Open Thread: Best Work Pants

best work pantsOk, ladies, let’s hear it: which are the best work pants? I’ve seen many readers bemoaning the decline in old favorites like the Banana Republic Sloan and the Gap Perfect Trouser — and other popular pants, like the J.Crew Minnie ankle pant, just aren’t formal enough for more conservative offices. So let’s discuss. First, here’s Reader A’s question:

I have loved the Gap Perfect Trouser pants for work — they are far and away the best fit for my body type (the thighs were roomy enough, I liked the leg opening width, and the short inseam option). However, the quality of these pants has deteriorated in the last couple of years. When I looked online recently, the reviews have dropped a ton as well, with a lot of comments that the fit has changed.
Do you have any suggestions for similar fit of pants? On top of this, I recently had my first baby, so in addition to some body changes, I don’t have as much time to shop for pants now, and online shopping seems like taking a shot in the dark.
Any tips would be appreciated.

Oi. We’ve rounded up washable pants for work recently-ish (March); as I noted in our lightweight pants for summer roundup a few months ago, full-length trousers have been getting harder and harder to find. (The bootcut and flared look is back for denim, though, so hopefully work pants will follow suit shortly!) Some affordable possibilities for you:

  • Loft. I can never quite remember the difference between the Julie and the Marissa cuts, but I’ve gotten several pairs of pants from there in recent years. They stretch, they wash, they come in lots of sizes, and they are frequently on deep discount. The pictured tropical wool ones (below) come in regular and tall sizes, but many other versions are available in petite sizes, as well as maternity sizes. (I’m still a fan of big sister Ann Taylor’s pants too, but I got a gift card to Loft from my MIL recently so I’ve tended to buy from there more.)
  • Halogen Taylor pants. These pants have been around for a while, and I’ve always heard raves — they come in new colors every season, as well as basics like black (pictured below). Most at least offer the option to machine wash, and they come in petites. They’re also affordable — $90 new, but many sizes/colors on sale for $39 right now.
  • Express Editor pants. Yes, Express. These pants have been around forever (seriously — I swear I remember ads for them in college) — and I continue to hear good things from readers about them. They’re available right now in a flare, “barely boot,” slim, and ankle cut.
  • Talbots pants (not pictured).  I continue to hear good things about Talbots pants from readers, particularly the curvy — but I haven’t tried them myself. Note that there are many plus size options here.

Plus-sizes, talls, and petites: which are your favorite pants? Ladies who spend a bit more for pants (e.g., Theory, Brooks Brothers), which are your favorite basic pants for work? 


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  1. I just bought the Editor pants which are AMAZING. I haven’t shopped there in years and I honestly probably wouldn’t buy anything else in that store. But the pants are incredible for hourglass/pear shapes. I recommend the flare style. I have a bit of a tummy post-baby and these pants make me look great (especially my butt!).

    • Haven't worn them since college... :

      How did you find the sizing to run on the Editor pants?

      • Pretty true to size. They stretch out very slightly after you wear them. If you’re between sizes I would size up. The “clubby” look that is attributed to Express clothing probably comes from wearing their clothes a size (or two) too tonight.


    • Seconded. 80% of my work pants are wide waistband editor pants from express. They’re affordable, fit me great, wash and hold up well, and don’t stretch out over the course of the day. The sizing can be a bit inconsistent, so I usually order a range of sizes and return the ones that don’t fit.

    • Anonymous :

      Every couple of years I try the Editors, but just can’t make them work. Even up 2-3 sizes from my usual in other lines, they still look like I’m going clubbing (very low rise, and overly snug in the rear).

      Currently I’m obsessed with the Betabrand “Yoga Dress Pants”. Super stretchy, but in a heavy enough fabric they don’t cling like a yoga pant (other than the super skinny, which is supposed to cling).

      • heatherskib :

        I just tried some of these on again. I think they’ve altered the cut to make for a narrower thigh. These just cling too much!

