How to Wear High-Waisted Pants – 21 Dos and Don’ts

They hide love handles, belly bulges, and front flab. They keep shirts properly tucked-in. Best of all, they don’t give you a muffin top or show a plumber’s crack. No wonder, then, that the high-waisted style is on the rise.

If you’ve already gone out and bought yourself a pair of high-waisted bottoms like the ones below, but are unsure of how to make them work for you, read on. We’ve identified 10 things to wear and avoid so that your high-waisted pants look sophisti-chic instead of ending up looking like dreaded mom jeans.

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1. Wear with a Tucked-In Top

What’s the point of wearing high-waisted pants if you’re only going to be covering them with an untucked top? The good thing is, almost any style works. Plaid lumberjack shirts, long-sleeve tops, or your favorite tee — go ahead and tuck them into high-waisted pants.

Here’s a little styling trick: after tucking in your top or buttoning your pants over it, raise your arms over your head. Doing so will pull out just the right amount of fabric and give you that perfect blouson at the waist.

tucked tops with high-waist jeansElle MacPherson dropping off her son at school in London, England, on April 27, 2011; Claudia Schiffer dropping off her son at school in London, England, on June 24, 2011; Victoria Beckham shopping at the Eres botique in Paris, France, on April 20, 2013

2. Avoid Overly Blousy Tops

High-waisted pants already have lots of volume and provides lots of coverage, and a blousy top made of a lot of fabric will compete with that. If you pair an overly blousy top with skinny high-waisted jeans, you risk looking like a chicken lollipop where all the bulk is pushed to the top. So just say no to the blousy top: no to Cheryl Cole’s layered tank, no to Anna Friel’s ruffly blouse, and no to Chelsee Healey’s off-the-shoulder bed ruffle.

blousy tops with high-waist pantsCheryl Cole at “The X Factor” auditions at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, California, on May 8, 2011; Anna Friel leaving the Vaudeville Theatre in London, England, on December 5, 2012; Chelsee Healey at The Inspiration Awards For Women 2013 at Cadogan Hall in London, England, on October 2, 2013

3. Wear with Crop Tops

Crop tops are made for high-waist pants. Since you’re already keeping your abdomen, belly button, and most of your stomach covered, you have all the permission to show a little skin. Check out Kristen Stewart’s, Kylie Jenner’s, and Pixie Lott’s crop tops giving little peeks at their midriffs. If you prefer the looser, more flowy crop top style, that’s no problem. The cropped cut will balance out the excess volume.

crop tops with high-waist pantsKristen Stewart at the “On the Road” screening at the AFI Fest at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, on November 3, 2012; Kylie Jenner at the 2013 KIIS FM Wango Tango held at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California, on May 11, 2013; Pixie Lott performing at the Peace One Day Gala held at the Hurlingham Club in London, England, on September 3, 2014

4. Avoid Bras or Crop Tops That Are Too Revealing

We know it’s tempting to wear bra tops with full-coverage high-waist pants, but too much skin showing is never a good look. And if you do dare to bare, at least make sure that it’s something you’re comfortable in. Selena Gomez is decidedly more covered up in her snakeskin halter top than Pixie Lott and Nicki Minaj in the picture below, but her posture reads uncomfortable. She had her hands over her stomach in nearly all the pictures of her at that event, as if she didn’t want to bare skin in the first place.

bras with high-waist jeansPixie Lott at Miley Cyrus’ party at Madam Jojo’s in London, England, on May 8, 2014; Nicki Minaj leaving a hotel in London, England, on October 31, 2012; Selena Gomez at the “Behaving Badly” special screening at ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood, California, on July 29, 2014

5. Wear with Long Jackets

Play with proportions and wear your high-waisted pants with a long jacket like Jessica Alba’s and Kim Kardashian’s. A regular-length jacket like Kristen Stewart’s will also work, so long as you keep your top tucked in, cropped, or knotted at the side like hers.

jackets with high-waist pantsJessica Alba leaving a meeting at Internal Enviroment Institute in Los Angeles, California, on May 22, 2014; Kim Kardashian leaving Jerry’s Deli in Woodland Hills, California, on December 1, 2014; Kristen Stewart at the BBC Radio 1 studios in London, England, on May 15, 2012

6. Avoid Short, Bulky Jackets

They create a boxy shape and make the waist look wider. They also completely remove the hourglass shape, which is what we’re trying to achieve in wearing high-waisted pants.

unflattering jackets with high-waist jeansKylie Minogue leaving her home in London, England, on April 4, 2007; Chloe Sevigny out for a stroll in Manhattan, New York, on February 15, 2013; Eva Mendes at the “Grindhouse” premiere at The Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on March 26, 2007

