The Hunt: Charcoal Trousers

Michael Kors Jaryn Wide-Leg PantsSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

So it turns out that if you’re looking for a pair of lightweight, charcoal gray pants (not heather gray, not tweed) — then you have extremely limited options.

Gap Modern boot pants Gap’s new line of pants (with lots of different fits) all come in a lovely charcoal gray.  We like the modern boot for $59.50 — available in regular, tall, and petite, with varying inseams as well.  They’re $59.50 at Gap.com. Gap Modern boot pants
Banana Republic Petite Logan fit wide-leg puppytooth pant The “Gap” family tree seems to be up on their grays, because we also like the tiny houndstooth check on these new “Logan” pants — it’s a stretch wool blend that comes in both short and regular. They’re $79.50 at Banana Republic.   Banana Republic Petite Logan fit wide-leg puppytooth pant
Falling Folds Pants This nice-looking pair from Anthropologie is machine washable, and we like that the pockets aren’t on a diagonal.  The waistband detailing is interesting, also — we could see it being great for women who have small waists.  The pants are $118 at Anthropologie. Falling Folds Pants
Max Studio FLARED TROUSERSThese flared trousers from Max Studio have a nice herringbone texture, and promise to offer “maximum tush-flattery.”  The fact that they’re on sale is a nice bonus, as well — they were $198, now $148 at MaxStudio.com. FLARED TROUSERS-6-BLACK
Theory 'Max C - Tailor' Pants We know, we know — these Theory “Max C – Tailor” pants are classics.  We think the “front slant pockets” are pretty flattering, and we like the slightly flared legs.  They’re $245 at Nordstrom. Theory ‘Max C – Tailor’ Pants
Michael Kors Jaryn Wide-Leg PantsWe can’t put our finger exactly on what it is about these Michael Kors pants, but they really do seem to be a bit more “money” than the rest. Is it the rise? The precise color of “charcoal sapphire” wool? Whatever it is, we like ‘em. They’re $750 at Bergdorf Goodman. Jaryn Wide-Leg Pants

Readers, what are your go-to spots for nice-fitting trousers? Have you found any great charcoal trousers lately? (And: why are all pant pictures on the Internet so hideous?)

Comments

  1. Talbots also has some good options in charcoal grey and lighter greys. I have a pair like these, and they’re great:
    http://www.talbots.com/online/browse/product_details.jsp?id=prdi24909&rootCategory=cat70010&catId=cat80010&sortKey=Default&section=Regular&conceptIdUnderSale=cat70010

    Beware the Heritage fit, though. The waistband is very high on those, as in “It’s an honest heart that beats under these pants!” kind of high.

    • I often find myself a Talbots apologist, but the last pair of pants I tried there (granted, in a light khaki color) gave me cellulite & dimples I did not even know I had!! It was so god-awful I refuse to go anywhere near their pants now (rational, I know).
      Does anyone else run into this problem with lighter colored fabrics? I really want a pair of light to med gray pants but have not seen anything flattering — and I am not even all that dimply!

  2. Midori says:

    I have a lot of love for The Limited lately. http://www.thelimited.com/detail/cassidy-plainweave-flare-pant/6622364 is on sale for about $40. Not bad.

    • Emily says:

      I have found some awesome pairs of pants at the Limited. Although beware the “budget” clothing line there – not so good unless you’re a twig. Many of the pants have enough stretch to be forgiving, and enough heft to hide the dimples. Plus they offer free hemming for card holders. Yay!

  3. Anonymous says:

    While we’re on the subject of pants, has anyone had any luck with Ann Taylor Loft?

    I’m not so sure about the fit or the quality, but I like that they’ve got some interesting colors and textures. I’m all set for basic gray, and I’ve been on the lookout for some tweed or brown colors.

    Now that I’ve been forced to break up with my favorite Jackson fits, I’m on the prowl for some new pants – but worried no pants will be as flattering. BR, why do you toy with my emotions so?

