Colorful Pants and Professional Women

Can You Wear Colored Pants to Work? | CorporetteAre colorful pants appropriate in an office setting?  Are they for young’uns only?  Reader J sent in this question a while ago:

Question – today’s trends are to wear colored pants.  What are your thoughts on wearing colored pants to an office setting on casual fridays?  And, more relevant to me, what are your thoughts on wearing trends such as this if you’re over the age of 35?

I am obviously all for colorful pants, and I don’t think there’s an age limit on them.  I’ll even make a few arguments in favor of colored pants before turning it over to the readers, because I’m dying to hear what other ladies think.  In my mind, the pros to colored pants:

  • They’re often an inexpensive way to add a pop of color to a wardrobe heavily steeped in neutrals (such as, cough cough, black).
  • They’re a nice way to wear a trendy color that doesn’t look the best near your face (for example, kelly green makes me look dead, but it’s such a lovely color!)
  • They’re great for casual networking events because you stand out (and are easily identified) — “go talk to Jane about that, she’s the woman in the blue pants.”
  • This can be both a pro and a con: if you mostly interact with people from behind your desk, colored pants won’t be noticed that much.

For my $.02, I tend to prefer to either wear neutrals with pair of colored pants (like a black turtleneck and a long plain metal necklace), unless I want to introduce a contrasting color, like wearing orange or pink with red pants — personally I’m not into the matchy-matchy look, but I think that’s been true of me since my 20s, so I don’t necessarily associate that with age.  (It looks like Imogen Lamport’s Inside Out Style, a blog I’ve seen readers recommend a bunch, also has a handy tutorial on wearing colored jeans past age 40.)

Readers, do you think colored pants are for younger women only?  How do you like to wear them to the office?


  1. good blog

  2. good blog i love the colors

  3. My office is not super formal and I’m more often than not the most dressed up person here. I wear colored pants every so often – trousers during the week and more tapered on casual Fridays (sometimes patterns too). I’m 46 and always get compliments on my bold pants, from the CEO’s to people on the street.

  4. I have a few pairs of colored dress pants that I wear in my business casual office. They always get a lot of compliments and are a nice break from the rest of my black and grey pants wardrobe.

    Unfortunately, colored pants are pretty memorable, so I don’t wear them as often as neutral pants. For example, I could wear the same black trousers five days in a row (you know, barring stains/smells/etc.) and no one would comment. If I wore green trousers all week, that would be much more noticeable.

  5. I think the trick with colored pants in a business casual environment is making sure that they are a business cut (dress pants/trousers). You may be able to get away with a casual/jeans-like cut of pants in black, but not in color, IMO.

  6. bananagram :

    I think they’re easier to wear to work if you’re older than if you’re younger. I mean, age has given me a certain gravitas while, as a younger worker, one often has to fight the perception that you’re not quite up to your job.

    • kjoirishlastname :

      I think that’s a very astute observation–Hey, look at her, she’s rockin’ the green pants vs. Wow, she’s clearly very young and inexperienced.

      I especially think that your sentiment holds true when you pair colored pants with very classic, timeless pieces–the black turtleneck that Kat suggests, for example.

  7. I think some colors are more appropriate than others. Red seems to be somewhat classic. Plum and oxblood don’t seem that far off from neutrals. Lime green or yellow however could stand out, so you really need to be rocking those pants.

  8. I wear orange-red (ah, JCrew flame Minnies) and royal blue pants (both pairs are ankle length and narrow cut) in my business casual office from time to time. They are more fun/put together than jeans and I get lots of compliments. But like jeans, I would not wear them when there are clients, guests, depos, etc.

  9. I work in a business casual environment, and often wear colored pants on Friday in the summer. I have a green pair of tapered, cropped pants that I often wear with a navy top and nude pumps, and a pair of blue ankle pants that I like to style with soft pinks or even black.

    I think as long as the rest of the outfit is put together and not to loud that colored pants can be a wonderful addition to a work wardrobe.

  10. I am a not-quite-30-something and a colored pants aficionado. I own chinos in bright orange and forest green, as well as jeans in pink and red. Like Kat I sometimes try to go classic – say, orange pants with leopard loafers, a tan cardigan, and white button-down – but other times I go for happy and bright – say, a cobalt blue sweater and red jeans. Bright colors make me happy, and I’ve found that I now default to colored pants.

    I’ve found that bright colors work in my office for a few reasons. 1) It’s academia, and it doesn’t take much to look more professional than the students who rotate through our office. 2) I’m in an IT-related position, so I am usually behind a desk, and in any case, people expect IT to be a little more casual/quirky. 3) My office space is bright and cheery, so my colleagues expect that my attire would be the same.

    That said, when it comes to important meetings or outward-facing events, I try to go more neutral with my main clothing items and use accessories to add a colorful touch. It’s definitely a know-your-office kind of thing.

  11. Thanks for the link! I appreciate it very much. Coloured pants can be fun and lively and will make you appear creative and individual and able to think outside the square.

  12. I’m not sure if it’s the fabric or what but I have seen a lot of cellulite in bright colored pants. Nobody wants lime-green dimples! Take a good look in the mirror (over your shoulder) or a good friend before buying them.

    • I have noticed the same thing! I don’t think it has anything to do with colored pants=more cellulite, but I do think that darker pants hide a lot more of what’s going on underneath. Even the most well cut, well fitting pants occasionally end up folding or puckering if you’re moving around a lot. I’m not sure if full-length shapewear would help, but I’d rather not have to mess with so many layers.

  13. kayaga janice :

    nice pants

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