The Best Wool Trousers for Women

The Best Wool Trousers for Womenicon2017 Update: We still think these are some awesome wool trousers for women — but sadly most are sold out at this point! Check out our latest roundup of the best warm women’s dress pants for the office.

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.

Wool trousers are a basic if you live in a cold climate — but sometimes it seems like it’s next to impossible to find a pair that is flattering in the stores.  I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites — I tend to prefer flat-fronted pants without cuffs, as you’ll notice.  Readers, which are your favorite wool trousers?  How many seasons, in general, do you find that they last?

talbots wool trousersRight out of the gate, Talbots wins the prize for having the most sizes still available, in the most colors, for the lowest price: these pants are available in ivory (pictured), black, gray, brown, and camel — and they come in regulars, talls, petites, women’s, and women’s petites sizes. The pants were $109, now $54.50 on sale. Heritage Fit Bi-stretch bootcut pants
jackson wool pantsThese only come in one color (gray stripe), but I like the look of these wool pants from Banana Republic. They’re available in regular, short, and tall sizes, and you can take an additional 25% off with code BRWINTER25. Regularly marked $98. Banana Republic Jackson fit lightweight wool grey stripe pant
classiques entier wool pantsLove these basic stretch wool pants from Nordstrom — no pockets on the side makes for cleaner lines, and the pants are still available in charcoal (pictured), black, and a dark brown “pony” in sizes 0-16. They’re $168. Classiques Entier ‘New Stretch Wool’ Tab Pants
theory max c wool pantsMany women consider these pants to be THE classic: the Theory Max C pant. They’re flat-fronted, with pockets (which you can sew closed if they don’t flatter you) and have a generally classic shape. My small-boned, petite friends consider the 00 size a “cult item” because they run extra small. The pants are $245 at Bloomingdale’s (and many other retailers!) Theory “Max C” Pants
ralph lauren black label wool pantsThese are pricy, but wool pants from Ralph Lauren’s Black Label should be an investment piece.  Great tailored look, and I love the slight flare to the leg.  They’re $598 at Chrissy Bi-Stretch Wool Pant

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  1. Awesome post! I have been longing for a pair of white or taupe wool trousers, but as a curvy girl vpl and too-thin fabric has always defeated me (even with underwear that shouldn’t show). Does anyone have any suggestions for that?

    • Spanxx! They take care of the VPL and smooth everything out. Get a size bigger than it says you need on the package, and they’re actually not uncomfortable.

  2. SF Bay Associate :

    I only wear lined wool trousers. I will tolerate a half lining, but it’s got to be on clearance for that to slide. Most of my trousers are J.Crew (“favorite fit”). Brooks Brothers also does a nice fully lined wool trouser, though I forget whether it is Catherine or Lucia that I like. I used to have a lot of Banana trousers, but they changed their fit block at some point a couple years ago and now don’t work for me at all. Talbot’s fit block doesn’t suit me either, nor Theory.

    It’s been so difficult to find such trousers that I find myself wearing a lot more skirts. I would love to know where else to look for pants!

    • I’m with you on the Banana pants – they used to be my go to and now I can’t seem to find a pair that fits right and after some futile pecking around I’ve given up and wear dresses and skirts almost every day.

    • I used to have this rule, and still generally follow it, but Theory won me over. I found a pair of their Max C pants on deep deep discount at an Off 5th a few years back and tried them on – fit perfection! The fabric was thick and soft, and didn’t bother me at all, and they have held up remarkably well (and I am not someone who is easy on clothing AT ALL.)

    • silk destroyer :

      as long as there lined thats fine with me since in dont know what panties are i have a field day in the nice silky lining!

  3. The Hunt threadjack!

    You know how Every Woman Must Have A Crisp White Shirt? Well, I don’t, because the color white does nothing for me. Can anyone recommend sources for crisp ivory shirts instead? Anything except pure white!

    (I’m Asian, with caramel-colored skin. My “crisp” office shirts – the two or three I have – are jewel-toned. I got married in an ivory dress.)

    • I also look better in ivory than white (natural redhead). A good crisp ivory shirt is hard to find, but I’ve had luck on occasion at both LL Bean and Lands End. I stalk their shirt selection every season hoping for a nice ivory/off0white. I’ve occasionally found one at Brooks Brothers, too.

