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Choosing the best dress pants for work

Woman in white top and black, workwear pants and black and white heels


Looking to revamp your business wardrobe? Maybe you’ve got an interview coming up, or you just accepted a high-powered position that demands something better than jeans and a t-shirt.

Yet, choosing a work outfit may be harder than you think! Dress codes vary drastically between offices, ranging from business casual to suit-and-tie. It’s best to make sure you have a few staples, including some blouses, blazers, and pairs of well-fitting career pants.

But with so many people trading slacks for jeans on their 9-to-5, how do you know what’s appropriate? Don’t worry; this guide will help you find the best dress pants for work.

Understanding how pants should fit

Finding the perfect pair of pants makes you feel good, but in reality, you can’t go by feel alone. Finding pants that fit involves a bit more effort than choosing a number, trying them on and looking at yourself in the mirror. Some pants make you feel great but are inappropriate for an office setting.

“Dress pants should fall along your body without clinging.”

A general rule of thumb is that you want a pair that falls along your body without clinging to it. Not too tight or too loose – you want to find a happy medium. Your pants should provide structure and have give without constricting or falling off your body.

Your dress pants are too tight if:

  • They form creases around the pelvis.
  • Your panty-line is visible.
  • The crotch of the pant rises uncomfortably high.
  • You can’t pinch extra fabric away from your thighs.

Meanwhile, your pants are too loose if:

  • They form creases around the pelvis (No creases whatsoever!)
  • You constant have to pull them up your waist.
  • They fall loosely on your backside, making you appear disheveled.

Here are some tips for choosing dress pants:

  • Take your measurements. This is the easiest way to avoid purchasing pants that don’t fit. Make sure you know your inseam in particular to choose a pair at the right length.
  • Wear the undergarments you’d wear at work. This way, you can see how the additional fabric affects the fit of your pants. You can also see if the pants are too sheer or too tight.
  • Make sure to move around, sit and stand in different positions. The fabric will settle along your body in new ways, falling or pinching in areas you’d never have noticed standing up. If they feel uncomfortable at any point, you may need to exchange the pants for a different pair.

Audrey Trouser

Choosing the best dress pants for work

With so many styles available, how do you know which are most work appropriate? Here’s a brief rundown:


Women’s pants come in a variety of styles, but only some are appropriate for work.

  • Wide leg: As long as these fit well in the waist, hips and pelvis, wide-leg pants are perfectly acceptable for the office.
  • Flare: The trick with these pants is to find a pair with a relatively subtle flare. Wide flares look positively 70s, which is a bit too casual for today’s work environment.
  • Straight: This is a perfect every day pant. Its shape is neutral enough that it pairs well with any top or shoe, especially pumps and flats.
  • Boot cut: Made with room to fit your shoes, a boot-cut pant is perfect for the days that it’s too cold to expose your feet or ankles.
  • Slim: The tightest you should go would be a slim cut/cigarette-style pant. These have a high-fashion feel about them and are great for showing off high heels.

Skinny dress pants are usually too casual for most offices, but refer to your company dress code before relegating them to weekends only. Similarly, some formal pants for women may be too much for every day, but perfect for corporate events or meeting clients.


Sturdy fabrics that hold their shape are best for dress pants. You may find yourself switching between options as the weather changes.

  • Cotton twill: This fabric makes a good dress pant for the seasons. It’s thick, breathable and wrinkle resistant.
  • Tweed: A thick, durable fabric, tweed it great for cold weather. It can be a bit uncomfortable, though, and will shrink over time.
  • Nylon: A synthetic fabric made of plastic, nylon pants are relatively inexpensive. However, they wrinkle easily, so you’ll have to iron them frequently.
  • Linen: Thin and lightweight, linen is breathable. It’s perfect for hot weather but not warm enough for winter.
  • Fine wool: Wool shrinks easily but is great for the cold.

Everyday workwear pants


“Black, navy and slate grey are always office appropriate.”

Dark, neutral colors are always great for dress pants. Think black, navy and slate grey – these colors are always office appropriate and easy to mix and match with different tops. You can even do light neutrals like white and camel during the summer.

Bright pants may be okay depending on the office. If you’re meeting with clients, it’s best to go conservative and neutral, but greens, pinks and blues may be O.K. any other day.


Patterned and printed dress pants can incorporate a bit of glamour into an otherwise basic look. To keep things safe, opt for small, neutral patterns like dots or pinstripes. Once you understand the rules of the office, you can experiment with bold options like large flowers  and thicker stripes.

Working in an office doesn’t mean your wardrobe has to be gray and boring. As long as you have the right fit, style, fabric, color and prints, you can add personality to your look with cute dress pants.

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Published on Feb 01 2018

Last Updated on Oct 04 2018

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