8 Tips for Wearing High-Waisted Pants Over 50
You don't have to be afraid of this waistline—it's more flattering than you think!
When it comes to the latest trends, high-waisted pants may spark the most debate. Some love the waist accentuation they get with this cut, while others argue that the "mom jean" look is dated and unflattering. If you've always been in the latter camp, perhaps you've never even tried on a high-waisted pant—and the idea may become that much more intimidating with each passing year. But if you're in your 50s, stylists say there's no need to shy away from high-waisted pants. In fact, you might find that you prefer this waistline over low-rise and mid-rise options.
"High-waisted pants are a chic cut, yes, but they also work miracles to flatter, support, and slim any figure—especially after 50 when we need help with all of the above," Elizabeth Kosich, certified image stylist and founder of Elizabeth Kosich Styling, tells Best Life. "They define the waist with a waistband that sits just above it, emphasizing the midriff while simultaneously controlling bulge, lengthening legs, and adding curves. Who wouldn't want that?"
She adds, "For those who need more convincing (you shouldn't), high-waisted pants also parse the body into thirds—the most favorable portions for optimizing a balanced, flattering, and attractive silhouette."
If this all sounds appealing, read on for eight tips for sporting and styling these pants.
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Consider your proportions.
As Kosich mentions, styling high-waisted jeans is "all about maintaining" the correct proportions, so you'll want to be mindful of your individual body shape.
"When wearing high-waisted bottoms, it's often best to balance the proportions with your top," Rosie Mangiarotti, fashion and garment expert and founder of Perkies, says. "Pair your pants or shorts with tops that are either tucked in or end just at the waistline to highlight the high-waisted silhouette. This can create a flattering and well-proportioned look."
In order to accomplish this, you also need to consider the fit and rise of your high-waisted pants.
"Proper fit is crucial when it comes to high-waisted bottoms," Mangiarotti explains. "Look for a pair that fits well around your waist, hips, and thighs without being too tight or too loose. Consider trying different styles, such as straight-leg, wide-leg, or bootcut, to find the one that flatters your body shape the most."
Mangiarotti also points out that "high-rise" is an overarching term, meaning you can choose pants that end just below your belly button or right above it.
Don't scoff at a sweater set.
The old-money aesthetic is all the rage these days—and while a sweater set might feel matronly, a cropped option paired with a high-waisted pant is more flattering than you think.
"Pairing anything cropped above the waist with high-waisted pants will keep proportions in thirds, which sweater sets achieve," Kosich says. "Look for cotton sweater sets in spring and summer in fun floral, animal, or abstract prints, and pair with cotton high-waisted pants in white or fun, on-trend colors. Style with a metallic kitten heel to complete the lady-like vibe."
When winter rolls around, try high-waisted wool trousers paired with a cashmere or mohair sweater set, per Kosich's recommendation.
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Kosich explains that you don't need to go overboard when it comes to styling high-waisted jeans. If fact, a basic button-down lends itself to a chic, polished look.
"A crisp, clean, and tucked-in white shirt is always a great pairing with high-waisted pants," Kosich says. "It keeps the color palette minimalist, which allows the waistline to stay the star of the show. It also sets the stage for a statement belt or pendant necklace, both directing more attention to the waist."
To avoid the dreaded "stiff" look often associated with button-downs, she recommends popping the collar and rolling up your sleeves "to keep the vibe cool and casual."
High-waisted pants are inherently more feminine, so you can create a more interesting and flattering look when adding some menswear flair.
"Menswear suiting is always a good match with feminine silhouettes, making a tailored vest and high-waisted, va-va-voom pants the perfect pairing," Kosich says. "Try pinstriped trousers and adding layers to the vest—a sleek bodysuit or classic shirting underneath, or a cropped blazer or faux fur jacket over."
But when grabbing these options, ensure that you're still paying attention to proportions. "Just make sure the waistline stays accentuated and the silhouette remains divided into thirds," Kosich cautions.
Supplement with accessories.
As with any outfit, accessories are a must when sporting high-waisted pants. Mangiarotti specifically recommends going a step further to highlight your cinched waist.
"Consider incorporating belts to further emphasize the waistline," she says. "Opt for statement jewelry, such as necklaces or earrings, to draw attention to your face and add a pop of interest. Scarves, hats, or stylish handbags can also complement your look and showcase your individual style."
Choose the right footwear.
High-waisted pants can do wonders when it comes to elongating your legs. But in order to get this leggy look, you also have to pick the right shoes. Your decision will vary depending on the occasion, as high-waisted pants can be dressed either up or down. But with the right footwear, you "can create a range of stylish and age appropriate looks," Mangiarotti says.
"Consider the occasion and the overall style you're aiming for when selecting footwear," she adds. "High-waisted pants or jeans can be paired with heels, such as pumps or wedges, to elongate the legs and create a dressier look. For a more casual and comfortable style, opt for flats, sandals, or sneakers."
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Pair denim on denim.
If you're over 50 and you've got your eye on a pair of high-waisted jeans, don't be afraid of an all-denim look. While it feels counterintuitive, Kosich asserts that the "Canadian tuxedo" is actually "iconic, showstopping, and forever stylish"—if it's done right.
"The denim-on-denim look is also super versatile with its ability to be dressed up or down," she says. "Try a long, high-waisted trouser jean with statement flare, a western-style denim shirt, sparkly chandelier earrings, and strappy sandals for an evening look. In summer, style a classic chambray shirt fully tucked, half-tucked, or knotted in front with a high-waisted, ankle fray cropped jean and clogs, espadrilles, or a cork wedge."
If the full blue ensemble goes against your better judgment, try pairing a denim or chambray shirt with high-waisted white jeans.
Add a turtleneck.
While you likely won't be breaking out your turtlenecks for a few months, when you do, try pairing one with high-waisted pants.
"For a high-drama silhouette, wear high-waisted, flare bottom jeans with a classic black turtleneck," Kosich says. "The simple pairing is subtle but powerful."
She adds, "Find a pair of jeans with stretch denim technology (read: tummy control and butt-lifting features), then add a cozy, cuddly turtleneck to feel like a million bucks. To draw even more attention to the waist, try rolling up your favorite scarf and wearing as a belt."
Joana Walker, writer and fashion expert at Margo Paige, also highlights the importance of the stretch factor, since certain high-waisted options can become uncomfortable for your stomach area and back.
"The best high-waisted pants aren't stiff, so check if they stretch before buying to ensure the experience will be satisfying; corset-like high-waisted pants can become a pain, especially if you plan to sit a lot," Walker says.