The Hunt: Wool Flannel Pants

Sure, 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.

We haven’t talked about wool trousers for years, so I thought we’d discuss winter weight wool pants. Have you bought any lately? Which brands do you love best (for warmth and fit)? Do you prefer pants with linings, or do you often wear silk long johns or a full leg shaper (e.g., Spanx) beneath, negating the importance of the lining?

I like the look of these high-waisted flannel trousers from J.Crew (which today is offering 25% off plus free shipping on any order with code STYLE25) – were $158, marked to $89, with the code they come down to $67.49. Hutton trouser in wool flannel
Lafayette 148 New York Astor Straight-Leg Pants, Espresso When we last did this round-up, a number of readers noted that they had been desperately searching for brown wool pants, so I had to include these wool flannel pants from Lafayette 148 New York.  They were $278, but are currently marked down to $89.40 at Last Call. Lafayette 148 New York Astor Straight-Leg Pants, Espresso
Jackson fit black flannel wide legAgain, more intel from our previous roundup: readers generally prefer the Jackson pant to the others in Banana Republic’s line-up — so I am including these despite my hatred of cuffs. These are fully lined in polyester, and available in shorts, regular and longs in sizes 00-16 for $110. Jackson fit black flannel wide leg
Elie Tahari Lorenza Straight-Leg PantsI am intrigued by these Lorenza pants by Elie Tahari — not only does the Elie Tahari website call them a “customer favorite” and “possibly our chicest pant for Fall,” the pant seems to come in a number of different colors and fabrics (many of them marked to lower prices than the original $248). Dillards, Elie Tahari, Bergdorf Goodman all have the pants in navy ($118-$148); Elie Tahari also has them in a gorgeous, deep dark pink for $118, and Bloomingdale’s has them in red “Grenadine” for $248. Elie Tahari Lorenza Straight-Leg Pants
Personally I’ve got some old wool pants from Brooks Brothers that I still adore — these look like the current incarnation. They’re available in olive (yay, olive pants!) and dark grey, both for $228. Flannel Pants
These grey stretch flannel pants look really luxurious, and I can’t put my finger on why — the sheen? The drape? The price reflects that — they were $495 — but fortunately they’re marked down to $294 today. St. John Collection Straight Leg Stretch Flannel Pants

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Comments

  1. Does anyone else have the problem of the linings of wool pants falling to pieces long before the wool itself looks bad? I’m pear-shaped so finding pants that fit is already a challenge, but most of them just don’t move with me in the hips/thighs and ultimately the lining rips first across the b*tt seam, then often there’s a lengthwise tear in the thighs. It’s not that the pants are too small — I’ve tried going up a size and I’m swimming in them (particularly in the upper hips/waist). I don’t know why pants linings aren’t made out of something stretchy.

    • AnotherLadyLawyer :

      Exactly. And this is the reason that I now just refuse to wear pants and grumble about skirts with badly made lining. I don’t have a solution, other than skipping lining altogether…

    • I have this problem. I will ONLY wear wool when I have silk or NYLON lineings. Once my mother gave me a pair of WOOL slack’s and it was NOT lined. It got so itchey that I had to take them off. I was ONLEY in 10th grade, but every body thought it was VERY funny.

      I forgot to tell the HIVE that we did NOT get a chance to go to WAVE Hill. Roberta said we will go there soon, but we did NOT have enough time since we ate so much at the DELI. Yay!

    • This makes me feel so much better about my BR Jackson pants that ripped last winter — now I can blame it on BR and not me gaining weight. ;)

    • long time lurker :

      Yes. Overall, I pretty much find any pants with a lining to be uncomfortable and hot. I am warm enough with gap perfect trousers (unlined) and a long coat in winter.

    • Yes, I have cut the lining out of a pair of pants, just trimming it close to the seam, after it basically shredded. The lining was hanging down past the hem. I continued to wear the pants for about another year before I decided they really were worn out, but they were a very nice tropical wool that really did not itch, maybe the only pair of wool pants I’ve ever had that I did not find to be itchy, even with a lining.

    • You could have the dry cleaner reline the pants. Or better yet, just keep an eye on it and have them patch things up as they crop up. It’s an annoying added expense but worth it for the right pair. I should add this is generally more of problem with tighter pants. Maybe sizing up will help?

      • OP said that the next size up was way too big.

        I’d say, if the trousers themselves are still in good shape, cut the lining out carefully and wear tights or pantyhose underneath for warmth and itch-avoidance.

    • lucy stone :

      THIS. I just destroyed the lining to a pair of wool Talbots pants that I’ve only worn 4 times. I want to make them replace it.

  2. Schmoozing help? :

    DH recently started working at a VERY small consulting shop (3 partners, plus DH who was recently brought on to expand the firm, and some part time staff). DH and I are going out for a “welcome to the firm/ holiday party” dinner with the 3 partners + their wives. Tips on good topics of conversation?

    Aside from not knowing anyone, I am anywhere from 1-2 decades younger than everyone but DH.

