In our latest column, "Ask a Fashionista," you can solicit our strongly held opinions on everything from how to wear a midi skirt without looking like a tree stump to whether a certain retail CEO should go ahead and resign already.
Q: I've been seeing paperbag-waist pants in stores. How do I wear them without looking like an actual paper bag? — Annie, New Haven, CT.
It's true: paperbag waists are a weird style. And when found on skirts and shorts, the look can be pretty basic, and not in a good way. But on trousers, the ruffled waist line is balanced by the elongating effect of the pant legs and can actually flatter the body. Stylist Caley Rinker explained the look, by first clarifying exactly what a paperbag waist is. Hint -- it doesn't involve paper
"To be considered a paperbag waist, it has to be high-waisted," says Rinker. "It has to be gathered at some area and have some fabric coming out the top, above the cinched area."
Makes sense. But the hard part is knowing what top to pair it with. "You need to do either a crop top or something very fitted," she says. "That would be the most flattering because most of the time, paperbag pants are loose and baggy, so no matter the size or shape you have to balance it with a fitted top."
Okay, easy enough. So always tuck in? "You don't want to hide the top paperbag-waist part, you want to show that off, so fitted and cropped is the best way to go," says Rinker. "You could pair a sweater if it's fitted but I would never do a baggy sweater or blouse on top because even if you tucked it in, it wouldn't be flattering." She recommends cropped and fitted sweaters until the weather warms up.
And last but not least, what about a belt? Rinker says it's not mandatory. "I would say a thinner belt, but it depends on the pant," she adds. "Most of the times you have that ruffled up paper-bag waist and you don't want to put anything thick on top of it. Try a rope or some kind of tie just to cinch it. You don't really want the focus to be the belt but the structure of the pant."
See below for some of our favorite paperbag-waist pants on sale now, in varying degrees of ruffliness.