Do you have a favorite pair of pants that you feel you can’t live without. A pair you know you’ll be devastated to lose when eventually they wear out? 

What makes them so special? Is it because they fit like a glove, or make your behind look like you’re J. Lo, or maybe they allow you to move freely without the fear of hearing a tear? There could be an endless laundry list of reasons as to why you love your pants, but in the end those were also the factors that influenced your purchase decision.

The reason why so many women wear their favorite pants until their practically fall apart, isn’t because of laziness, or financial frugality but because of effort it took to find a pair that looks and fits so well.  

Pants are without doubt the second most difficult garment to shop for.  What’s the first? Swimwear – but that’s a feature for another day.

It probably took you at least an hour trying on all kinds of pant styles trying to find that elusive pair that met all the standards you set for yourself.  Or did you luck-out, and don’t really know what about these pants you love so much, are so right for you? 

Knowledge is power, and when you’re armed with the knowledge of what style elements suit you best, you’re search for that perfect pair of pants is made so much easier.  

Style

The best pants are without doubt classic, tailored styles; from flat front pants to pleated trousers, a straight or tapered leg, classic tailored styles are your closet staples and everyday workhorses. In a solid, neutral color they will stay current for years and can easily transition from a windy winter day to a steamy summer night. From formal occasions to work, and onto dressy casual activities. 

Your body type, personal style and lifestyle should also play their roles in your purchasing decision.

If you have a short body and long legs you will not necessarily look good in the same style as someone who has a long body and short legs. Likewise if you have the challenge of a full tummy, flat bottom or wide thighs your style selection needs to be one that minimizes the trouble area and directs attention elsewhere.

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Fit

Fit and style go hand-in-hand.

The most flattering trousers for women should be well-fitting at the hips and either smoothly contour over the buttocks, or fall vertically to the floor from the apex of the derriere in the case of straight or wide legged pants. Pockets should lay flat and close – they should not gape. 

When it comes to fit, make sure the waist is neither too loose or too tight. It should circle your waist without any fabric gaping out from your body, or being so tight you feel like you’re being squeezed. If you can’t easily slip two fingers sideways between the waistband and your body, try the next size up – you can always take them in at the waist.  A tight waist can cause the dreaded “muffin top” which is unsightly and will make you appear larger. 

If you’re heavy in the torso aim for pants with a slightly higher waist as these will slim everything down while also visually elongating your legs. I also suggest torso slimming camis to eliminate rolls and bra bulges.

When you are in the fitting room test how you look and feel while moving around in the pants – bend, sit, squat and take a little walk. Denim and leather can be relied on to stretch some while cotton and man made fabrics will not.

Try to shop with someone you can trust to be completely honest with you, or keep things real with yourself when deciding on a new pair of pants.

If you have a generous derriere, this might also cause fabric to bunch a bit in the back.  Try going up a size and don’t forget the crotch area; we’ve all heard horror stories of camel toe, moose hoofs, etc. Look at where the pants are pulling as the lines usually point to the source of the problem: a smiling crotch is cause by a rise that is too short to accommodate for your bottom and horizontal pulls at the thighs indicate there is not enough width in the leg.

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pantfitting

Comfort

In my book comfort reigns supreme, and is the result of wearing the right size and having any necessary alterations made. Too many women focus on the number on the tag. Style and fit are far more important, especially when you remind yourself that there is no consistent sizing anywhere, except within an individual brand. So aim for a flattering style and comfortable fit, rather than a size.  Then when you’ve found the perfect pants, if you don’t like the number on the label simply cut it off!  That way you’ll be able to focus on how the pants make you feel, rather than the fact that you had to go up or down from a certain size. 

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Fabric

The list of fabrics and blends for pants could go on and on for days. If you want pants that will stretch yet hold their shape, look for less than 5% of lycra or spandex in the fabric. Sturdy, medium to thick stretch fabrics give the best appearance if your leg is not as firm as it used to be.  Flimsy or light weight stretch fabrics will only highlight every lump and bump.

Wool holds its shape, is comfortable to wear and has a quality appearance, making it perfect for a professional wardrobe. Leave leggings, linen pants and jeans for weekend wear since they tend to be on the more laid-back side of bottoms.

Pants that are lined can be relied on to give a superior appearance as they allow the outer fabric to flow past the skin, increases the comfort level and the longevity of the pants as they reduce strain on the seams.

Stretch

Rise

The rise of you pants is important to how they will ultimately look and feel. Low rise pants require a firm, flat stomach to pull off, while high waists are flattering on fuller figures, and can work wonders at concealing tummy problems. A mid-waist length sits just under your navel and tends to be universally flattering.

While in the fitting room do the squat, bend, kick dance to help you decide if your rise amply covers your behind.

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Width

Your best leg widths depends on your height, weight, and shape. Shorter women can rock wide-leg pants as long as they flare out more toward the knee or lower. If they flare out any higher they can consume a petite frame and substantially reduce your apparent height.

While a straight fit can seem a bit boyish on a less curvier frame by working some heels and a cute belt into the look you’ll soon create femininity and shape.

A ‘skinny’ fit can look great on countless body types, as long as they fit well, the fabric is sturdy and they are comfortable. Remember, bunching at the crotch or digging into your hips is always a bad sign. Adding boots either under or over the pants will add variety to the look.  Boots in the same depth or color as the pants will elongate your legs while in a different color will add interest.

Cropped pants and trousers tend to look best on tall women and generally speaking the closer the hem is to the leg the shorter the pants need to be to look good and vica-versa. How short you can go will depend on your leg length and the style of shoe you choose.

Widths

Length

Bunching or frayed hems and pants touching the ground all indicators that your pants need taking up.

Heels can solve the problem if you can find the right height. For a length that will work with both medium height heels and flats stand bare footed and have your pants hemmed at the point where they touch the ground.

Thanks to some Parisian inspiration, rolling up your pants is very chic right now; it’s an effortless and free way to control the length. Usually a relaxed fits look best when rolled up once or twice, but lately celebs like Sarah Jessica Parker have taken to one long fold on skinny jeans. This really depends on your personal style, and how much leg you want to show.

Hemming

Creativity

Color, pattern and texture are all up to personal preference. Solid colored pants in neutral tones will be the most versatile. Medium dark to dark colors are the most slimming.

Vertical stripes elongate the legs while prints look best when they are neither too large nor too bright. Printed pants have lately become a staple in any fashionista’s wardrobe! They add some fun and edge to every look.

For women worried about having thin legs, a textured pair of pants can visually help add a little weight. Satin sheen is also becoming a popular option for pants but can add extra visual weight so be sure to add heels and attract attention high on your body with your accessories.

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  1. Great hemming tip , Ann! It’s always a struggle for me to get the hem right within a flat shoe and small wedge. Thanks sooo much , I will try the floor length technique soon.
    A faithful fan,
    Pat

  2. […] The Pain and Pleasure of Pants […]

  3. […] a good fit, width is the biggest factor to consider when thinking about which cropped pants to buy. Because they are cut-off above the ankle they visually shorten your height which in turn […]

  4. Ann,

    You write the most fabulous articles. I always learn so much! My favorite of all time at this point is the one on dressing with sophistication.

    Thank you for all you do.

    Sherry

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