    • Rachel says:

      I just picked up some pants on clearance at Ann Taylor (not loft) for $20 that looked cute and would work for business casual / weekend luncheons. For the record, I’m 5’9″, hourglass, and wear an 8-10, so not at all their petite target demographic – but the modern trouser fit pants look great. That said, many of their suit-pants were made of thin, rather drapey material and prone to give the illusion of camel toe where no pant-skin contact was even occurring, so I’m not sure how they’d work for the office.

    • Anonymous Today says:

      Interesting, I never viewed Loft as having a “petite target demographic”. (Other than in the petite section, obviously!)

      Anyway, I do like their suit pants, but I definitely recommend going to a store and trying some on. I’ve found their sizing to be inconsistent (one season I’ll wear an 8, the next a 12). that being said, once I find the right size, I’ve been able to get some good pieces there.

      • Rachel says:

        Eh, it was based more on the fact that they have an extensive collection of petites and not so much selection for us talls – plus the proportions of so many of their normal (not petite, not tall) clothes fit my shorter girl friends and still look off-kilter on giantess me. I don’t know many tall girls who shop there often.

        • Anonymous Today says:

          Interesting! I’ll have to try to find a different Loft then. The three that I shop at regularly all only have about 1/6 of the store dedicated to petites, (with another 1/6 dedicated to clearance and the other 2/3 dedicated to “regular”).

        • Anonymous Today says:

          Oh, and there regular clothes look way out of proportion on my short frame. Perhaps they are just perfectly cut for women of “regular” height and look strange on anyone outside of that range.

          • Forestgirl says:

            I have that problem with their regular clothes too, and I’m short.

    • Soon to be employed says:

      I just bought 2 pairs of pants from Ann Taylor Loft. The quality seems good for the price so far. I like the fit in general, seems true to size to me. I wear a 8-10 and get the curvy fit (can’t remember the name). The one thing I wish was a little different was a slightly lower rise, but that might be because I’m only 5’3″. (I probably should get petites but they never seem to fit right on me and I can’t explain it!)

    • Another Anonymous says:

      I have had a lot of luck with their business casual pieces, but the suiting pieces haven’t held up quite as well. Most of the suit pants I found were not lined, and one pair fell apart at the seems after about a year of wear (I wore them about 1-2 times per week). But for the price, not too bad.

    • KelliJ says:

      I have a lot of Loft dress pants from years back. The fit was always consistent, nice fabric, lined. I could walk in and pick up a 4P without even trying them on and know that they would fit. Now, I can’t find a style that fits. I don’t even fit into their 4P anymore. They are way too big, and the 2P is too small. Misses sizes bunch in weird places on me. I’m very frustrated with the fit.

    • fresh jd says:

      Second going to Ann Taylor (better work-styles and quality than Loft IMO). They are having a huge sale now. I got a fancy t-shirt, 2 silk shells and a dress for $98. They had several racks of gray, charcoal, beige and black pants on sale (although AT pants do not work for me, unfortunately).

      • Agree that Loft is not ideal for work stuff, although I got a FAB dress there a while back for like $49 (what is that weird fiber/fabric called – modal? – like, like, like it) that I wear at least once a week and LOVE (and throw in the washing machine AND dryer, no problem). Plus I cleaned up the place this weekend on casual stuff for rock bottom prices – hot jeggings (I know, I know, you just gotta go see ‘em), $5 tank tops and a bunch of decent sweaters (for Fla.), good jeans tops and a couple tunic type things for jeggings/jeans.

        AT pants rarely work for me, although I got a pretty good pair of jeans there a year or so ago. Fresh jd, (thanks so much, maybe not :)) – your experience is *compelling* me to check in at the local AT for some sale hits :).

        And, boy, Kat is right about how hideous pants look on the internet. It
        is always a dicey proposition for me (tall, long waisted (read: short legged), tendency to the peasant in hips, quasi-willowy on a good day), and if the model has ‘smiling crotch’ I am going to look so street corner it’s not funny. The ONLY pants that have worked for me online are Banana’s Martin fit, long, and I think they’ve discontinued those (boo!).

        Segue, fresh jd, did you ever do anything re the JC Penney American Moment (or whatever it’s called)? I kind of liked some of the dress looks, like you was unsure re the sizing…waiting to hear an actual user review….

