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Non-Sad Black Work Pants
Pants for work, that leave room for you to feel like...you!
Welcome to Workwear Month at 5 Things! Every Sunday this August we are tackling a work wardrobe category or conundrum. While I recognize jobs and dress codes are all different these days, many of you still follow certain “rules” when getting dressed for the office. And by office I mean…whenever you leave your house for a work related engagement. I think differently about my outfits when visiting a client, even if all I’m going to be doing is rummaging around in the back of their closets. So this month a special focus on getting those office staples down. And not losing your sense of self along the way.
Today, the elusive fashion-forward, everyday black pant. A pant that doesn’t feel “too” corporate, isn’t jeans, is flattering, comfortable and is made from fabric you feel good in.
The Kick Flare Pant
The Maria McManus high waisted cropped flare is the holy grail of pants (if you like a cropped pant.) In stretchy, tropical wool, it’s truly four season. The fit is oh-so-flattering. The hint of stretch makes them comfortable but somehow doesn’t feel like you are wearing a stretch pant…a feeling I hate! The leg opening is exaggerated just slightly enough to create balance with your hips but not so much that it looks like fashion. This is my go-to pant for any time I’m unsure of a dress code or I just want to make sure my clothes aren’t noticed in the best way possible. I wear a size 4 in these pants because I don’t want them to hug my body too closely. If you are between sizes, size up. Otherwise, take your regular size. These are not cheap. But it will make you feel good to know that Maria McManus is a small, independent brand that takes the social and climate impact of clothing production seriously. The super soft wool (for all you scratch-sensitive types) is sourced from Tasmanian farms where they treat their sheep ethically <3. LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD!
The Pleat Front Pant
a.) The Row Igor Pant
This is the pant that the fashion obsessives OBSESS about. It’s known by just its name, the Igor pants. And people just expect you to know what they mean. It’s a delicious pant, obviously of the utmost quality fabric. It is a great pant to dip your toe into pleats or volume with, because the line created is slimming and cut meticulously across the size map. I’ve had clients buy this pant when they need a bit of armor for an important photo or job transition. It’s STEEP, but a cult classic at this point. And carried by basically all of the big e-tailers. So pick your poison (or promo code).
b.) The Kallmeyer Le Smoking Pant
In the same vein as the Igor (but with a significantly lower price tag) this pleat front pant creates a long, slimming line down the front of the body. It comes in multiple fabrics, but my favorite is this bouncy, almost tech-y fabric that reminds me of early 2000s Prada Sport. I like to wear this pant casually. Taking it out of it’s TROUSER-ness, with a simple tshirt and sneakers or sandals. But it would work great with a shrunken sweater and pumps too (as seen below!)
The Flowy-ish Pant
a.) Toteme Clean Wide Pant
This is my favorite “new” pant of the season (Prada fantasies aside). Many of the styles here today are classic styles. Pieces that designers cut and perfect over many years and become signatures of the brand. Toteme though, comes out with new shapes season after season and always seems to hit a bullseye with their silhouettes, in “work pants” specifically. The only real issue with Toteme is that their sizing tends to be all over the map and so confusing. Is it German? French? Wait, did that one site list it in UK sizing? You get what I mean. I often have to order in two sizes…but once I find my fit, Toteme pants make me feel like a total style star and therefore I immediately forgive them. This season, my black pant of choice is their Clean Wide Pant. Unfortunately, I had to exchange sizing (I shouldn’t have been so confident, ordering just one size!) This pant runs a little tight. The DE34 (or US4) was hard to zip and I really dislike a zipped in feeling (If you do, take your normal size). It’s made from a heavy crepe fabric that zips up the side meaning it’s not a pant I plan to pair with a tucked in top. It just sits on my waist, hangs on my hips and is the perfect partner for an untucked button down, a High Sport polo or V-neck cashmere sweater. The legs swing when I walk but the fabric’s thickness is heavy enough that I don’t feel like I’m in a flirty pj pant like last week’s date night newsletter. They prove that corporate style success need not flourish exclusively in wool. Another bonus, the hemline of these is great with any shoe. These are my seasonal winner.
b.) M.M.LaFleur Zhou Culotte
I love the idea of M.M.LaFleur. Anything that takes away the stress of being a woman in a corporate office space designed for men’s comfort (at a democratic price) is a noble endeavor. Over my many years as fashion editor at The Wall Street Journal, I was pitched COUNTLESS business school projects of trying to fill this void. The thing is, creating office friendly attire, that still makes you feel great, is not so simple. Fit takes expertise, quality fabrics are not cheap and difficult to source at small scale, and the economy of desire really butts heads with function first branding. M.M.LaFleur is one of the few brands that has been able to break through and make a name for itself without putting out a product that feels, for lack of a better term, sad. So I really wanted to give them a go for this letter.
