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Much Ado About Black Pants


If you work for a company with a business-casual dress code that doesn’t allow jeans, you have a dilemma on your hands: what to wear that looks professional, is comfortable, and goes with just about anything? Many women solve this problem with black dress pants. At least one style expert would like us to stop.


(Photo Credit: lovemaegan/Flickr)

“Ladies, take off your pants,” writes Emma Rosenblum, the Etc. editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. “Those black, poly-blend, straight-legged slacks you wear to work every day. You know the ones — they gap at the waist and pull at the crotch. They make a distinct scratching sound when you cross and uncross your legs in a meeting. Sometimes they have pleats. Sometimes they have back pockets. Sometimes they have stretch. But they’re never, ever flattering. They’re boring and sad, and they make you look boring and sad, too.”

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We know that how you dress can affect both your mood and your productivity, so it’s not a huge stretch to say that an unflattering pair of pants could hurt your career. On the other hand, what are we to wear instead?

Off the top of our heads:

1. A scuba suit.

It’s not jeans, it’s not a business suit. It’s functional and flattering. Upside: no one will be wearing the same thing you are. Downside: great white sharks might mistake you for a seal.

2. 1970s pajamas.

If it was good enough for Kurt Cobain to get married in, it’s good enough for your office. Show off your creative flair and feel as comfy as you would if you never got out of bed.

3. An old-timey union suit.

Be certain to sew the trapdoor shut, in order to avoid an issue with HR.

To be fair, Rosenblum offers a few more practical alternatives, such as slim-fitting cigarette pants from designers like Reem Acra and something called The Minnie Pant from J. Crew. The problem is, most of these options are pretty expensive. Gap and Ann Taylor Loft have some cheaper options, but it’s hard to drop $50 – $80 on plaid and leopard print. How often can you wear those, without looking like more someone who only owns one pair of pants than when you actually only owned one pair of pants?

The reason the black dress pant stays with us is that it’s cheap and it goes with everything. You could wear the same pair every day, and as long as you did laundry on the regular, no one would ever know.

Bottom line: wear whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t get you in trouble at work, make you too uncomfortable to concentrate, or put you in debt. It’s that’s a dress or designer trousers or even the dreaded black pants, so be it.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s your go-to office uniform staple? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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