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.
It’s been a while since we went on a hunt for warm women’s dress pants for the office, so I thought we’d take a look today. I’m breaking out this Hunt a bit differently than our usual roundup to talk about the pros and cons of the different fabrics in general, but I’d love to hear from you — what are your favorite pants to wear to work in the winter? (Or is it FLEECE TIGHTS all the way?) What fabrics do you like best, what do you wear beneath unlined pants, and where are your favorite places to find them? Can you wear velvet/corduroy at your office, or do you prefer to stick to wool? What are your thoughts on cropped pants in winter weights? (And what shoes do you wear with them — booties?) See our roundup below of the different kinds of warm winter pants to wear to work…
Wool Flannel Pants
Flannel pants are, I think, the holy grail if you’re looking for warm winter pants. They don’t have the itch of wool or tweed, but they drape better and feel more versatile than velvet or other options. Of course, the downside is that you often end up paying a lot for them… Talbots is one of the more affordable options you’ll find right now, as is Everlane (but note that Everlane has them on their “pay what you want” pricing, which may mean they’re on their way out.)
Other Wool Blends
I’m separating out wool flannel because I think it’s the softest, the warmest, and the most versatile — but there are a zillion other wool blends and woolen fabrics, including wool gabardine and wool blended with elastyne for stretch (like the plaid pair below). These may be itchy — so see our trick about how to deal with unlined pants — but they may also be great for winter. Note that seasonless wool (aka tropical wool and “lightweight wool,”) is also great for winter, but, as we’ve noted before when advising on whether you can wear a tropical wool suit in winter, they may be a bit chilly on the most Vortex-y days of the Polar Vortex. Tweeds may be a wool (like this pair at Talbots), but they may also be a polyester (like this pair at Boden) — but for my $.02 I’ve always preferred tweeds as a skirt than a pant because the inner thighs of pants may wear unevenly and/or get nubbly.
Velvet & Corduroy Pants
I’m putting velvet and corduroy together because they both can go either way, although corduroy is inherently more casual and velvet is inherently more dressy. But if you see either fabric in a five-pocket style (like denim), odds are the pants are only going to be acceptable for a more casual office in general (or, say, a weekend workday in a conservative office). On the flip side, if you see them with welt pockets like the blue pair below, or cut like trousers like the bootcut burgundy pair, then they’re far more acceptable to wear to conservative offices. Note that the swish-swish sound both pants make while walking can be a problem in an office with very quiet hallways — and that lint can also be a problem with both (note that, in a pinch, a Fed Ex mailing pouch works wonders!)… There are a lot more professional-looking options in velvet right now, so those are pictured below — also check out the tons of options at Banana Republic, Boden, and Uniqlo (with HEATTECH added so they’re extra warming).
Long Johns and Silk Leggings
One last thing worth noting: long johns can be lifesavers, whether you’re using them to make an already warm pair of pants SUPER warm, to warm up a favorite pair of less seasonal pants (such as a washable pant for work probably in a cotton blend), or to use as a liner for an unlined suit pants. These are particularly great when the problem is the wind (such as in a city like Chicago) more than the temperature — especially because while a silk long john will block the wind, it won’t overheat you once you get inside. Some favorites include these:
Readers, which are your favorite warm women’s dress pants for the office? Which fabrics are your favorite — which wear the longest — and where have you bought them recently?
Like this feature? Check out other recent installments! Curious for older installments of this Hunt? Here’s our 2012 roundup of the best wool flannel pants for women and our 2011 roundup of the best wool trousers for women.
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