    • surrounded by lawyers :

      Mella, this may be a very stupid suggestion…but is there a way you can turn a crisp white shirt ivory? Might be easier to do, if so. (I know that I do this inadvertently all the time–I myself am good with crisp white, and yet by accident many of my shirts end up being just the right color for you ;) )

      • My husband is going to love what you wrote. He’s the expert launderer in the family! I’ve only managed to turn white things grayish.

      • I’ve dyed things successfully with tea before….but not sure it would come out in a nice, solid colour over a large expanse of fabric (I’ve only ever done it before for small items).

        Incidentally, I’m quite interested in this topic too because I have quite pale skin and stark white just washes me out.

      • Never tried it, but I’ve heard good things about dying with black tea or even coffee. I’d try it on something inexpensive first – a white tshirt? (Although the fabric won’t be the same.) Good luck.

    • I’m Asian with similar colouring. Though white seems to work for me, thank god.

      Try Alain Figaret (very spendy but they do have lovely cream/ivory shirts)

  4. I have the CE ones and love them. They are a part of a black suit and I have the skirt and jacket also. That they are unlined is a downside, but the fit is very flattering for a curvy figure.

    • Me too. Not all of Classiques Entier pants are wool, but several of them are and they are very flattering on women who have some hips. I have a few wide leg wool trousers from CE that I really like.

    • Agree. These pants from CE are beautiful and very flattering to those of us with extra junk in the trunk. I have two pairs and love them both. As discussed, they are unlined, but the weight and hand of the fabric is nice enough that it doesn’t bother me.

      • Makeup Junkie :

        I can’t wear CE pants at all! I think I am too long- waisted. Or short- waisted. I don’t actually know what those terms mean but CE pants button just under my boobs. Not a good look.

    • I just returned these — they looked fantastic, but were just a little too itchy for me to handle. I was so disappointed. I can handle unlined in some fabrics, but this wasn’t one of them.

  5. @SF Bay Associate – I prefer lining too, but if the materials nice and not itchy/scratchy, I don’t mind as much anymore. I really like Talbot’s wool cream pants within lining (they run a little big though). I wear the living daylights out of my wool “Luxe” pinstriped pants from The Limited(unlined but nice!):

    • silk destroyer :

      id never wear panties under them if they re lined feels so good makes me aroused sometimes.

  6. Had to post this – here’s a great look for you brand-conscious ladies to rock at the office:

  7. I like the J crew city fit – they fit me well.

    BUT, has anyone found any brown wool pants lately? I am looking for some but can’t find them anywhere.

    • I have really good brown wool pants from the Banana Republic Factory Store.

      • OMG I thought I was falling off my chair when I saw this post come up in a google search. I have been hunting for brown wool pants for 2 years in a reasonable price range (under $300 .. would be better if they were under $200 but what the heck.. I am only buying one pair).

        I can’t believe that brown has been ignored. Camel has many different iterations of late and it’s showing up on runways and in fall collections in J Crew, Banana Republic and variou s other lines. I am looking for a nice pair of wool trousers.. could be flannel, could be wool crepe or wool blend.. but I am talking about either a wide leg or even a boot cut.. and I am small so it’s not like I am asking for anything difficult. I found something in a light heathered caramel in a jacket from J Crew but no pants. Bought the jacket. the next month, they came out with the pants but the dye lots won’t be the same.
        sigh. this is so frustating.. also I write a blog– I am going to include this post and linkback to it because we ALL have some fashion issue/holy grail item we are searching out.. why aren’t we able to find it?

        • I totally agree. I prefer brown to black and am a size 16 and need a relaxed fit and tall too boot! Plus I really can’t abide those low waistbands! Can’t find anything decent……what a shame!

      • silk destroyer :

        i never buy pants unless they have a nice silky or satin lining mmmmmmfeels so nice!!without panties!i messm up good!

  8. The Jackson pants from BR are the holy grail for me! BTW, that code wouldn’t work for me for some reason, but BROFFER did.

    • Love them too. And just a note for Kat – they are available in black, and then in several colors in the “winter wool” line. And for those interested, all are lined even though the website doesn’t tell you that.

    • BR Jackson fit are the only pants that fit me without alterations. I just wish they offered more styles and colors.

      FYI: The Talbots “wool” pants aren’t wool; they’re made of a polyester blend with a tiny bit of wool in the mix.