    • I have junk! Yes, Jackson, don’t go…please…

    • I used to have good luck with ATL, but their quality seems to have gone down over the past year or two. The same happened at AT, but Ann Taylor seems to be upping their game a bit now whereas ATL hasn’t come quite as far. I was in there this weekend and saw some cute pants, but the fabric looked cheap up close and they just wouldn’t hang right .

  4. i must be getting old says:

    I mean this gently, but if you can see the texture of your skin (cellulite and dimples) you are wearing pants a size (or more) too tight. Light colors may simply make this more obvious.

    • I take no offense at the suggestion — but I have sized up on that very logical premise and the problem did not solve itself. I just had some sagging in different places and kangaroo pouch over where my stomach should have been. My thinking is that either certain cuts just work for different body types than mine (going with the sizing rationale) or that some fabrics are just cheap and thin & hence also not for me.

    • Anonymous Today says:

      Not necessarily. I tried on a pair that was really loose fitting (I’m not sure they would have stayed up had I worn them all day/moved around in them), however, when I moved a certain way you could definitely see the texture of my skin underneath them.

      • i must be getting old says:

        Well, then I stand corrected. This sounds truly terrible. And I will now be doubly cautious with the on-trend creams and camel colors that seem so big for fall!

        • For what it’s worth, I have only ever encountered this with “summer” fabrics. Maybe for Fall/Winter, we’re all safe? ;)

          • I’ve had the same issue. I tried on a pair of lined beige pants at Talbots in the same style/size I have in light gray wool and the beige pants were a disaster. I tried going up a size and had no luck. I have a pair of light khaki linen with somewhat lumpy pockets too. I tried to go up a size but they were just so saggy that it was ridiculous.

    • I agree – it is never flattering to see cellulite ripples through clothing — I think part of it though is how thin the fabric is… most winter fabrics are heavy enough to alleviate this issue

  5. Amber says:

    I’m a huge fan of both Loft and The Limited pants. You can always take advantage of sales or 20% off coupons, and I feel like they look much more polished (read: expensive) than they really are. Lately Loft seems to have too many front slant pockets, which I’m not a fan of, but overall both lines wear really well.

    • Midori says:

      Ditto the coupons. I recently took advantage of a free shipping day and a retailmenot coupon for 20% off and got quite a steal.

  6. I swear by Express’s Editor pants. I have a hard time finding pants that fit right and never has problems with Express. They seem to have changed their sizing a bit lately though, so it helps to try them out in stores first.

    • Anonymous Today says:

      I always want to like Express pants so badly, but they just do not fit me! It does seem like the quality is pretty good for the money, though.

      • Julie H. says:

        The newer ‘wide band editor pant’ is very flattering (much moreso than previous editor pant) if that makes a difference…

        • Anonymous Today says:

          Hmm…Thanks for the tip; maybe I’ll try it next time I’m near an Express. Although, the problem on me tends to be that they look weird in the crotch (for lack of a better description), so I don’t know if it will make a difference. It is definitely worth trying, though!

    • Another Sarah says:

      I had a couple pairs of Editor pants a few year ago that fit like my Brooks Brothers pants – they were so wonderful!! The leg was a bit wider than the way they’re cut now. I had them for – seriously – about 10 years, and the only way you knew it was that the hem was worn through. I wish the legs would be just a tad wider cut so they would be more like trousers and less like pants that happen to be flares on me.

    • Blonde Lawyer says:

      Also love! I have the matching suit jackets too.

    • I’m with you! All of my dress pants are Express Editor pants, and I don’t think anyone would ever “know.” Of course, I work in a more casual office, so no one would care that they are from Express anyway.

      I have several different styles/fabrics/colors, and some of them do look nicer than others. I also have a range of sizes that all seem to fit. Definitely check them out in the store!

  7. Kaylee says:

    I have one pair of charcoal gray pants from Victoria’s Secret. I like the color but they sit a little low.

  8. I love those Michael Kors pants, but the model is very skinny so it might not look so great on me!!!

    Most of my pants are BR and J Crew. I have a relatively straight figure so the martin and city/low fits work well on me. I have one pair of gray pants from each.

