Fashion & Beauty

Who Wears the Pants? We All Do!

I think there may be one pair of navy trousers in there somewhere. Don’t count the hangers and call me a liar: There are more pants in another closet. / MyLittleBird photo.

By Nancy McKeon

I HAVE A pants problem, specifically a black pants problem. I’ve known about it for a while, but when I was decluttering my house before putting it up for sale (yes, it finally sold), the women who were helping me collected all of the black pants from various closets and (sigh) piles, and hung most of them together.

I used to joke that I had 13 pairs of black pants. Um, well, I seem to have 37. And that doesn’t include a few casual knits that were folded, not hung.

I say “doesn’t” because I did not do the smart thing: I did not try on each pair and decide whether to keep or donate. No, I just transferred them all to one of those large cardboard wardrobe boxes and moved them to storage along with everything else. As I say, not smart—and delaying such decisions is no doubt how I wound up with 37 pairs to begin with.

But the quest for the perfect pair of black pants is kinda like the quest for the Holy Grail: Is it really out there? So I was momentarily excited when a postcard arrived about a week ago from Eileen Fisher. THE PERFECT BLACK PANTS, the postcard promised. But here’s what was on the back of the card:

Not one pair of perfect black pants at all, but “5 essential shapes, 1 beloved fabric,” a textured washable stretch crepe. But, yeah, I may fall for one or two of these.

Obviously we all have our favorite shapes and lengths, but it’s fair to say we do need a wardrobe of pants, that one “perfect” pair cannot do the whole job (think boot-cut, ankle pants, breezy linens in warm weather—the list goes on).

LittleBird Kathy swears by a couple of pairs from Eileen Fisher. “I’ve had some of mine for at least 20 years, and they still look like almost new. The trick is to always have them dry-cleaned even though they’re supposed to be washable.”

Kathy goes for the full-length, straight-leg style, with an elastic waistband. “I’ve had them so long, in fact, that I’ve had to have the elastic replaced in at least 2 pair,” she writes.

Now, my sister thinks that an elastic waistband is a sign that you’ve simply given up. Her favorite is the Bleecker pant from Lafayette 148 New York. She’s long in the torso, and the rise is high enough to reach all the way up to her waist, where she wants the waistband (isn’t that why they call it a waistband?). She notes, though, that she usually buys them on sale.

I’d love to know if any of you have found “the perfect pair.” There’s probably as many “perfect pairs” as there are of us. Please let me know in a comment. In the meantime, I’ve run across the ones below and am going to give one or two of them a go.

Crops keep getting croppier.

LEFT: Stretch Crepe Ankle Pants from Eileen Fisher in black, gray, olive and cassis (shown), $100 to $168 depending on size and color at Nordstrom.

CENTER: From DKNY, Slim Cropped Pants in a fabric with a bit of stretch to them. They’re dry-clean-only at Use the code DKNYSPRING and get 30 percent off.

RIGHT: The Bleecker Italian Stretch Wool Pants, and of course it comes in black (as well as white, ink, dark gray, light gray; khaki is shown). They’re $378 at Lafayette148.

It’s dark out there!

LEFT: From Italy come these PT01 Wide-Leg Flare Trousers. For you Italophiles, the PT stands for Pantaloni Torino, or Turin Trousers. They’re $266 at Farfetch.

RIGHT: Fit On-the-Go Full-Leg Crops in a poly blend with stretch. They’re $79 at J.Jill.

Easy breezy.

LEFT: Lightweight, Washable Stretch-Crepe Wide-Leg Ankle Pant in a viscose-nylon blend comes in “ink” (dark blue, shown), black and graphite and is $238 at Eileen Fisher.

RIGHT: Those “cold shoulder” tops leave a lot to be desired (mostly more fabric), but the slit in the Finesse Crepe Downing Cropped Side-Slit Pant (up to the knee) could provide a flirty little flutter when you walk. Finesse Crepe is a poly/acetate blend. They’re $398 from Lafayette 148 New York. If you’re thinking ahead to warmer weather, they also come in Italian gabardine in “raffia” (beige) for $498, also at Lafayette 148 New York.

Wowza! If all that plain black gets to you, here’s an antidote: from Marques’Almeida, these black-ground brocade cropped flared pants, $596 from Farfetch.


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6 thoughts on “Who Wears the Pants? We All Do!

  1. Nancy G says:

    OMG! My closet is filed with black trousers. Maybe not 37 pairs, but at least 20. I have several pairs with really full legs and interesting waists, less full styles, my favorite black Gap skinny leg jeans, and a great pair of Everlane “work” pants. Then there are my black suit pants….some of these are 20 years old. Good stuff lasts a long time. And you simply cannot go wrong with a great pair of black pants. Or 20. Or 37.

  2. Candy says:

    There’s no such thing as too many black pants. I believe that’s a right mentioned in the Constitution. Eileen Fisher pants are too short for us tall gals (and I agree with Nancy’s sister about puckery elastic waists), so the dark side of my closet has every brand I can find that comes in tall or runs long, from Banana to Old Navy to Joseph Ribkoff, Leith and sale rack longer-than-expected Vince and Tahari. It’s a lifelong quest.

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      Ya know, my new apartment has an extra closet. Maybe I’ll make it my Black Pants Closet, the more the merrier!

  3. I think I beat you on the black pants count, but am afraid to check. Eileen Fisher is the absolute go-to — and I wash and dry them over and over. I can ball them up and stomp on them. Sleep in them. (Never mind slosh red wine on them.) And the wrinkles immediately hang out. I also wear a size small, which is pretty hysterical but good for my ego.

    MEANWHILE, I saw a woman in a fantastic pair of wide-leg jeans at Trader Joe’s the other day and had to ask–Zara, she told me. I checked the website and wowza, great style cheap. I haven’t tried them on, but this woman was not, shall we say, model thin and her pants looked great.

  4. Carol says:

    I have found Talbot Hampshire crop (ankle) pants are best for me
    Comfy nice fit and look good
    Have black and gray

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      yes, Talbots! their stuff is sometimes a little too suburban, or preppy, or something. but their pants will often have a little bit of elastic in the back waistband, a zipper, a hook and eye AND a button. you don’t get construction like that just anywhere. don’t know if i’ve tried Hampshire, but there are a couple of great pairs of black pants hanging in my closet (crushed by the others). great call, thanks!

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