      • Agreed – I don’t even bother looking for “work pants” anywhere other than BR….

      • If Jackson works for you, try the Classiques pants (if you’re willing to take on the extra cost). I wear both and they both are flattering on my figure.

  9. I have a pair of winter white trousers, but I always wonder if I’m wearing the right shoes. I wore then the other day with a jacket that also had brown in it, so I wore brown shoes. What do you ladies wear?

    Also, I’m attending an all-day CLE on a Friday in Chicago next month. Any advice on attire? I’m not from the area and I don’t want to stick out in the wrong way!

    • I have a pair of spectator pumps that are ivory and black. I usually wear those with winter white.

    • People at CLE’s usually run the gamut from jeans to full-on suit. Unless there’s a major networking event after where you will meet lots of VIPs, business casual is almost definitely fine.

    • Anonymous :

      I think most people normally wear to CLE what they’d wear to the office. I wouldn’t go too casual, but I don’t think a suit is necessary either.

    • I wear camel shoes with my winter white pants.

  10. DC lawyer :

    If your hips are narrow in comparison to your waist, Elie Tahari’s Theora cut is just terrific. The less expensive Tahari line (sold in Macy’s) in Hazel works really well too. The pants are slimming, the fabric solid and long-wearing.

    For a pricier line, Donna Karan and St. John woven slacks are classics that last for years.

  11. Legally Brunette :

    Hi ladies, I was the one who posted in the weekend thread about experiencing physical pain during intimacy. I want to thank you all for your heartfelt replies and advice. This is such a personal topic that I haven’t spoken to anyone about it except my husband, and it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one going through this.

    I will read the book/blogs that many of you have recommended. In terms of physical issues, low estrogen and pelvic issues have been ruled out, as I have already been tested for both. So I’m thinking that my issue is 90% mental, 10% physical. As another poster said, I sometimes feel a burning sensation, but I know that I don’t have a yeast infection/STD, etc. I’m really stumped.

    I absolutely agree with several of you who encouraged me to think about intimacy as not just intercourse. I need to start there, but the larger issue is that I would like to get pregnant in the next year or so. And I feel a lot of pressure from my family to get pregnant, as I’m getting older, so I’m stressed about that. I’m sure that’s not helping our sex life either.

    To the poster who asked about my sex therapist — I went to her for about a year and it was helpful to talk through some of my issues surrounding intimacy, namely the major problems I had with my ex-boyfriend. At the end of the day, she recommended the usual things. . . going slow, practicing with vibrators, etc. At some point I felt that I learned all I needed to know, so I stopped going.

    Anyways, thanks again so much. I really need to devote time to making this work. I’ve been putting off this issue for so long now because it’s no fun to think about or do anything about the pain.

    • Good luck to you. I’m the one with the “burning sensation” who eventually got over my issues and realized it was 90% mental. It’s hard, but a worthwhile endeavor, and having a caring **patient** and understanding husband is a sign that you will come out fine on the other end.

    • LB,
      I might have missed parts of your post, but have you checked yourself for endometriosis? Pain during sex is a very common occurence. Please discuss it with your OB or better yet go to someone who specializes in endometriosis. The earlier it is caught, the better.

      • md, not a gynecologist :


        I also missed the original discussion. Just wanted to mention the possibility of vaginismus as well: involuntary tightening of the muscles during sex causing painful entry. This has a very reasonable treatment course that a good OB/GYN should be able to go over with you (it is also fairly easy to check for, since penetration is the trigger).

        Second LB’s suggestion that you include a doctor’s visit as part of your general health. There are several treatable conditions that can and should be ruled out: endometriosis, vaginismus, etc.

        As a general note, ladies, if you do not feel comfortable discussing sex with your gynecologist I urge you to find one with whom you do. It’s an important part of your health and not one to be neglected.

  12. A related question – I’m looking for medium gray pants, washable (not dry clean only), and in a 36″ inseam. Or possibly a 34″ or 35″ with a cuff that I can have undone and lengthened. Do these exist? Any suggestions? JCrew and Banana Republic only have dry clean pants and there doesn’t seem to be much medium gray out there. Maybe I’ll have to wait until spring… Thanks.