  9. My go-to place for ordinary pants is LL Bean.

  10. I know we’ve had some debate on the quality of the GAP pants, but just wanted to add a note: I saw them in store yesterday, and the charcoal color disguises the quality issues a bit if you’re shopping on a budget. The hunt continues!

    • legalchef says:

      I bought 2 pairs of the “perfect trouser” this weekend using the 30% off – a black ankle length and a navy pinstriped regular, which I will probably hem with a cuff – for $42 it is definitely a good value for the money, so people should consider getting them when they have a discount! I am thinking about going back for a charcoal pair too, next time I have a coupon.

    • DCgal says:

      i agree – I used the groupon and bought “The Perfect Trouser” in Charcoal yesterday. I stood in the dressing room for over 10 minutes trying to find and analyze the issues with these pants. For $35 total cost I decided they work well. I am not super psyched about the fabric, but overall like them.

      • cbackson says:

        I did this too, except I bought the modern boot–honestly, I wouldn’t have bought them for $59.95, but with the Groupon, I was willing to deal.

    • Good point, ladies! I’m with you — for that price, definitely in the realm of worth it!!

    • I got the maternity version of these, which are the same poly-blend fabric. They look ok, but I probably wouldn’t have bought them as regular pants because I don’t think the fabric will hold up well. My wool-blend, fully lined pants from BR (regular, not maternity) are much better quality and not much more expensive when on sale and/or with a coupon. (Nothing maternity seems to be quality, but oh well.)

    • 2L NYC says:

      I tried on the black ones at the GAP last weekend, and maybe I was looking at too small a size, but they fit too much like leggings for me to consider wearing them to work.

      • huckleberry says:

        I ordered the Gap pants online with a coupon. They were unlined (which was disappointing, considering the price), and super-itchy. Banana Republic has better quality, which is worth it to me – plus, as a Luxe card member, it’s pretty easy to always have a coupon in your wallet. Just in case. :)

  11. Julie H. says:

    I spent hours and hours this spring scouring stores (from discount to upscale) trying to find pantsuits/dress pants that fit in prep for return-to-work. These are nice ideas.

    Wondering if those who are a bit smaller sized (but not petite) had any suggestions? Literally, the only places I could find anything that fit were Express (not to be annoying but 00 gets loose if I wear them all day) and Victoria’s Secret (quality not super on lighter-weight fabrics plus 0 is kinda short).

    I’m getting nervous since I read here (& elsewhere) that Express is ‘intern wear’ (!!). I can’t wear almost anything at Anne Taylor, BR or Talbots (jackets okay — size 4 — but want coordinating pants material).

    • have you tried theory? pricey, but they run small and do a OO.

    • I would love to hear suggestions as well.

      Unfortunately, my usual MO is to buy the smallest size wherever and have the hips and waist tailored or wear them lower on the waist and have the hips tailored. Not ideal, but because the small sizes are often on sale, paying for alterations is okay.

      Also, with VS, they do have tall inseams which, I think, are 36″ and if that isn’t enough, I am jealous of your legs. Some stores – Jcrew and maybe BR (or so it has seemed) – are making a better effort to carry 00.

      And, for my 2 cents, clothes that don’t fit are worse than clothes that some might call ‘intern wear.’

    • Some of the negative comments with respect to Express may be directed at the overall style of their clothes – after all, think what you see displayed in the window when you walk by one of their stores! – and not at specific items such as their Editor pants. In my opinion, their solid color, unembellished suiting is fine for most business casual offices… unless it is paired with, say, one of their halter tops (that’s not to suggest that I think you’d consider pairing it with a halter top;)). I’d bet most people couldn’t identify a plain, charcoal-colored Editor pant as being from Express unless they either owned a pair themselves or somehow saw the label.

    • You might want to try Antonio Melani at Dillard’s. I can wear a 2 at BR/AT much of the time and find that a 4 in Melani is really pushing it. BCBG pants also seem to run a bit smaller, but the skirts are pretty baggy on me.

