How To Wear Paper Bag Pants When You’re Over 50

Oh, the return of the paper bag pant. I remember them so well from the 80’s. I had a love/hate relationship with them back then and I do again this time too. You may be noticing them quite a bit lately, but can you wear them? Sure you can. But this is a trend I suggest you really master and feel comfortable wearing or simply pass. Seriously. If you are top heavy (big busted) like me, you may want to sit this trend out because it is really easy to look silly unless you confidently know what you are doing. Don’t worry, we are here to help you consider and even master the look. Here’s how to wear paper bag pants when you’re over 40 or 50.

What Are Paper Bag Pants?

Paper bag pants are pants that have extra fabric above the waistline. Taken literally, it is as if you grabbed a paper bag with something inside to close it at the top (I picture a bottle of wine) and there is extra paper ruffling out at the top. Paper bag waist pants often come with a belt or sash to create the effect. Or they have belt loops so you can cinch them at the waist with your own belt. The more slimming versions have pleats and tucks that are stitched down so they stay flat around your waistline and minimize extra bulk.

How To Wear The Paper Bag Pants Trend When You’re Over 50

If you want to try paper bag pants here are some useful tips.


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What Top To Wear With Paper Bag Trousers

If you are thin and have long legs paper bag pants can be incredibly flattering because they define the waist. Yet, because you are over now over 40 you may want to avoid a crop top like the millennials who have not yet had babies and still have rock hard abs. Yes, paper bag pants look amazing with cropped tops but you probably shouldn’t go there (there are always exceptions). Therefore, opt for wear a fitted top or tee to make the most of the waist-showcasing effect by choosing a snug top that’s tucked in to balance these voluminous pants. If you wear an untucked loose top you are going to look a good 10-15 pounds heavier than you truly are, and who wants that?

Make Sure Your Jacket Is Cropped

While we we may sidestep crop tops at our age we are all for the cropped jacket, especially when it comes to wearing this style of pant. With a tucked in top, the cropped jacket will showcase the waist detail. Now we are also noticing long, oversized menswear jackets with paper bag pants or jeans, but it can be tricky to pull off. If you are going to try paper bag pants with a long jacket, I suggest catching what your back side looks like in a full-length mirror. Actually I suggest doing this before you walk out the door. Always. But when wearing this combination it is especially important. If you feel you look ginormous, take of the jacket and go with a cropped one. Therefore I highly recommend a cropped jacket over an oversized one in this case.

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Pick a Pair That Don’t Really Bag Out

OK, so this is cheating, but there are many styles of “paper bag” pants that don’t really paper bag out at the top but are actually simply high-waist pants with a belt situated an inch or so from the top like this faux leather pair above. This gives the illusion of the paper bag without the bulk. This would be the kind I would opt for, myself. They’re a lot more forgiving and wearable.

Try a Frilly, Ladylike Top

You know what looks awesome? A pair of dark colored paper bag pants with a frilly yet fitted top. This combo is a modern update on your classic work go-to of simple trousers and a feminine button-down. Again, make sure the top is fitted. Have I stressed this enough?

Opt for a Cropped Pair

I love the wide legged, cropped version because they showcase delicate pumps and heeled booties so well. Style them like you would a pair of culottes. Again, that means a tucked in slim-fitting top and killer shoes.

Or Go Super Wide

Since paperbag pants are dramatic, make a statement and try them with a super wide leg. Word of caution, I only suggest you try this if you are tall, appear tall or are very thin. Be sure to balance out the volume of the pants with a top that ensures you don’t look like a mass of fabric.

Try Paper Bag Waist Pants in Bold Colors

Yes, you will certainly get more use of your paper bag pants if they are in expected black or khaki, but you might find you love them a lot more in a really bold color like red, blue or orange! Heck, it’s already a statement piece, so why not just go for it? If you do, please keep your top super simple (like a fitted black tee or blue oxford shirt) and wear a draped moto jacket.

Shoes To Wear With Paper Bag Pants

You may wear practically any style of shoe with paper bag pants. With cropped or ankle length pants you can show off high heel pumps or ankle strap sandals for dress, or rock a flat pair of loafers, combat boots or even sneakers for a more casual approach. If you opt for boots or booties it is best to wear ones that are fitted around the ankles since many cropped paper bag trousers are slightly tapered at the ankle. Avoid wearing bulky or slouchy boots with paper bag waist pants since you already have created enough volume with the pants.

Shop for Paper Bag Pants

Shop the paper bag pants trend for women over 50 and see how they are styled below.

Do you think you can pull it off? Of course you can. Now you know how to wear paper bag pants when you’re over 50.

You may also like to read more styling tips and fashion trends like  Fall Fashion: The Best In-Vest-Ments For Women Over 50 and The Non-Fall Color Trend For Autumn 2022 for Women Over 50

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 3, 2018 and has been updated November 8, 2022.

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4 thoughts on “How To Wear Paper Bag Pants When You’re Over 50”

  1. These are super cute and I remember them from the 80’s back when I thought I was heavy but I wasn’t actually heavy, as I am now, heavy and know the difference 😉 But, I’m not sure I can pull these off. I have big hips and a big chest. I’d definitley have to wear a fitted top and I think I’d opt for the cropped but I’m still not sure I could pull it off. But if I try, it will definitley be with a fitted top 🙂

    • Well I always say listen to your gut. Especially when you are older. If you are not comfortable in this look, skip it. That’s what I do. I say “oh that’s cute but NOT for me” and I move on. There is always another trend that will look better.


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