    • Need to Improve :

      I think the Editors are flattering but look cheap/casual. My neighbor (another lawyer) saw me in them and said “Wow! You can wear those to work?” To which I looked at her quizzically. Then she said she thought they were yoga pants. I had a long shirt on over them. She was not trying to be b#tchy. She really thought they were yoga pants.

    • I have a pair of Editor pants and love them. They’re machine washable!!!!! Or the pants I have are… and not sure what sizes are like now, but at the time I got mine I would recommend sizing up.

    • Express Wide-Waistband Flare Editors are my favorite. I have to order tall sizes in their other styles, but the flares are long enough for me with 2″ heels (I’m 5’10”). I have a pair of Barely Boot Editors but don’t like the fit nearly as much — too booty-licious and prone to showing panty lines. I purchased them in the same size as my flares, but probably could have gone with a size up.

      The other style, Columnist, not so much. The pocket openings are on the sides of the hips and will gape open if you have any curves at all.

  2. Anonymous :

    All my work pants right now are from Vince. Love them!!! I wish they made blazers so I could wear them as part of a suit.

  3. Josie Pye :

    On that note, I’ve been looking for nice-looking work pants that aren’t wool/drapey–I’m trying to find pants with more structure, a little stretch, and a straight leg, in petite sizes. Any ideas? I have, and am currently wearing, the AT Factory pants in Modern cut, but they’re getting a little ratty.

    • Try Talbots – they have a decent petites section, and do a good straight leg.

    • Moonstone :

      I got two pairs at the Gap. They called them slim cropped pants. They were not petites but the crop makes the inseam just right for me (at 5′ 3″).

    • I second Talbots! Sometimes you can catch a great sale on their clearance items. I just bought a pair a few weeks ago, and they’re fabulous!

      I also recommend pants at White House Black Market, though I don’t think the fabric looks as nice after multiple washes.

  4. I’ve been very pleased with the Limited suiting/Collection pants. Several fits, leg widths, and colors. I machine wash and then dry for just a few minutes to get the wrinkles out, then hang to dry the rest of the way.

  5. Also in Academia :

    Talbot’s seems to have changed/renamed all of its pant fits, at least in the catalog I got yesterday. Has anyone tried any of the new fits? Any info? I am going to be really sad if I can’t get my curvy fit suit pants anymore!

    • Anonymous :

      They still have curvy fit, which I love. I also noticed that their seasonless wool pants are now lined.

  6. I want to echo Kat’s note on Talbots. I remember Talbots as a kid being that which my mother and grandmother wore, but they seems to have done a major over-haul in the past 5-7 years and jumped into modernity. To the degree that Gap’s fit has changed and its quality declined (with which I agree), Talbots continues to have great quality and now in classic, flattering cuts, with a modern bent.

    • Yes, it’s a shame about the Gap’s pant’s. They used to fit and would survive more then a few washeing’s. Now they start pilleing up after about 3 washe’s. I blamed my cleaneing lady for doieng that, but then Rosa said that her cleaneing lady told her it was the GAP. From that point foward, I stopped goeing to the Gap and now just go to Bloomie’s for jean’s. FOOEY b/c there is a Gap near me but dO NOT like to have to have pant’s will pill’s on them. Beside’s guy’s like to pick at the pilling’s on my pant’s but I do NOT like for them to put their hand’s near my zipper. DOUBEL FOOEY!

    • Anonymous :

      It’s either that or they’ve stayed the same and we are (sigh) aging into them.

  7. I’m 6 foot, but work pants are some of the easiest things to find, relative to other clothing options. I loved the Gap trousers but sometime in the last two years they got horrible; the sizes that used to fit me don’t anymore and the quality declined. I do love my pairs of Editor pants – they’ve served me well. I bought for the first time NY&Co. 7th Bootcut pants, and I was really satisfied with them. They have a higher rise but I don’t mind.