    • Travel (airport horror stories, favorite places to visit, best travel accessories). Asking for recommendations (pet grooming, garden center, local parks, museums, Thai restaurants) — these can easily spin off into conversations about pets, gardens, etc. News and news-like stories (“did you hear about the guy who…” or “I read about this new charter school that’s going to…” or “I was reading about the holiday decorations at the [governor’s mansion/local socialite’s house/Hollywood celebrity mansion] — did you know they have real [reindeer/living snowmen/holly trees]?”). Also grill your husband for some information about the families and flatter them by asking questions (“I hear Marcy just started at Emory this fall. How did she like her first semester?” or “DH says you have a pug. I love them! Do you have photos?”)

      • Schmoozing help? :

        All great suggestions. DH is worthless in terms of family gossip, but everything else is a great idea. We are also, as a group, spread all over the state so local recommendations are hard–but not off limits.

        • My husband is the same way! I’ll ask if a co-worker is married and he’ll say “how would I know?” Um, first, that ring on your left hand, the one I gave you on the day we were *married*? Yeah, does your co-worker have one of those? Second, you’ve worked together for three years — did this person ever, ever, ever mention a spouse? Or use the plural as in “we’re just staying home this Christmas” or “when we bought our house”? I find it mind-boggling at times.

    • If you are hesitant to attempt shop talk (which I would be in the described circle) I’d stick to the Grand Cs and stay away from the usual suspects (Politics, Relationships, Religion)

      Compliments
      Children (Grandchildren)
      Continents

      Compliment the partner’s wife’s clothing. Maybe it is a purchase they are particularly excited about and if fashion is something you are at least semi-interested in, it’s a good place to start talking.

      Children – ask a few interested question if they have any kids or grandkids. Maybe think about a small child/child you have connections with, then when the conversation moves to birthdays, you could suggest a great present.

      Travel – Ask if they’ve recently traveled and if they have ask details about that trip. Ask for advice on a trip you are going to. Share travel mishaps about past trips – safe enough as long as one tries to refrain from gross stereotyping of other cultures.

      I like these topics over even safer subjects (such as books) because they show a genuine interest in the person across from you and the average person will be more flattered by personal compliments and genuine interest, smoothing the rest of the conversation.

      If that fails, you can always mention a popular but safe book you’ve read recently or inquire about hobbies/ golf clubs/ DAR memberships and then expand upon those topics.

    • Ask for advice about something (gardening, books, movies, TV shows, whatever) – it makes people like you if you think highly enough of them to ask for advice.

    • I don’t have topic suggestions, but I do have a humorous story for you. The first time I met my husband’s colleagues was at their holiday party a few years back. Well I had a trail race earlier that day, where I tripped and completely wiped out. My whole face was road rash! So as I was chatting with one of the ladies I told her what happened how I fell, and with fake sincerity she says “Oh I hadn’t noticed.” !!??!!

  3. I’d rather have no lining and use something like silk longjohns – they can be washed.

  4. I am super-allergic to wool (not just wool flannel, but suiting wool too), and I’m tall, and so I am livid that JCrew never lines their pants anymore. It’s awful. A lot of places carry tall pants and no tall jackets, so all of my suits are JCrew, because they are one of the only exceptions that carry both tall pants and tall jackets. So..boo on JCrew for not lining or offering the option. I’d gladly pay more for it.

    Anyway…silk long johns don’t cut it because if even a smidge of wool hits my skin, and am a rashy, itchy mess. [end rant]

    • I don’t understand how lining cuts it, but silk long johns do not? In my experience, lining has less coverage because it actually stops a few inches short of the hem.

      • No kidding – since the waistband on trousers is never lined. And my long john waistband always comes up much high than and of the dress pants that I have. I’d have to be care to have sufficient shirt tuckage to no flash my ljs at anyone :)

  5. phillygirlruns :

    i have last year’s hutton pants and am very happy with them. i am short but not particularly small, so i usually can’t wear petites, especially at j.crew, but the hutton is wide-legged enough that they accommodate my muscular thighs well. i love the wide cuffed leg with flats but i have trouble picturing it with a heel.

    • Good to know — I’ve never found J Crew pants that properly fit my thighs. Does the Hutton also fit the curvy of hip but small of waist?

      • I have this year’s Huttons (in 3 colors now, thanks to the sale) and they do indeed fit people with bigger hips and thighs. I’m 5 ft 4, 28 waist, 32 high hip, and 38 at the widest part of my hips, and the 6P fit me nearly perfectly. By contrast, last year’s J Crew Cafe Trouser is much tighter on the hip and thigh while having some extra fabric at the waist, making them far less flattering.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Are the Huttons high waisted? They look that way on the model. And are they lined? I’m team skirt/dress, but I suppose I should own some pants…

      • I also have a pair from last year and they’re pretty high waisted. Mine are also lined, but I can’t speak to this year’s version.

      • phillygirlruns :

        they are definitely high-waisted, and lined (at least last year’s). to Nancy P – i am hourglassy and the hutton fits my waist and hips.

      • They come to the waist. They’re extremely flattering — when I took them to get shortened, the seamstress said, “Wow. Good fit!”