I tried a few styles. Unfortunately their more traditional suit pants didn’t quite do it for me. I tend to avoid a mid-rise work pant (this is not an M.M.LaFleur issue specifically but more of a traditional workwear thing across the board.) A mid-rise that fits close to the body and curves around the hips, but stops short from the waist isn’t malleable enough. A pant like this can never give you a cinched waist, and yet it can never slouch either since it will create a lumpy bagginess around the hips if slightly too big. It’s just stuck in place. Since no body is the same I like a style that has flexibility to cinch and slouch. I am not sure this even makes sense. But when a pant is going to sit lower on the hip, I prefer less curve in the design and a straighter, wider fit that can fall over the hips instead of trying to create that body contour. A trouser like this is difficult to take out of it’s midtown context. It looks silly with a sneaker or sandal and immediately reads office. Just something to think about when trying on your tenth pair and you’ve lost all sense of direction.
But ok, I will stop this rant, because it’s really not even aimed at M.M.LaFleur and I’m here to tell you their Zhou culotte totally delivered! It is made from a textured fabric that feels great against the skin and though delicate looking, it reads matte so doesn’t feel too shiny for the office. It will go great with a blazer without making you feel like you’re in a man’s suit and was super flattering in the line created from the natural waist to the ankle. Given that it is machine washable and wrinkle resistant, it is a great carryon companion for all of you business travelers out there. Two thumbs up.
The “Loose but Chic” Pant
A former boss once wrote in my birthday card to enjoy the day and buy myself something “loose but chic.” I am still laughing but also never forgot it because he had me so pegged! Nothing I love more than sizing up and feeling draped in luxurious fabrics! I recognize that not everyone wants to look like they are swimming in their clothing for the office, but I have found the Goldilocks version of the loose but chic pant. The Relaxed Tailored pant by Matteau creates a slouchy drape, while sitting very flat on the waist (making it easy to layer shirts over.) I wear a size 2 in this pant (their sizing runs 1,2,3,4) so the pockets don’t pull on my hips. I find this pant runs slightly narrow in the hips. For those of you who run straighter, this is a great option. The side seam angles out gradually creating a nice line, in a lightweight fabric that falls softly. Great with a sneaker and shrunken sweatshirt for creative types. Great with a vintage silk blouse and block heel for more traditional corporatists (is this a word?)
The Italian Pant
I hate to play geographical favorites, but the the Italians just make a superior pant. I’m sorry. It’s true. Gucci. Great pants. Max Mara. Great pants! And I’ll let you in on a little secret: once you commit to an Italian designer pant, you really only need to buy it full price once. Because once you’ve figured out your fit, the Italians seem to be the best at keeping sizing consistent and you’ll be able to hunt down your size at resale or during end of season sales from now til eternity. Pants are some of the best deals to be had second hand, because they are the hardest to buy without trying (in theory.) Since I know I am a 40IT in Max Mara for a fitted fit and a 42 for a slouchy one, I can confidently order from across the second-hand-web. I guess this point is less of a specific suggestion (though you will not be sad about having the Nepeta in your rotation) and more about thinking about provinance when making an investment in your boss-lady self.
Hoping today gave you the tools to find your power pants…so you don’t have to think about it on the weekends (beyond scrolling this far down.) Thanks for coming and go enjoy your Sunday sans scaries.
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And a P.S. Hot Take
I also love MM6 (the contemporary brand under the Maison Margiela umbrella) trousers. I am not including them in top 5 because they are not super consistent in actually having a great pair. Some seasons they offer amazing styles with unique tailoring deals. And then some seasons it all looks just…weird? In a good way, but maybe not for your company presentation. You can find great styles here and there though on super sale. If you do a little digging on sites like Yoox and the Outnet you can find interestingly constructed styles for a bargain. Happy hunting!
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