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When Will Full Length Pants Return From the War?

Photo: Madewell

We are now well into my favorite quarter of the year (October–December), a time of largely perfect sleeping weather (55 degrees and under) and better than average daytime weather (below 65 preferred). All the best holidays are here (including my birthday), and I still get that early school year sense that all things, including total self-reinvention, are possible. There is only one problem: my ankles are freaking freezing.

I don’t know when “ankle-length” pants became the norm, because it happened so gradually and so thoroughly that I’m caught second-guessing whether I really did once own pants that actually reached my feet. I just know I haven’t been able to find hardly anything longer than ankle-length for years. Take, for instance, the modern millennial staple Everlane: by my count, the store currently offers 12 different styles of ankle-length pants, and two styles that are full-length: sweatpants, and wide-legged corduroys, which I find heinous. Madewell offers so few full-length options that they have to explicitly specify one they do have as “full-length.” Ankle-length pants are now the default — it’s other lengths that must be specified.

Here’s my main problem: I’m 5’11,” and most of that is leg. What is “ankle-length” to the average woman is capri-length to me, and I can’t live through more than one era in which capris are cool. I won’t do it. I don’t mind the idea of an ankle-length pant when weather permits, but in order for pants to be ankle-length on me, they need to be full-length on the average woman. Do you see the revolving door problem we have here? While short women are probably thrilled to have so much access to regular-length pants they don’t need to have hemmed, us Tall Girls are ambling around in what we in middle school derisively called high-waters. Is it a serious problem? No. Do we deserve a sentimental movie about it? Definitely not. But it IS annoying!

Though I’m told there are ways to wear ankle-length pants in winter, I can’t help but notice that most of them involve having exposed ankles. In New York City in January, this simply will not do. I’m not a baby about the cold. I’m from Minnesota. But when it’s 25 degrees out, you can’t just leave your ankles out so that cold air sneaks up your pant legs and your skin gets scaly and dry. And though I am sure there are women cooler than I who could make it work, I’m not convinced there’s a stylish way to wear thick knee-length socks under one’s pseudo-capris. There’s also, arguably, the option to bridge the gap left by ankle-length pants with ankle boots, but getting the combination to look fashion-y and not simply weird is a skill I have yet to achieve. (Plus, there is still the airflow issue.) If you have to use a whole other item of clothing to make your pants … well, pants, then they are not really, in practical terms, pants.

There are a few places where I can get “tall” length pants, and I’m grateful, truly. I can’t help but notice, though, that this option is usually made available to me only in denim, most often in skinny jeans. Not every tall woman wants to be wearing skinny jeans all the time. There are other sorts of pants we would like access to. (This is especially true of tall women who shop in what stores now call “extended sizing.”) I’m not really asking for examples of places where I can find these things. Whenever I’ve complained about inseam lengths in the past people have been like, “Have you heard of Long Tall Sally?” Obviously I’ve heard of Long Tall Sally. Karl Lagerfeld did a capsule there. It’s my fault I’ve never taken it seriously. (Though I’d argue that it is also Sally’s.)

All I’m saying is this: there once was a time when there were more full-length pants than I knew what to do with. I remember it only faintly: how I would put them on, and walk around in them with only minimal ankle exposure, and then when I sat, they’d lift a little, but not all the way to my knees. Maybe it was whenever dressing “preppy” was last trendy, and who knows when that will happen again. I thought I’d sooner see button downs under sweater vests return than heavily grommeted early aughts buffoonery, but I was wrong. I know nothing about fashion. I just want pants that go all the way down.

When Will Full-Length Pants Return From the War?