    • Seconding the NY&Co 7th Avenue pants. I think I have at least three pairs in various colors/styles and I love them. They have POCKETS. And they have sales all the time, so if you watch and wait, you can do get them for half off or $10 with the purchase of another pair or something ridiculous like that.

  8. Seconded on the Loft…they are washable and look nice. Always have to get mine hemmed though (I’m 5’4″), haven’t tried the short version.

    • Some of my favorite pants are Loft Julie fit… but it seems to vary by fabric (maybe I need a little stretch?) as I’ve ordered other Julies online that I don’t like as well.

      As a side note, Loft maternity pants are amazing… they worked for me @13 weeks and I’m sitting here @37 weeks in the same pair.

      I’m 5’5″ and in the same boat as you – I hem everything. Loft petites are just a touch too short on me even in flats.

      • Beach Chic :

        Second!! I loved Loft maternity pants so much – I got them at a consignment store with Baby1, loved them so much and wore through through delivery (and post) with Baby2. I don’t plan another pregnancy, but I am afraid to give them up because they dont make them anymore!

  9. Michelle R. :

    6ft tall with skinny legs (36″). I can’t seem to find work pants/trousers that don’t make me looks like I’m wearing pants three sizes too big. Alas, my legs are skinnier than my waist. Pants never fit me like they seem to fit the models, even though I allegedly have model height! ;)

    I also feel like part of my problem is that I’m in my 20s and it seems like all my female peers are wearing pants that might actually be too close fitting for work? But is that the norm now? I don’t know where to begin. Pretty new to all this stuff.

    • It sounds like we have the same body shape except I just didn’t make it as far as you! 5’10 w/ a 34″ inseam, skinny legs, and normal sized waist. I find that Ann Taylor tall pants work pretty well since they go up t0 a 36″ inseam, but you might need to get them taken in in the leg. As for the fit, I err on the side of more fitted/tailored because when I wear a “trouser” style it just looks strange hanging off my thin legs. I think a proper fit, although slightly more revealing, ultimately looks more professional than a too loose fit, which can look sloppy. Your mileage may vary though depending on how conservative your work environment is.

      • Michelle R. :

        I’ll have to check out Ann Taylor. I have a dress from there that I really like (and it isn’t even “tall”).

        I’m really new to all this, which is how I stumbled upon Corporette in the first place. =]

    • Maybe try on some wide-leg styles that are supposed to look that way?

      I love this look and (try to) rock it all the time!

  10. Kat, below the fold autoplay (just above where I input comments) for YadaYadaYada Comedy Gives Back/Comedy Dynamics.

  11. My new favorite work pants are from Target (of all places!). From the website, I believe these are the pants I purchased in person at a store.

  12. Anonymous Associate :

    I like Escada pants for basic styles, and Milly and Risto for something a little more fun. FYI-Escada runs small in general. I am a 4 (34) in Escada, and a 00 in Banana Republic. You can often get these brands deeply discounted from Neiman and sometimes Saks.

    • Anonymous :

      How would you describe the fit of Escada pants? Any brands that have a similar fit?

  13. Definitely editor pants for me. They come in lengths, so no need to spend extra $ on hemming. They are machine washable. The thought of having to dry clean EVERYTHING in my work wardrobe strikes me as a bit wasteful. They hang and drape pretty well, with no synthetic lining to fuss with. Right now, I like the barely boot fit — modern enough that I don’t feel outdated, but definitely not the skinny pant look, which is probably too trendy for my age and a bad idea for my thick legs.

  14. annoyed by ads :

    Anyone else having trouble with auto-playing ads? There’s one smack in the middle of my screen that blares loud music automatically upon coming to the corp page.

  15. I used to love the Gap Trouser pants as well but agree they are not the same as they used to be. (That said, I really appreciated that Gap had them in maternity.) Recently, I have been loving the Drew fit pants from Limited. I have a pair of Editor pants from about 7 years ago that I still wear, but I like the Drew fit pants better. You could also try the Martin fit pants from Banana.

