I absolutely detest any waistline above my navel. I am a mom, but not a mom jeans fan. What am I to do with the current trend for high-rise pants? My low-ish rise jeans and pants from the 1990s and beyond are getting threadbare, but is there a way I can adapt and look current without feeling frumpy? — Heidi, New York
It is true that low-slung 1990s trousers are having a moment. But, as is fashion’s wont, so, too, are their high-rise opposites; the yin to the Y2K yang.
Arguably we are living in a post-trend moment when pretty much anything, or everything, goes. That’s why, whenever I hear that skinny jeans are over, or skinny jeans are back, I roll my eyes. Everything everywhere all at once could pretty much be the theme tune of fashion these days.
Look around, and you will see “dad jeans,” “mom jeans,” distressed jeans, wide jeans, boot-cut jeans, flared jeans, stretch jeans, stiff jeans, et cetera.
That said, there is a certain polish to the high-rise trend that makes it worth noting. It is less about nostalgia than maturity. Which is not the same as the frumpiness historically associated with mom cuts, which — let’s be honest — had more to do with the frumpiness that society assigned to being a mom, and thus off the market, than any actual clothes.
In fact, a higher waist actually creates the trompe l’oeil effect of a longer leg, which in turn pushes all sorts of subconscious buttons in the watching world about the power of one’s stride. To paraphrase a line from Nancy Sinatra, the message is: These pants were made for walking — and one of these days they might just walk all over you.
Just think about one of the most famous high-rise pants wearers of all: Katharine Hepburn. Or the fact that Michelle Obama and Meghan Markle are fans.
The secret is to stop seeing the high-rise as punishment that focuses on the middle and fixate on the idea of proportion. (Hard, I know, given how much the flat, or not-so-flat, stomach has been an arbiter of women’s worth.)
Practically that means, said Angela Koh, the market editor of T Magazine, “I would recommend a wide-leg silhouette, like this pair from the premium denim brand SLVRLKE or these jeans from Banana Republic.” That creates a swish line from the (slightly raised) waist to the ground, especially when paired with high heels — though if you let the hem cover the shoe, you could also get away with sneakers.
Stuart Vevers, the creative director of Coach, advised balancing the bottoms with a cropped top and making sure it emphasized the waist. Belts are the crucial accessory here, he said. If you have a favorite, this is the place for it to shine.
Ms. Koh agreed, noting that the key is “making sure the waistline is visible.” That could also mean pairing high-rises with “a crisp, oversize button-down either tucked in or kept open over a T-shirt, or a roomy crew-neck sweater loosely tucked in the front.”
Just remember that the goal is balance — in pants, as in all things.