    • Gap has gray pants online with a 36″ inseam. Long is 34″, tall is 36″

    • Not sure about the inseam issue, but I have washable wool pants from Eileen Fisher. They don’t look as streamlined as my dry clean pairs, but I think it’s just the way EF clothes are. They’re incredibly comfortable & easy though. Maybe worth looking into?

    • Anonymous :

      On a similar note – all winter I’ve been looking for a pair of “winter weight,” light gray pants (dry clean is fine). I think I’ve been picturing a tweed.

      I second the previous poster who said that Banana Republic pants just don’t seem to fit. I have a great pair of wool trousers in black (city fit) that I picked up from the J.Crew outlet and have been wearing them almost daily.

      Any suggestions?

    • super anon for this as well :

      do they have to be wool? Limited and NY&Co tend to have some, but they’re rarely wool (though the last time I was in the Limited, it looked like they were adding higher-quality items). Sure, they aren’t super nice, but they’re almost always machine washable and work fine for everyday wear.

    • Oh the joys of being long-legged. I have friends with shorter inseams who complain about having their pants hemmed, but I always contest that fitting long legs is worse because you can’t make pants longer if the fabric isn’t there.

      I don’t have a pants specific suggestion, but just wanted to add Benneton to the list of places to check. Their pants have a standard 36″ inseam. It’s nice to be in a store where you don’t have to worry about whether they carry a certain style in “long.”

    • Try Gap Curvy. I’m tall and their 12L fits me perfect. The only part of them that’s curvy is the few inches from the waist to mid-hip. Otherwise they are pretty much straight-leg or slight bootcut. They are stretchy charcoal grey (or black, your choice). They are polyester, but it has good stretch and doesn’t look cheap. I really love them. I am a true 35″ inseam, very short torso and they fit me well.

  13. My favorite is the Brooks Brothers Catherine fit. Fully lined with Bemberg (rather than polyester) and very flattering. I have a pair that I’ve probably worn 50 times, and they still look fantastic. If you keep an eye out, you can find them on sale for around $80.

    • I agree. I am trending towards Brooks Brothers for all my wool separates. You can find deals on sale, but also even better deals at the outlet. Even though there is a separate 365 line, I find the quality just as good (recently bought wool, lined Catherine fit pants in a PETITE size which normal Brooks Brothers doesn’t necessarily have, I think?) and the prices are phenominal. The pair I most recently bought was on sale for about $54. Additionally there seem to be more colors and styles of wool separates at the outlet, but I agree with LawryChk that there are also deals to be found just scouring the regular store’s clearance section.

  14. Sorry for the thread jack.. Does anyone have any recommendations for a good men’s wallet? I’m willing to spend a bit on it as it’s a birthday gift for my DH. He prefers a billfold style, with a few slots on either side for credit cards, and two slots for bills, so pretty basic. I’m just trying to decide if Montblanc, etc, is worth it, or if there are brands I’m overlooking. I apologize if this has been covered in previous threads, but I wasn’t able to find anything of use on the search feature.

    • Cole Haan has a nice selection. My husband’s has held up well.

      • I like CH, too.

        Jack Spade also makes nice mens’ wallets if you’re looking for something a bit quirkier.

        Also, a guy friend of mine has a stingray wallet from Hammacher, which he absolutely loves. It comes with a lifetime warranty and everything I have ever bought there tends to be very good quality. It’s not too expensive, either.

        If you want to go all out, my ex got himself a LV plain taiga leather billfold (very masculine, no logos, no give away patterns, don’t worry) in a dark green, years ago, and I recently met him for a cup of coffee and it’s been like 7 or 8 years and his wallet — same one! — looks brand-spanking new. I was impressed!

        As for the Fossil rec below, I have to dissent. I had a Fossil wallet in college and while it did last a couple of years, on year 3 the clasp came off and threads were getting loose somewhere around year 2.5. Maybe mine was just a from a bad batch? I know other people have spoken well of the brand here before.

        Anyway, it sounds like a nice gift. Good luck with the hunt.

    • I was just thinking this morning that my Fossil wallet has held up really well. There’s no visible wear on the fabric even at the bend points, the stitching’s never come loose, the zipper still works perfectly. I got mine at Macy’s in 2004 or so (I remember being complimented on it at an event in 2005.)

    • My husband’s Coach wallet made from buffalo in the style you describe is looking better and better each year. That brand has gone all nutty in the women’s line, but the men’s line is still pretty classic,

    • Just had this conversation with a male friend who is a Tumi devotee. I don’t know much about them but he just got a new one as a gift to replace (upgrade) one that was over 10 years that barely looked worn.