  16. Any plus size ladies out there want to chime in? I just graduated and am starting work, but I haven’t found a single pair I like. They always get all bunchy in the hip/belly area… But I know I cannot survive on a wardrobe of skirts and dresses alone since it gets cold here *sigh*

    • I have the hardest time. I’m plus sized, but I also need a tall length or else I look like I’m waiting on a flood in anything but the flattest of flats.

      Lane Bryant has some tall lengths, but they’re not always consistently in the stores. Same thing with Dress Barn (whose pants I really do like, I just have to hunt for the proper length.)

    • Anonymous :

      I wore a lot of Talbots pants when I wore plus sizes.

      • Anonymous :

        Second the Talbot’s rec. Their seasonless wool curvy pants were great.

    • MissDisplaced :

      I’m a VERY hard to find plus size petite 16WP or sometimes an 18P.
      It’s tough! Talbots is nice, but their “P” was still something like 6 inches too long on me!
      I’ve had good luck withe the Liz Clairbourne at JCP separates, which come in “ankle” length. They’re sort of boring, but just what you want for work.

      • Despite the name... :

        I feel ridiculous shopping there, but I really like Dress Barn’s petite plus size work pants.

  17. Anonymous :

    Theory pants are the absolute best. They have no competition.

  18. I recently came across Halogen suiting, which you can find at Nordstrom. The fit and cut was amazing! I am petite at 5’2″ and 115 lbs. Many pants I try are ill fitting through the hip, causing either bulkiness or a whisker type look, meanwhile the waists tend to not be small enough, ie, Ann Taylor and Jcrew. But Halogen is oh so flattering and gives a classic business look. HOWEVER, I’ve only worn mine about 5 times and they already have nubbies from the friction between the thighs. Although my Express editor pants cut is not as stellar I must say I have had them for 10 years and they still look great!

  19. I’ve had good luck with Boden Chelsea Turn-ups. I’m a curvy 12/14 and the 12 fits well. The fabric is substantial and they have several colors.

  20. I own a clothing store ( and offer a complimentary styling service for working women and the best pant by far is made by Lisette. Women love the fit. They have many styles and lengths for every figure type. We help each client find the right style for her figure and work environment.

  21. I just purchased these pants during the Nordstrom anniversary sale. They are work appropriate , but are as comfy as yoga pants:

  22. Anonymous :

    I’ve been struggling to make sense of pants following the birth of my first child. My tummy was always a problem area, but now it is a true spare tire. Really depressing. I am also super short waisted, so most pants button near my belly button and feel uncomfortable. I used to do ok with editor pants bc they were the lowest waisted of the bunch but now the fit is hard. I went in last week looking at least for some with stretch (which is slightly more manageable on the tummy) but they don’t seem to be offering many of these styles at all any more. If anyone has thoughts for this 5’2 gal, I’d be grateful!

  23. My go-to pants lately have been The Limited’s Exact Stretch pants. They’re roomy enough for my hips, are mid-level height, and have just a *tad* bit of stretch to make them comfy. I love them!

  24. I hate buying pants. A lot of the commonly suggested styles don’t work for my body type. I have a round butt, normal hits and thighs, and a normal waist, but I am out of shape and have children so I really worry about muffin top. BR pants are always too tight on the hips and the pockets stand out. Gap simply does NOT fit. Loft pants, even the curvy, don’t fit. I also think the rise is a bit off for my body.

    I should try Talbots. I always think of it as an old lady store, but maybe it works for women with butts?

    • Limited Exact Stretch ankle length pants are good, but very fitted. I like the thick waistband (hides the tummy) and my butt fits.

    • I’m a big and tall girl and I LOVE Lafayette 148. I’m 5’8″ 200 pounds with a relatively straight figure. They’re available on the Lafayette website, Nordstrom and Saks. I have several pairs of both the menswear style (looser, wider leg) and the barrow style (slightly more narrow fit). The regular has a 33″ inseam and the talls have a 35″ inseam. They’re lightweight and wear well. No wash and wear, though. Everything is dry clean recommended.