      • I have 3 pairs of this year’s Hutton wool trousers (black, tan, grey) and none of them are lined. The sales associate on the phone told me they would be, but she was definitely wrong. I like them enough that the lack of lining didn’t put me off that much, but it might be a problem for others.

  6. I’ve never tried silk longjohns (in fact, I had never heard of them until I started following this site!). I’m a little confused – is their main purpose to shield your skin from itchy wool, to provide additional warmth, or both?

    I would love to put a non-itchy layer between myself and wool garments, but I have a tendency to get overheated, so I’m hesitant to try, lest I end up a sweaty, uncomfortable mess.

    • Diana Barry :

      I think warmth. I used to wear them as a kid, but found them to always be riding up at the legs and getting twisted around under my pants, so ix-nay on the ilk-say.

      I used to have a bunch of AWESOME wool flannel, *with stretch*, straight-leg Martin pants from BR. I got them in 2002 when I started work. They were so great. Unfortunately I was so skinny then that when I got to a more normal weight in 2006, they didn’t fit. Haven’t been able to duplicate them since.

    • I have them for the additional warmth factor – actually haven’t tried them in the alternate pant lining capacity. I find I have bigger overheating issues with having the thermal silk layer on top, rather than on the bottom – but I run a bit cold, so YMMV.

    • Maine Associate :

      I wear silk lj as a lining in my unlined wool pants. They are wonderful and not as hot as lining in wool pants. I get mine at Double L Bean.

    • kerrycontrary :

      silk long johns keep you warm, but they also take away sweat from your skin. This is mainly to prevent you from getting cold due to moist clothes when you are outside. But overall they are good for regulating your body temperature. I run warm so I never wear them to work/on a casual basis, but they are a lifesaver if you are outside for a long period of time (shoveling, cold football games, etc…)

    • Love my silk long underwear. I wear for both – lining as well as to cut down on the itch factor. My pants have a tapered leg, so I tuck the leg underneath my trouser socks (therefore no riding up factor).

  7. Skippy pea :
  8. Mouse in DC :

    I quite like Talbots’ wool flannel pants – which are fully lined. Variety of styles for the varying body shapes amongst us; their Heritage fit works well for my small waist, high-hips/love handle, and flat bum.

    I agree with all the posters about linings on women’s pants. It is so frustrating that it’s standard in men’s wear, yet increasingly hard to find in women’s wear! Talbots’ unlined wool pants are just too itchy for me, and I’ve found it uncomfortable to wear tights/long underwear underneath trousers. What makes linings work for me is that they are loose, and so they don’t bind at the knee in a maddening fashion (which I find layering to otherwise do, even with tights).

    Another great source is, of course, Pendleton, although I find that they run a little short – best worn with flats/low heels, or go to the talls if you like to wear heels.

  9. I’m surprised for the lack of anything with a pattern. My favorite flannel pants are a pair of dark green plaids from J Crew a few years back. Similar-ish to these: http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/75013?feat=787-GN1&page=italian-wool-trouser-plaid&attrValue_0=Deep Brown

    It’s definitely a less formal look but is so amazingly perfect on really cold days.

  10. Does anyone have recommendations for good slim-fit work pants (+1 if they are in a suit, +2 if it’s one that also has a skirt option!)? I find that slim-fit pants are easier to commute in in flats (just fold over the bottom) while trousers tend to flop around more. And in general I always feel more polished in them. But I always find more trousers!

    • I like Ann Taylor slim fit pants, although I have not looked for suiting options with them and don’t have any experience with AT suits, generally.

      • same, but this year the only slim-fit suit option they have is in black which I already have…I wear suits 4x a week and already have quite a large collection of pencil skirts that I can only really bring out on Fridays so I’m hoping for some versatility!

    • I like BR’s Logan fit pants. They are pretty low-rise, so if you have a long torso they might not work, but I like the almost cigar e t t e look to the leg.

    • AnotherLadyLawyer :

      The only slim suit pants I’ve ever purchased and LOVED were from Jones New York, called the washable wool skinny trouser (bonus points, suit and skirt options and SUPER bonus points, washable.

  11. I’ve had decent luck with the BR Jackson pants in the past, although it’s been a few years since I’ve bought them.

    I don’t think I’d ever buy a pair of unlined wool pants. Wool is too itchy on its own and the thought of wearing long johns or tights underneath makes me squirm. I can barely stand to wear tights alone for more than a few hours, much less underneath something else.

  12. Thank you, thank you! I have been looking for wool pants and had no luck. Not only was this a great blog post, but I appreciate reading everyone’s experience with differnt stores/pants. Off to go shopping!

  13. darjeeling :

    I’m late to this thread, but does anyone have those Elie Tahari pants? Would love to hear how the sizing runs.

  14. Kat, I appreciate you noting whether or not they come in multiple lengths. I get a little more bitter every time I see work pants that only come in one inseam.. ie 32″. At least if everything was 35″ (well except petite) people could get them hemmed.. and I can go on my tall merry way.

  15. i’ve resorted to wearing pantyhose or thinner tights under unlined wool pants. they keep the itch at bay, and keep me warm (but don’t suffocate me like i imagine silk long johns would).

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