7. Wear in a Flared Style

Throw back to a retro chic style by wearing high-waisted jeans with a little flare. Kendall Jenner even wore hers in a Woodstock-inspired style with a boho crop top for the Coachella Music Festival.

flared high-waist jeansKendall Jenner at the 2014 Coachella Music Festival in Indio, California, on April 19, 2014; Katie Holmes carrying daughter Suri while leaving a hotel in Manhattan, New York, on June 21, 2010; Geri Haliwell going to her parked car in London, England, on March 7, 2007

8. Avoid Overly Flared Legs

Exaggerated flares like on palazzo pants and bell bottoms look ridiculous and are just too much.

overly flared high-waist pantsKourtney Kardashian at the QVC 25 to Watch party in New York City on February 11, 2011; Coleen McLoughlin leaving a studio in London, England, on March 8, 2007

9. Wear Your Correct Size

Like most things in fashion, high-waisted pants look infinitely better when they’re in your correct size. Whether you prefer straight like Miley Cyrus’s Maison Martin Margiela pants or cropped like Vanessa Hudgens’ Catherine Malandrino pants, do get them tailored for you — your look will thank you.

tailored high-waist pantsJessica Alba being interviewed on the TV show, “Extra”, at The Grove in West Hollywood, California, on January 25, 2012; Miley Cyrus at Z100’s Jingle Ball 2013 at Madison Square Garden in NYC on December 14, 2013; Vanessa Hudgens outside the BBC studios in London, England, on July 16, 2013

10. Avoid Ill-Fitting High-Waisted Pants

Too small and you could end up with a very unsightly camel toe. Too big and your high-waisted pants are essentially just mom jeans that will make your bum look as big and as flat as dinner plates.

tight and loose high-waist pantsAriana Grande arriving at Narita International Airport in Japan on September 11, 2014; Mischa Barton leaving a medical building in Beverly Hills, California, on April 21, 2010

11. Avoid Shiny Fabrics

On too tight high-waist pants, shiny fabric channels Grease too much. On too loose high-waist pants, shiny fabric practically puts a spotlight on every crease, wrinkle, and pucker.

shiny high-waist pantsJade Ewen at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, England, on February 10, 2010; Kristin Bauer at the HBO “True Blood” Season 4 premiere at ArcLight Cinemas Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles, California, on June 21, 2011; Lindsay Lohan at the Sunday Times Style Christmas party at Tramp Club in London, England, on December 9, 2014

12. Wear the Correct Hem Length

On straight or flared high-waist pants, you want the hem just at the top of the toes like Jennifer Aniston’s for an elongating look. On skinny high-waist jeans, you want the hem just at the ankles like Nicole Scherzinger’s –any shorter and they’ll be pedal pushers; any longer and they’ll just bunch up around the legs, making you look shorter. 

correct hem length high-waist pantsJennifer Aniston at the “Just Go With It” photo call at Room Mate Oscar Hotel in Madrid, Spain, on February 22, 2011; Kim Kardashian leaving Barney’s New York store in Beverly Hills, California, on January 12, 2012; Nicole Scherzinger at the C London restaurant in London, England, on November 17, 2013

13. Avoid Too-Long and Too-Short Lengths

High-waisted pants shouldn’t be capri pants like Nicole Richie’s. They also shouldn’t be street sweepers like Jennifer Lopez’s. Milla Jovovich’s flared jeans could’ve looked as good as Elle MacPherson’s in #1 of this list, but they’re about 3-4 inches too short.

wrong length high-waist pantsNicole Richie at the 10th annual Style Awards at Lincoln Center in New York City on September 4, 2013; Milla Jovovich with her daughter at a park in Beverly Hills, California, on April 29, 2011; Jennifer Lopez going to a casting to audition dancers for a show at a studio in New York City on August 23, 2007

14. Wear Them Flowy

High-waisted pants look absolutely amazing when worn a little loose and flowy. You can go for a flower child look like Mischa Barton or go workwear chic like Olivia Palermo. Flowy high-waist pants look so good that Vanessa Hudgens specifically picked a white Badgley Mischka chiffon pair to wear to receive a “most fashionable” award.

flowy high-waist pantsMischa Barton at The Box Club in Soho, London, England, on May 26, 2011; Olivia Palermo at the launch of the Mango spring 2011 collection at the Palacio de Cibeles in Madrid, Spain, on November 16, 2010; Vanessa Hudgens at the 16th Annual Young Hollywood Awards at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, California, on July 27, 2014