    • Anonymous :

      I have bought both men’s (as gifts) and women’s (for me) Fossil wallets and they’ve held up great. Fairly inexpensive, though, but they are really nice.

    • oo! oo!

      Bought hubby one and he loved it! He got this billfold

    • T Anthony has some great men’s wallets. Plus you can get his initials stamped on the inside which is a nice touch.

  15. anon for this :

    Another threadjack call for advice: I’m a deferred associate who accept their offer, took the stipend, and now is having second thoughts about starting with my firm. I’m conflicted about when/if I should notify the firm of my feelings. As it stands now, the chances of me going to the firm are fairly slim, and my start date probably won’t be for a year or so which gives me ample time to search for alternatives (though I’m not sure what to say to potential employers about it either).


    • anon for this :

      For greater context, I’m thinking of doing public interest, govt, or non legal work instead.

      • I agree with the above. Do not tell them until you have another offer in hand or you are willing to risk being unemployed.

        The government/public interest job market is terrible for lawyers right now. I had an unpaid, freshly minted JD, working with me as an intern for almost a year before finding a non-legal, non-profit job. And he came in with government experience and a lot of connections. In fact, his connections helped him get the unpaid position just so he could do some work and have something on his resume. I don’t think the situation has improved drastically.

      • I know a 2009 grad who has not yet found a perm job. DO NOT tell the firm until you have an offer in hand.

    • First, there is a good chance that the firm will require you to pay back your stipend. Second, I wouldn’t tell the firm until (1) you’re 100% positive you’re not going to the firm and/or (2) you’ve accepted other permanent employment. FWIW, I was in a 2009 deferred class, and we lost a couple people who were supposed to start, so it’s no unheard of to do this.

      • anon for this :

        Thanks for your response LawyrChk, part of my problem is that I feel incredibly guilty knowing that I’m 99.5% sure I won’t accept and not saying anything. Will this get me blacklisted in the legal community? Is this something people remember?

        • Anonymous :

          You really should wait until you have another offer. The market right now is still really slow, and if you tell your firm you aren’t coming back, you’ll probably have to return the stipend and will be stuck with nothing until you find a job. There’s no guarantee you’re going to find something in that time. I graduated from a Top 25 school in 2009 and know people in my class who still haven’t started permanent attorney positions- a few are in paralegal positions and others are doing temp/part-time work.

        • How will anyone possibly know you’re already planning not to accept? You could tell them today or you could tell them in 10 months with offer in hand – either way the conversation will be similar and you will never have to disclose in the latter case that you knew 10 months ago you wouldn’t accept.

          And frankly, another benefit of having an offer in hand is that the group won’t think you’re crazy and irresponsible for leaving a job without a new one lined up in this market. DBF’s group just had an associate leave (after ~1 year) without anything else lined up. No one’s too upset that this guy is leaving (okay, maybe that says something about why he felt the need to leave) but they ARE all talking about how stupid he is to leave without something else lined up and speculating as to whether he has a trust fund, etc.

      • Boston atty :

        Agree 100% with both points. You’re sure now, but what if 8 months from now you have not found another job? Many people are having it rough out there. I would not feel guilty about this. And no, I do not think this would be remembered/known nor would it get you blacklisted.

    • My firm’s deferral stipend did not require repayment if the associate never started, in fact, I think the accepted understanding was this was a chance for some of the associates to find something else to do. But I agree that it’s better to have a bird in hand before doing something drastic.

    • Hi, sorry, I kind of hate you right now. Please go to your firm so those of us who passed up the summer associate money to “build our public interest credentials” can get those 30k/year jobs. We don’t have anywhere else to go and no one’s paying us in the meantime.

      • Anon for this :

        Original poster to anon above–kind of a harsh response don’t you think? I’m not sure that the job search is a zero sum game, so my wanting to pursue a public interest/public service/non legal career shouldn’t directly hurt your chances of finding something similar, and even if it does, we are all living in the same job market. What am I supposed to make the wrong career choice for myself because some other people are having a hard time finding a job? Hating me (or anyone in a more “fortunate” position than you–not saying my position is but that seems to be your opinion) is not going to make your situation any better, and will probably lead to you being bitter and angry.

