marcus store.

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The popularity of shorts, pants and now leggings (yes, they're back!) in every imaginable length is great for those who understand their own proportions and how best to play them up. However, the many variations possible can make it difficult to get it all right.

It's important to keep your own body in mind, adjusting length and proportion to match. And the pairing with appropriate shoes is also key. Will gladiators go with my gauchos? Can I pair clamdiggers with driving moccasins? How about a platform shoe with my city shorts?

We have some help for those who may find it all too confusing.


Perhaps a gentle reminder is in order: When looking at prospective pants in the dressing-room mirror, look carefully at where the hem hits your leg. You want that horizontal line to divide you in a place where your leg is prettiest. It will, after all, draw attention to that spot.

If you love your ankles, cropped pants work well. If you have shapely calves, try a clamdigger. Altogether gorgeous gams? Don't shy away from shorts.

Some cropped pants cut the body at an awkward place, making you look shorter. And who wants that?

If you make a mistake and it's too late to return them, don't despair. Pants are usually easy to alter. Don't know how to sew? Most alterations folks will charge around $10 to $15 to alter pants.


Shorts have come out of the locker room and off the golf course to be worn in new ways, actually functioning more like skirts. Marc Jacobs, Cynthia Steffe, Max Azria and even Versace have shorts in their summer lines this year.

The design details that make them a hot item are cuffs, interesting pocket treatments, piping and hardware. Fabrics run the gamut, from gabardine and cotton to linen and denim.

The trick is to find the right length, width and fabric.

First, choose a pair that end just below the widest part of your thigh. Look for flat fronts, a much more modern (and flattering) look than pleats at the waist.

The new suit for summer is a shrunken, cropped jacket with a hip-length blouse and slim shorts. Shorts also look fresh with a peasant blouse or voluminous top with puffed sleeves.

The shoes for shorts? Choose platforms or wedges; avoid stilettos unless you want to look like a streetwalker.


Like it or not, the latest '80s revival is leggings, so you may as well get ready. Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui and Jean Paul Gaultier sent models in leggings down their spring 2006 runways. For fall 2006, designers Missoni, YSL, Dolce & Gabbana, Derek Lam and Abaete were all showing leggings as well.

The extreme shapes that are coming on strong in dresses demand a new proportion, and leggings fit the bill.

For fall, leggings are being shown with sweaters and jackets of every length, depending, of course, on the bravery and muscle tone of the woman wearing them.

When New York designer Cynthia Steffe, known for her feminine, fashion-forward line of women's wear, was in Honolulu for a trunk show at Neiman Marcus, she wore leggings with one of her new dresses for fall. Steffe achieved a flirty, ballet dancer-like look by layering a black, long-sleeved T-shirt under the dress.

"The freshest way to wear leggings is layered under a skirt or dress," she said. She also recommends trying leggings under shorts.

Celebs Sienna Miller and Kirsten Dunst have been spotted in leggings. May's Seventeen magazine shows them with a mini skirt and tank top, layered under a crisp cotton Luella Bartley print shirt.

Hue legwear reports that in the last three months of 2005 its footless-tight business (a synonym for leggings) quadrupled, and this January sales shot up 800 percent. Hue offers some thoughts on how to wear them:

  • Let them peek out under summer's floaty frocks.

  • Wear a capri length pair with cowboy boots, a short skirt and denim jacket.

  • Try leggings with ankle boots, under a chic trapeze dress.

  • Channel Debbie Harry with black leggings, a punk - shirt and a rocker mini.

  • Layer leggings under a belted tunic especially if you're a boomer who wants to revisit your groovy past.

  • Leggings can work well with those popular puffed-sleeve tops.

    Reach Paula Rath at prath@honoluluadvertiser.com.