15. Avoid Flood Pants

High-waisted pants look good flowy, but you don’t want them so flowy that you look like you’re going to be wading in flood waters in them. Jennifer Lopez’s Paul Ka resort 2015 pants not only were too loose, they were also too long that Jennifer was stepping all over the hem.

flood high-waist pantsSophie Monk at The Darker Side of Green debate series moderated by Andy Samberg held at the Palihouse Holloway in West Hollywood, California, on July 8, 2010; Jennifer Lopez arriving for the “Late Show with David Letterman” at the Ed Sullivan Theatre in NYC on November 5, 2014

16. Wear Streamlined Cuts

Reign in the bulk of high-waisted pants by picking a pair in a sleek, streamlined silhouette. Pleats like on Lauren Pope’s pants help pull in some volume, and a tapered ankle-length cut like on Drew Barrymore’s balances out the paperbag waist.

If you’ll be wearing a flared cut like Hilary Duff’s, choose a style with welt pockets over scoop or slash pockets. Sew the pockets flat if you have to. The purpose is so that the pockets don’t bulge and make your midsection look bigger.

clean lines high-waist pantsDJ Lauren Pope at the Coco & The Vanity Vixens Launch Performance at The Highline Ballroom in NYC on May 12, 2014; Hilary Duff at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills, California, on May 26, 2008; Drew Barrymore outside the “Late Show with David Letterman” studios at The Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York City on August 24, 2010

17. Avoid Large, Bulky, and Bulging Embellishments

Again, high-waisted pants already have lots of volume, coverage, and fabric on their own, so just do away with embellishments altogether. Wide cuffs, buttons, peplums, big prints, harem-cut pant legs — just skip on all of them.

busy high-waist pantsDita Von Teese at the 2010 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, on April 17, 2010; Kim Kardashian departing her home in Los Angeles, California, on February 22, 2013; Blake Lively at the “Green Lantern” conference at Comic-Con 2010 held at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California, on July 24, 2010

18. Wear Pants at the Natural Waist

The natural waistline, being the narrowest part of the torso, is where high-waisted pants would look most flattering. Note where the waistbands of Cara Delevigne’s white Stella McCartney trousers, Jessica Alba’s white Max Mara wide-leg pants, and Kendall Jenner’s black Alon Livne trousers are sitting. Give yourself that hourglass shape and cinch that waist!

natural waist high-waist pantsCara Delevingne at the 2014 Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on May 5, 2014; Jessica Alba leaving a hotel in Manhattan, New York, on August 5, 2014; Kendall Jenner at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards held at The Forum in Inglewood, California, on August 24, 2014

19. Avoid High-Waist Pants That Sit Under the Bra Line

The cut creates a wide martini glass instead of an hourglass figure. It also draws the eye too much to the stomach and abdomen, and just looks odd.

under boob high-waist pantsKim Kardashian at Redbook Magazine’s celebration of its May 2011 issue featuring the Kardashians at the Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood, California, April 11, 2011; Shailene Woodley at the Disney-ABC Television Group Summer Press Tour Party at The Langham Hotel in Pasadena, California, on August 8, 2009; Ciara at the premiere of “The Wrestler” in Beverly Hills, California, on December 16, 2008

20. Wear the Right Accessories

Pick a belt that isn’t too wide. Contrast the high waist with a long cardigan that hits low on the hips. Skinny high-waist jeans look good with flats while looser flared styles are better matched with wedges and heels.

Jessica Alba and Katie Holmes wearing high-waist jeansJessica Alba out and about in Beverly Hills, California, on October 16, 2013; Katie Holmes arriving at the rehearsals for Arthur Miller’s Broadway show “All My Sons” in New York City on August 9, 2008

21. Avoid Over-Accessorizing

Don’t go overboard with a flared jacket, a huge handbag, and lug-sole shoes like Kylie Minogue. There’s also just too much going on in Lauren Platt’s fur parka, crop top, fedora, white tote bag, ripped jeans, combat boots, and ombré curls ensemble.

What caused the downfall of Jessica Simpson’s infamous high-waisted “mom jeans” look were the double leopard belts. Not only were they bulky and garish, but they were also cinched way too tight that they created unsightly back rolls, belly bulges, and a protruding abdomen on the petite singer.

over accessorized high waist jeansKylie Minogue leaving her home in London, England, on January 8, 2007; Jessica Simpson performing at the 99.9 KISS 24th Annual Chili Cook-Off at the CB Smith Park in Pembroke Pines, Florida, on January 25, 2009; Lauren Platt outside the ITV studios in London, England, on January 20, 2015

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