      • Don’t listen to complainers like this. They are just selfish and seem to be the type to blame others for something not working out.

        Comments like Anon’s here actually disgust me. You see them here, Above the law, etc. Grow up, deal with your situation, don’t preach to others h0w to live their life and complain about your poor life choices.


    • anon for this :

      Thank you everyone for your advice, the consensus seems to be wait to say anything, preferably when I have another job lined up. That’s what my logical mind told me, but my conscience kept nagging me around being dishonest/not forthcoming about my true intentions. I suppose in the business world, it’s better to play your cards close to the chest, and I’ll have to ignore that little voice.

      • Boston atty :

        Read the book that is mentioned here quite a bit: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, and another one that I’m reading now that seems like it’ll be very helpful: Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead but Gutsy Girls Do. Seriously.

      • DC lawyer :

        I agree with the consensus, with these additional thoughts. You were originally offered a job, then were deferred. The firm’s circumstances changed, and you accommodated them. You stopped considering other comparable firms.
        You too may change your mind over the next year. For example, although you believe you’re likely to want to do non-profit or government work, as you look into those possibilities you may see your deferred position in a new and more positive light. As long as you’re honest with the firm when you are about to accept another offer and continue to speak well of the firm for paying a stipend when they weren’t able to proceed with the job immediately, I think you’re behaving responsibly.

        • I totally agree with DC lawyer. OP, you are not doing anything dishonest or should be feeling badly for. Your relationship with the firm (or any job) is a business one and not one of personal friendship. Please put your interests ahead of your firm’s/company’s. At the end of the day, your company/firm will put their interests ahead of yours.

          • This! This! This! You are the ONLY one who will put your interests first — don’t let yourself down.

  16. lawyerette :

    I own a pair of beautiful wool Talbots pants in cream/ivory, but I’ve never worn them. They are lined but when I put them on, all you can see are the white front and back pockets. Other than wearing a very long tunic, does anyone have any ideas? should I be wearing white tights underneath or something?

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Have a tailor take the pockets out and sew them shut :). Easy as pie.

      • lawyerette :

        Hmm I hadn’t thought of that. Kind of unfortunate that they’re lined, the tailor would have to break through that to cut the pockets.

        • I’m don’t sew, but would it be possible for a tailor to pull the pocket lining inside out and cut them from the outside?

  17. I’ve recently moved to a very small, relatively remote community. Clothes shopping here is pretty much nonexistant, and I’m only likely to be able to get to a big city once or twice a year. Obviously, I’m going to have to get used to shopping online. Any advice for buying clothes online when I won’t be able to try things on in a real store? I’m especially thinking about pants, because my thighs are very large relative to my waist and hips and there’s only so much you can do with tailoring.

    • Know your own measurements and check measurements on everything you buy online. I have a friend who buys suits on ebay all the time, and she ignores the sizes and goes straight for the measurements.

      Also, some places like Zappos have free shipping both ways, so you can order stuff, try it on at home, and then immediately mail it back. The promotional videos on their site show people doing this, so it seems to be encouraged.

      • You could also check out . You create a “personal shop” by entering a whole lot of measurements, then they automatically enter the right size for clothing in your shop. Even if you don’t buy directly from them, in can help you to figure out what sizes would work best in what brands and styles.

    • At first, order what you think is your size & the next one too. Once you know your (usual) sizes per brand and style, make a note of them. I’ve shopped a lot online for dresses and tops but still scared about pants :(

    • I really dislike shopping so I love online. Before you buy from any online source always read their return policy. Zappos is definitely the best one out there and they have a wider selection of clothes all the time. Some retailers are limiting the time frame for returns (I’ve seen as short as 14 days!) but Zappos gives you a year which is great for me because I often binge on a bunch of items right before a vacation and don’t manage to return the reject pile until I’m back in town.
      And it definitely helps to make notes of what size works best at which store – pants are definitely the hardest! Good luck!

    • I live in a big city but I too hate shopping, so I buy most of my clothes online from Nordstrom. They have free shipping if you spend more than $200, so I usually buy several things in different sizes, try it all on, and then go back to the store every few months or so for exchanges/returns. The great thing about Nordstrom is that they will accept returns at any time (even after a year), so you don’t have to worry about returning items right away. The Nordstrom website usually includes measurements for the clothing as well as well as advice on how it fits (ie: tight at the hips or snug at the bust, etc.). Good luck.