      • Julie H. says:

        Thanks for those replies! Yes, at Express I’ve just bought the plain, no-nonsense pantsuit separates and one blouse (white cotton capsleeve that looked elegant w/the suits). So hopefully they’ll pass the ‘professional’ test and look understated and appropriate. Def a no on their ‘glam-wear.’

        cda–that’s great that you do the tailoring—I bet your clothes fit perfectly. I couldn’t bear to spend the $ & time tailoring multiple pairs of pants before I tried almost everywhere first (& was hoping to get by w/Express). I did have a VS jacket taken in just a bit at the waist — big improvement! Several years ago Barami (in NYC and used to be in King of Prussia, PA) had beautifully tailored suit separates for smaller sizes. I don’t think they make them any more.

        VS has longer inseams — but they don’t offer them in size 0 (only start at 2). Same w/Gap, I think (no longs under a 2). You know they must tailor the VS models’ clothes before those photoshoots (what 6 foot, 120 lb girls can wear their stuff?!)

      • Rachel says:

        I agree – I’ve found pieces at Dillards / Macys that cost in the same ballpark (or just a bit more) than Express/The Limited / Ann Taylor and seemed to have better construction, higher quality material, and more options for the price (easier for my tailor to work with as well). There are a lot of options outside of the mall chain “professional wear” stores and I rarely shop at anything but Banana Republic (for work dresses) outside of the department stores anymore, and spend about the same yearly on work clothes.

    • 2L NYC says:

      I am a 0, sometimes a 00. I know how you feel about Ann Taylor et al. — they don’t have a true 0.

      I love theory, but NOT the Max C — I prefer the Arlen, which is more of a straight cut rather than having the little flare. I am so obsessed with them that I stalked them on bloomie’s and bought them in two colors (well, shades — gray & black). They seem to be out of stock on bloomie’s website right now, but maybe at nordstrom or something. I also love tahari, not T Tahari or Tahari ASL but actual Elie Tahari. I get my pants at Macy’s in New York, and the pants are wonderful.

      • Julie H. says:

        I’ll try Dillards, theory and tahari — maybe after I’ve started the new job and saved a little more wardrobe $$! Thanks!

      • Miriam says:

        2L NYC, I am so happy that someone else is a 0/00. I’m extremely thin, think Kate Moss height and weight. I always have trouble finding decent professional clothing because I have the body of a little girl. Do you have any suggestions for brands that are good for such small sizes, while on a budget? I’m not sure how tall you are, but I’m about 5’8″ which makes it even more difficult because I can’t shop in the petite section. I think I’m really just happy to know there is another 0/00 out there!

        • 2L NYC says:

          Miriam, I am a little bit shorter than you — 5’6″, you are a model! I can’t really shop in the petite section either, the skirts are too short.

          For work clothes, I don’t think you can beat Elie Tahari or Theory. I agree with Anonymous at 9:24 — try sample sales (I too love the Clothingline one, although the I was unsuccessful with pants at the last one — I think it was the clearance sample sale in June or something? Maybe I missed them). If you don’t have access to online sample sale sites already, either try to join them, I think that Rue La La is the best for this sort of thing.

          My good friend, who is a little broader in the shoulder than me, so more of a 2/4 but is around your height also likes The Limited, but I have yet to shop there. In any case, that is a bit more budget friendly, and I remember trying on a blazer she was wearing and it did fit me more or less. I’m not sure about pants.

          BUT: for button-down shirts and those nice silky-feeling tops with the cap sleeves, I swear by Uniqlo. I think once I make more money I might have to shop at Brooks Brothers or something, but they are amazing and they fit my smaller frame. I don’t think that they would be too short for you — I can tuck them into my pants (which are not really that high-rise…).

          • attnygrl says:

            Great ideas! I’m not in NYC so can’t do the sample sales, unfortunately.

            Just a thought — I tried The Limited in my whirlwind search for work attire this spring and the size 0 pants are baggy so might not work for a 00. I’m 5′ 5″ but with long legs– I can only imagine how challenging it would be to shop at 5′ 8″!

      • It’s great to know there are other 0/00s out there! I sometimes feel like a freak. I’m 5’4″, but have freakishly long arms and legs (and broad shoulders too, just to really make it difficult) for my height, so cannot even come close to wearing petites. I used to buy most of my clothing at United Colors of Benetton, until the store in my area closed. Now I’ve switched to Theory. Club Monaco also carries 00 sizes, but I haven’t been very happy with the quality of their clothes. Everything seems to develop holes very quickly.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you are in NYC, you should check out the semiannual Theory sample sale, generally in May/November. http://clothingline.com/ The pants (perfect, tags still on) go for $99 each!! Great deals on everything else, too.