      • I second Lafayette 148. I am older, smallish (5’4″, 120 lb), and I hate low-rise pants of any kind. I have several pairs of Lafayette 148s. They are pricey when full price, but I have gotten them during Nordstrom sales, at the Rack, on Haute Look, and at Neiman Marcus Last Call. They are higher rise, nice wool fabrics (yes, dry clean only), and come in a variety of colors and fits. I have some that are several years old and look exactly the same as the day I bought them.

  25. Anonymous :

    I absolutely hate shopping for pants (strongly prefer skirts / dresses), but Reiss, Theory, and Boss trousers seem to be the best for me at the moment. Boss and Theory have great wide-leg options, and bonus points to Reiss for lining the slim trousers in the Saville suiting line. While slim, they are sufficiently structured and very flattering. This is no small feat as I have a fairly athletic build through the behind / thigh region, which renders most slim-cut pants inappropriate for my conservative office (I work in finance, large Canadian FI, downtown environment, non-client facing but with exposure to senior execs).

    For a relatively similar price point, Brooks Bros pants are somewhat hit or miss for me. I’m 5’10, and while their skirts and jackets are usually long enough, the pants are unintentionally and dorkily ankle-length on me. I’ve also noticed that fewer pairs of BB pants are lined now, compared to a few years ago.

    Just my $0.02.

  26. I recently had a moderately significant birthday, and with it came seemingly overnight a bit of “spread” – fuller behind & belly. I used to swear by Banana Republic’s Martin fit. Right now, Ann Taylor petites has been a lifesaver for pants, decent fit that makes me feel comfortable, but not like I’m hiding! I am also starting to like Michael Kors pants, but have to take a tuck in the center back waistband. Brooks Brothers pants tend to not fit me in the hip (too loose still), and I tried a pair of Garnet Hill trousers but imo they feel like pants to hide in. I’m just 5ft tall, so all pants will require hemming. To get around this I’ve started wearing skirts more – again Ann Taylor petites.

  27. I am tiny,tiny woman, with even tinier build – so I usually have shope from Forever 21 kids sections (or any Kids section!)… And I know the whole skinny pants for work is frowned upon, but I have found that regular “work” pants look most the unflattering on ladies who have the build of a 8 year old. So Old Navy pixie ankle pants are my go-to – they stretch, yet have study fabric to give your legs a structure, and the petite inseam in just the right length! Team it up with a button down or blouse and a blazer and you are work ready! The price point doesn’t hurt either.

  28. I believe I have a weird body type (apple-y but not exactly, so flabby tummy but thin through the waist and thighs), and I hate shopping for pants. But I discovered the Banana Republic Sloan fit to be perfect, I am 5’3″ and wear anything from 6 to 10 (YES!). Sloan in 8 Petite fits me perfectly. I recently spent some time at Ann Taylor, and their Modern fir (now renamed to Devon) in 8 fits me perfectly. Just bought these ( in an 8, again Petite. Another surprising pair of good ankle pants is from Old Navy. Their pixie chinos are really comfortable and very wearable for daily office shuttling. However, they aren’t very durable but for the price (25-30$), they are rad!

  29. elizabeth :

    Dear Kat and the rest of you dear women,
    Thank you SO much for being here and posting all of this wonderfully good advice. Purpose here for my post, I went to Express and got those Columnist Barely Boot pants. Wow. I would never have known to even look there. They are amazing. I wish I could have bought them from a link here so Kat could get $$ but I needed them now.
    Next week, I am filling in at my husband’s worksite as ‘notetaker’ for a week of testing. I’m coming up to speed on dress, Word and the business environment in general.
    All of these articles and advice from you girls has been just a salve for my nervous little soul. Thanks a million.
    And some admiration is in order, too.

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