    • Get on the mailing lists of the stores you like if you are not already so that you can get all the discount emails. Some, like Boden, will periodically offer a % off plus free shipping and free returns. I would wait for one of those, and then order several sizes, knowing that you will just return the ones that don’t fit.

  18. Even though I live in a major city, I shop online all the time. I also have sizing problems, and here is what I do:

    Order multiple sizes to start with. Hopefully you are able to narrow it down to two, but if not, you can still make it work with more (see below for why I like to limit myself to 2). A lot of stores have free shipping over a certain amount, so it actually helps to order a few other sizes “just in case” because it gets you over the free shipping threshold (and even though you return all but one item that was maybe $40, they won’t retroactively charge you for shipping). I always do this unless I 100% know my size because I would rather always have to send one pair back than order the wrong size and then have to send it back for the right size–for one, I like having both sizes to compare. You can keep both if you wait to send back the second pair, but by then you’ve already got two charges on your card and you now have to pay shipping an extra time.

    Once you know what size you want to keep, obviously you’ll return the others. Like I said, I live in a major city, so I usually let my returns pile up until I’m close to a return cutoff and then I take them all in at once (tomorrow is actually that day for me–fun :). You could do this on your big city trips when the timing works. For those returns that you need to send back before you make it into the city, you will probably have to use the SmartLabel (or another shipping method if it’s cheaper) to send them back. Make sure you read the return policy for SmartLabel costs–sometimes they charge a flat rate per return label used, and others (J.Crew I think) charges per item in the return. If it’s a per-item rate and the clothes don’t take up that much space, you might be able to return them cheaper in a Priority Flat Rate box. Just keep in mind that you’ll want to buy insurance and tracking, so factor in that cost on top of the Priority rate.

    The downside to this: having all of those outstanding charges on your credit card. They’ll come off when you return the items, but you may hit a statement date without returning them and have a huge bill of items you plan on returning. My solution to this is to only use a credit card that I pay off every month so there’s no interest–thus, I get up to a 2 month float from the start of a statement period until the payment due date for that period to make my returns. I realize this may not work for everyone, so if you would rather not do what I do, keep reading….

    …you can always call the store. J.Crew and Nordstrom have personal shopper services. You can talk to them about measurements to see what size would be most appropriate. I find that I still like to try items on because my biggest need for different sizes is my rear end, and there’s no “butt roundness” measurement. If you prefer a simpler approach, I think you could get the size right the majority of the time using the personal shopper phone lines (and precise measurements from your tailor of what (s)he needs).

  19. Thanks, Kat, for this post! I was just wondering this morning as I drove to work where to find nice winter trousers.

  20. Thread hijack – has anyone done an EEOC case and encountered an EEOC Mediator named “Mr. Juran” who travels around the country doing these mediations?

  21. Even though these trousers aren’t wool, they ROCK. Best around at the moment:

    The Sloan fit at Banana Republic is brilliant for many body types. The fabric on these is WOW. The best drape ever.

  22. I bought a pair of the Theory Max C pants after they were recommended on this site a while ago, hoping they’d be the ultimate pants solution. For me, they were not. I’d say the fit of these pants is tricky. I took the Nordstrom site’s recommendation to go up to size 6 (I’d normally wear a 4). They seemed to fit at first, but then stretched so much the first few times I wore them that I ultimately had to give them away to a larger friend! Also, I found that the seat was small relative to the hip/waist size. It seemed these would best fit a fairly hippy woman with a flatish butt — are there many of those??

  23. I recently did a stint with Ann Ataylor as a wardrobe stylist for one of their larger stores here in the Chicago area and was quite impressed with both the wool blend lined pants [tweeds and solids] and their satin button front shirts. The shirts came in some beautiful jewel tone colors as well as a gorgeous champagne ivory. Not washable, but still a classic look and a nice alternative to the crisp white shirt. Also, may I suggest that the white shirt might work if you tuck a little colorful scarf into the collar, or if you wear some strands of ivory pearls or colored beads, both will frame your face and bring out the blush in your cheeks!

  24. Thanks for noting when pieces come in petites (and usually featuring at least a couple items that do in posts like this)! I’m 5′ and it’s usually pointless for me to even bother trying on clothes that don’t come in short or petite sizes.


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