2019 Update: we still stand by this advice for stylish summer dress pants for women — you may also want to check out our latest roundup of the best pants for work!
Lightweight, summer dress pants can be difficult to find — you want to look professional, yet be cool, and of course you don’t want to look like a wrinkled mess. It’s been a while since we talked about lightweight pants for work, so let’s discuss. Ladies, do you prefer to wear pants year-round — and if so, what fabrics and styles do you prefer in summer? Any classic pants you buy year after year in new colors?
Some general tips at the outset:
- Watch the pockets — painters’ pockets, cargo pockets, and even regular five-pocket styles can be too casual for most offices (but know your office!)
- look for details like pintucked creases down the front (for example, these Theory pants) — the pintucked creases have a way of keeping the look sharp and structured even as the pants loosen up through the day
- check out our tips on how to avoid sheer pants if you’re leaning towards wearing white pants for summer
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Summer Dress Pants in Stretch Cotton
For a more conservative business casual office, stretch cotton is probably the first line of defense. These are widely available in ankle pants; you can also find some stretch cotton trouser options.
- More: Vince Camuto, Halogen, Vince Camuto, J.Crew
- Petite: Halogen, Vince Camuto
- Plus: Sejour, Vince Camuto
Summer Dress Pants in Cotton Pique
Textured cotton pique pants can be lighterweight than regular cotton, but hold their shape a bit better — and they wrinkle a bit less than linen trousers. (See also: micro ottoman pants like these.)
- More: Talbots, Antonio Melani, Victoria Beckham, Lanvin, Rafaella, Stella McCartney, Maje, Styled by Joe Zee, Kasper
- Petites: Talbots
- Plus: Talbots, Styled by Joe Zee, Kasper
Summer Dress Pants in Seersucker
Seersucker options can be great (particularly in certain parts of the country, like DC, where they have Seersucker Thursday!) — and they often offer matching blazers for women.
- More: Anne Klein, Gap, J.Crew, Ann Taylor, Kasper, Brooks Brothers Red Fleece, Akris Punto, CeCe, Charter Club
- Tall: Gap, J.Crew, Ann Taylor
- Petite: Gap, J.Crew, J.Crew, Ann Taylor
- Plus: Lands’ End, Lane Bryant, ASOS
Stylish Summer Dress Pants: Linen (The Last Resort)
Linen is the obvious choice for hot summer days — but it’s so hard to find a great pair for work. Still: here are just some days where you need to be in a suit or something else Very Professional, weather be damned — a summer associate lawn party, an old courthouse, some other sweltering summer event — and linen is the obvious choice here. Note that a cotton linen blend will wrinkle less; also note that the closer to 100% linen an option is, there may be opacity problems (yay) and shape-retention problems (i.e. serious stretching out). (Another warning: you may think that palazzo linen pants are a classic for summer… but I don’t wear mine anymore after my pre-schooler asked why mommy was wearing pajamas. So… maybe keep those for the beach.)
- More: Loft, DvF, Theory, Ann Taylor (eyelet crop), Old Navy, Ann Taylor (trouser)
- Petite: Loft, Old Navy, Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor (trouser)
- Tall: Old Navy, Ann Taylor (trouser)
- Plus: Persona by Marina Rinaldi