Sure, we all know what wardrobe essentials for work 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.
Here’s a question we haven’t talked about in far too long: what do you think are the best pants for work? Which ones are your favorites for comfort — for fit — for travel?
There are actually a ton of great options right now — almost all of the ones below are washable, available at least up to size 18, and many are available in petite, tall, and plus sizes as well. Which are your favorite work pants? Do tell…
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- Hall of Famers (specific styles that have stood the test of time): NYDJ, Eileen Fisher,
- Usual Suspects (reliable brands or stores to check first):
- Stores: Loft, Banana Republic, Express, J.Crew, Everlane, Uniqlo
- Brands: NYDJ, Nic+Zoe, Eileen Fisher, Theory, Boss, Lafayette 148 New York
- Under $50: Old Navy, J.Crew Factory, Everlane,
- Petite sizes: (most! listed below)
- Plus sizes: Brass, Nic + Zoe, Eileen Fisher, NYDJ, Old Navy, Talbots (sign up for our newsletter focusing on plus-size workwear!)
- Tall sizes: Old Navy, J.Crew
- Pregnancy sizes: Loft, Gap (check out our entire guide to maternity workwear!)
- Pockets!: Theory, Boden, Betabrand, MM.LaFleur, Leith
- Washable: Brass, Nic + Zoe, J.Crew,
Hunting for colorful pants for work? They’re very popular everywhere for 2023 — but note that in general brands like Rekucci, Krazy Larry, Banana Republic, BR Factory Express, J.Crew, and Boden have a ton of options; here’s a mini-roundup of what’s out there right now:
If you’re hunting for one that’s under $50, there are a ton of great options, but they are very different. Readers love the comfort of J.Crew Factory’s drapey pull-on (usually around $35 with the sale of the day), while Everlane’s work pant ($50) has a nice, crisp, hold-you-in feeling to the fabric.
Still, if you’re looking for a ton of options in color and fabric sizes, readers swear by the Old Navy Pixie pants, pictured above — they’re around $35 and come in regular, tall, and petite sizes up to size 20; they’re also available in plus sizes.
Another good option that’s often on sale: J.Crew’s Cameron pant, which readers recently noted was a good option for pears (and have pockets).
They’re available at Nordstrom and Net-a-Porter as well as J.Crew, although note that J.Crew has a ton more options and come in sizes up to 24, as well as petite and tall sizes. The pictured ones are a washable option good for four seasons!
For just a bit more money puts you in the range of the NYDJ Stretch Knit Trousers, which are my personal favorite for a mix of comfort and polish — I feel more formal with the zipper (unlike some of the pull-on options on this list) and I feel like they wash and wear really well. I also like the thickness of the pants. They’re currently $78-$119; note that they’re almost always on sale in the big Nordstrom sales.
A few other great options around this price point: Brass’s ponte pants are $98 (I’ve heard rave reviews but haven’t tried myself), as well as Nic+Zoe’s Wonderstretch pants (some options as low as $102, but mostly around $148).
We’ve sung the praises of the pants the readers call “magic pants” before — they’ve noted that they’re “as comfortable as pajama pants,” “like slim cigarette pants that never wrinkle,” and “can be washed in a sink.” They come in plus and petite sizes, and a ton of colors — I personally haven’t seen anything but lucky sizes on sale but that’s me.
They’re $168 new at Nordstrom, Dillards, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s.
If washability isn’t high on your list of needs — or if you’re more looking for suiting separates that have great pants — Boss, Lafayette 148 New York, and Theory are the brands to beat.
Boss’s slightly bootcut trousers get the highest ratings and are around $248, while Theory’s Good Wool trousers still get plenty of shoutouts.
Fun fact: the Good Wool line is ” is spun from sustainably-farmed Australian wool milled at an environmentally-friendly factory” — and I was surprised to notice that Theory now goes up to a size 16.
Social media images: Deposit Photo / LenblR.
Readers, how about you — which do you think are the best pants for work? Which are your favorite styles to wear to work — drapey, slim knit, cropped, or bootcut/voluminous trousers?
I haven’t been happy with any of the pants I’ve gotten at Old Navy. I’ve had lots of issues with fading and crease lines in their chino-type pants and unfortunate sagging after 2-3 washes with their more elastic pants.
I can not wear pants at work, but concur with your view. The best place to buy pant’s was at Lord and Taylor, but they closed their flag ship location where I used to go for lunch. FOOEY!
Agreed. You get what you pay for and they are c r a p
Same! The pixie pants from Old Navy were great…for about 2 wears. They fade and stretch out.
For petites, Talbots has a surprising variety. They seem to be holding up well, all washable. They have great sales if you have Talbots credit card.
I like Ann Taylor’s modern fit ankle pants in doublecloth. I have a straight figure, and these fit well. I also like Eileen Fisher’s system ankle pants–great material, indestructible. I shy away from the colors as they are a bit much for me. But the black and midnight (dark navy) are wardrobe workhorses. Incidentally, these basic colors never go on sale, but the colors do.
For tailored trousers I also check Brooks Brothers, Elie Tahari, Trina Turk, St. John, and Vince Camuto
I love my black Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pants when I’m locked in my office for 12+ hours. So chic and comfy and a staple for late nights, although I would change into seasonless wool for client meetings.
I highly recommend Uniqlo EZY trousers, they’re decent quality, flattering and really comfortable. I got mine on sale for less than 20 bucks.
Ann Taylor has some great pants. I miss their slim knit metro pants. I had a couple of pairs for eons until they stretched out. I will check out Everlane, thanks!
White House Black Market has a lot of work pants but the quality is terrible. I bought two pairs in November and seams are splitting and major pilling already!
What about Bodens pants? Any thoughts?
These pants from Halogen have become my best morning friend! Fit great, washable, light stretch, and affordable. Inseam in regular runs long, but would rather have to hem up than let out! https://m.shop.nordstrom.com/s/halogen-slim-straight-trousers-regular-petite/5204783
Catherine k Rogers
I really like the fit/comfort of the JCrew marti pant. I’ve only tried the cotton version. Wore and washed them at least once per week and they looked good for ~9 months before becoming too stretched out and faded. I’m not sure how long machine washable pants typically last. My previous pairs of wool, dry clean only pants lasted years.
My current standbys in the closet are NYDJ and Betabrand. I also have a rare unicorn pair of Land’s End ponte trousers but they haven’t produced them in a few years.
I would love to be able to do Old Navy pixie pants but they never fit me right no matter what weight I’m at.
I also have a couple of pairs of Cabi pants – the Bond Trouser which I’m wearing today, and the Agency Trouser from 2018 maybe which is a wonderful soft knit ponte that is so comfortable that I don’t even feel the need to change out of them as soon as I get home, but wonderfully cut and structured for work.
Here’s my question: how do I expand my world outside of black/navy pants? How in the world do you wear colored pants? Do I just have to stick to black/white tops if I’m wearing red or purple pants? I’m in DC so the fashion culture is super boring and conservative but I would love to implement the “if you like something, buy it in every color” rule and expand my pant selection.