  12. surrounded by lawyers says:

    Every year I declare that I’ve given up on pants, and every year I try on a million pairs anyway before giving up again. I could vent for several paragraphs. The issue is that I’m petite with short legs; almost no pants flatter me.

    This season the specific problem is that I can’t find anything with an honest-to-goodness STRAIGHT leg. Almost everything is flared, no matter what the label says. My legs look like hourglasses in flares. If anyone finds petite work pants with a truly straight leg, please post!

  13. TX Fifth Yr Attny says:

    I’m wearing charcoal slacks today from Jones New York. I’ve seen them at the outlet store, and you can purchase them from department stores such as Dillards. They are dry clean only, but thanks to so many of your recommendations, I’ve taken the chance with the delicate cycle and Woolite – they are going strong after at least two years! (By the way, just looked at jny.com – free shipping for a limited time, and up to 75% off clearance items.)

  14. Chicago K says:

    I have 3 BR Jackson style charcoal gray trousers from the winter before last. They are all machine washable (I was actually dry cleaning them at first because I never would have suspected you could machine wash these pants!).

    Two are dark charcoal, one with a blue pinstripe, one with a black pinstripe and the third is a lighter gray with a window pane pattern.

    They are wool and lined. No idea if they are 100% wool, I am guessing they have spandex mixed in.

    This is one of my fav colors to wear as I feel I can pair them with brighter tops and it doesn’t come across as harsh as it would with black pants.

  15. My go-to greys are the Halogen line from Nordstrom:
    http://shop.nordstrom.com/S/3093773?origin=PredictiveSearch&resultback=0
    fabulous for pear/hourglass…super comfortable

  16. Blonde Lawyer says:

    Several years ago, I found great pants that I LOVE from the Kohl’s junior’s department. Not where I would ordinarily expect to find professional pants. The material has held up wonderful. They are lower rise but loose in the butt and straight but a little wide through the leg. Soooo flattering on me. I originally bought them b/c I had temporary weight gain from a medication. I bought them intending to wear them a month or two at most. Once I went off the med and dropped the weight I had them tailored so I could keep wearing them. Recently, I saw them at Kohls again. They are in the juniors department on the rack near the juniors suits. They have a thin blue stripe of satiny fabric on the inside waist band. I don’t remember the name brand and it was cut off when I had them tailored.

  17. Thank you! I’ve been searching for charcoal pants and ordered the Gap ones. I’m hoping they fit!

  18. I think summer fabrics can exacerbate the problem because they are lighter weight. Also that it is easy to blame it on summer pants just because there are fewer light-colored pants made for winter wear. Lining helps (also more associated with winter pants), but light just hits lighter colors differently and reveals more of the fabric’s texture – and that of the underlying wearer.

  19. I recently had a pair of light grey pants tailored for $289, with a lining. It was expensive compared to my previous purchases, but they fit like a dream, have good solid closures and the tailoring included adjustments for the first 6 months. So before you buy Theory or the like, consider tailoring as an option.

    • kcaco says:

      As in you had them custom-made from scratch?

      Details please – city, how did you find your tailor, etc?

      • Amy H. says:

        Yes, please give details if you can. I’m considering having two or three suits made this fall, because the current pant trend of skinny/skintight/fitted/flare whatever looks horrible on my very heavy thighs. I’m considering Tom James — have any Corporettes used them for trouser suits?

      • Diane says:

        Most cities have tailors that can make clothing from scratch. Try the yellow pages or yelp for ads and reviews. The terminology you are looking for is “made to measure, or MTM” for semi-custom clothing (they use patterns based on your measurements, then tailor the item to fit) or “bespoke” – no pattern is used, everything is cut to fit only you. Bespoke is more expensive, obviously.

  20. Lynette says:

    I find it interesting that the slacks that look more “grown-up” are the ones at the higher price point.

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