Get on board with the ‘pants renaissance’

Kristyn Schiavone
Tribune Content Agency

On our latest shopping trip, my friends and I all declared that we needed new work pants.

In theory, “work pants” includes basically anything but sweats. For those who work in a casual office, it even includes nice, non-holey jeans.

But we were talking about “work pants,” the sad yet ubiquitous article of clothing that every working woman buys out of necessity but would never be caught dead wearing outside of the office.

How did work pants become a fashion pariah? They are simply never an exciting purchase. They are unflattering, probably made of itchy wool in a drab color. They make every top in your closet look like it’s 20 years old. And, at the end of the day, you can’t wait to take them off. Plus, you never replace them because trouser styles don’t change that often, so they may actually be 20 years old themselves.

I am hereby initiating a takedown of horrible work pants. It’s time to move into a future where pants are just pants, and they’re allowed to be chic even if you’re wearing them to work. Below are some ways that you, yourself, can begin this “pants renaissance.”

Become a more discerning customer

Look, I get it. This is a purchase that you just want to get over with, and you want to spend as little money as possible doing it so you can buy fun things. But grabbing the first pair of pleated khakis from the sale rack and expecting to wear them happily for 10 years is not the way to go. Take the time to find a flattering silhouette and a nice fabric, and if you need to pay full price for them, that’s fine. Think of it as “dressing for the job you want” -- an investment in your future.

Expand your color horizons

Black, navy, gray and khaki are far from your only choices. In fact, based on the colors you wear regularly, only one or two of these colors should be absolutely necessary. Once you’ve filled out those basics, branch out to other hues. Gap’s bi-stretch skinny ankle pants come in a variety of colors and prints, as do J.Crew’s Martie pants.

Keep in mind that if you’re buying lighter colors, you may want to size up a bit. The usual fabric for these trousers is thinner than denim, and combined with a lighter hue, they might show more lumps, bumps and panty lines than desired. Sizing up will make them a lot more flattering.

Look for embellishments

If you strongly believe that you will only wear black pants to work, then you’re going to need a variety of black pants to choose from. Look for things like leather panels or gold zippers to add some oomph.

Get tailored

Skinny pants continue their reign, which is great for winter because you can easily tuck into boots. Or, if your pants are flared or wide-leg, I assume you’re also tucking them messily into boots and changing into dressier shoes at the office. But with wide-leg and flared hems, think about whether you are realistically going to wear heels or flats most of the time, and get them hemmed accordingly. Most pants are too long for the average person, and they will drag the ground and get all mangled. A better bet is just to fork over the nominal fee —probably $10 — to a tailor or the retailer and have them fixed.