Which dress pants to buy when trends are all over the map

Reader A has a question about which pants she should buy right now – so let’s discuss. What trouser trends are you seeing? Where do you think trouser trends are going in the next few years? Which of the trendy dress pants for women are you buying right now? Here are her questions:

Help! The work pants seem to be changing (wide leg! pant style! they’re back!) and I’m about to invest in a few new pairs due to weight changes but can’t decide if I should replace them with the slim ones cuts that have been in style for the past few years or something else. Where are the trends going? Would love a post

I’ve long had a theory that workwear is influenced by denim trends, largely because you get used to the volume difference. Skinny jeans and tunics lead to tighter ankle pants and longer, looser blouses and sweaters. Bootcut, flare and wide leg jeans and tighter t-shirts (baby t-shirts in the 90s, bodysuits now) will lead to more fitted tops in the office. A good example: the waist-length or cropped cardigans we’re seeing (versus the longer cardigan styles we’ve seen the past few years).

So what’s in style in denim right now? The big thing that I keep reading is going away is skinny jeans. But I’m still seeing a ton of them in stores—and as we head into the holidays, I’m even seeing seasonal skinny jeans in leather, velvet, sequins, and more. So I think skinny jeans are still in—I wouldn’t invest a lot of money in them, but if you have an outfit that you like, I think you can still wear it.

At the same time, but wide legs, loose jeans are very in – and bootcuts – and crops – and flared bootcut crops – and slits. So… I think it’s fair to say that everything is still inside.

(Add to this, of course, that the street isn’t like the runway—people tend to keep wearing things after they’ve gone out of style, adding only one or two new pieces at a time.)

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How to decide which pants to buy when trends are all over the map

So where does that leave you for workwear, especially pants? If you’re buying a few new pieces to bridge the gap in your weight gap (whether you’re losing weight and just passing the size, or have temporarily gained weight and intend to lose it), here’s what I’d consider buying for work pants right now.

How is your commute? Full length trousers can stink in slush and rain – to be honest I’ve always worn skirts or dresses rather than trying to deal with full length trousers in the rain. If you trudge through rain, slush and snow on a regular basis for your commute, consider buying some of the trendier, longer styles out right now.

How varied are your shoe heights? Assuming your previous shoes still fit, take a look at how varied the heel heights are. Do you wear flats one day and 4″ heels the next? Do you commute in flats and switch to higher heels at the office? Again, with full-length trousers, it can be a pain to get it hemmed just right – and you generally have to choose a specific shoe while getting it sewn. It can be restrictive, which may or may not work with your existing shoe wardrobe.

Which tops do you intend to combine with the trousers? If all your workwear tops are going to look best with ankle pants because that’s what you’ve always worn… I might just get another pair or two of ankle pants and call it a day. On the flip side, if you’ve bought more fitted tops for work and play, you might want to look into some of the wider pants.

How trendy do you want to be – and how? I would say there are a few big trends we are seeing in workwear as well as streetwear.

1) Monochromatic dressing with great attention to texture

2) dopamine dressing with bright colors to affect your mood

Trendy Dress Pants for Women: Textured Dressing

Then again – consider the rest of your wardrobe. If you’re going to shoot for the first trend, do you need your trousers to add texture – or can they be matte? If you need texture, you’ll be limited to what’s available in corduroy, corduroy, and tweed this fall. I feel this is partly why faux leather styles are so popular right now – but know your office and yourself before you buy them.

Trendy Dress Pants for Women: Dopamine Dressing

On the other hand, if you want to try some dopamine dressing, this can be a good place to double down on the trends – get a pair of bright, wide-leg pants to hit both trends.

A few great options for colorful pants for dopamine dressing:

In search of colorful trousers for work? In general, brands are welcome Banana Republic, BR Factory Express, J.Crew, The floorand Crazy Larry has a wealth of options; here’s a mini rundown of what’s out there right now:

Looking for more wide trousers to wear to work? We’ve just rounded up some – general favorites include pleated pairs like Favorite daughter, Everlane*, Reformation*, and Abercrombie*, with flat-front pair off Good American,* MM LaFleurand Ann Taylor. (* = plus sizes; see post for notes on petites and talls).

Some of our overall favorite pants

Historically, these have been our go-to dress pants for women… these are still in stores right now, and have been in stores for a long time – odds are a lot of women you work with want these pants, so you’ll fit in.

In search of curvy pants? You can make them up Ann Taylor (regular and small sizes 00-18), Ceiling (regular, petite and tall sizes 00-18), Express (regular, short and long sizes 0-18), and The White House | Black market (00-18, regular, short and long).

Some comfortable pull-on trousers for the office

If comfort is a high priority for you, these are some of our readers’ favorites for comfortable pull-on pants…

My $.02

Here’s my best advice: Regardless of trends, I would go for established shapes that have been around for a long time. Ankle pants? Check. Straight pants? Check. Bootcut or flared pants? Check. Pants with wide legs? Check. High rise, regular rise, check, check.

The trends I would avoid are the newer ones – front slits in your pants, side slits in your pants, cropped wide legs, sailor style pants, puddle pants and so on.

Readers, what are your thoughts? Which of the trendy dress pants for women are you buying right now? If you HAD to buy new pants for work right now, what would you buy?

Stock photo via Stencil.

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