Finding The Best Black Work Pant: A Try-On


Pre-pandemic, I had a closet chock full of office-appropriate clothing. I was traveling for work every other weekend, giving marketing presentations to prospective clients, and training new staff. I spent most of my professional life in blazers, button-down shirts, trousers, and practical loafers.

Then, I moved from Shanghai to Colorado, the world shut down, and I found myself working from home full-time. My body softened and took shape in the context of this new rhythm of life, and my sizing changed. Fast forward a few years, I’m happy to have remerged, more grateful than ever for my health, the opportunity to see friends face-to-face, and the chance to dress a little bit more formally.

Welcome To The Black Dress Pants Awards

As I’ve been figuring out my new personal style, I’ve realized that the hardest item for me to find, but that I love to wear, is pants. Specifically, I needed plain black pants that I could style with tons of different pieces (from office settings to travel), yet there was nothing in my close that fit me in a way I liked.

So, I began to investigate. I tried on black pants from some of my favorite brands like GAP, Athleta, J.Crew, Eileen Fisher, and Universal Standard, and below are the pants that made the cut. 

Size and Fit Note: For reference, I’m 5’5”, think of my body as pear-shaped, and typically wear a size 14/32 in pants.

My Favorite Black Pant:
GAP Ponte Crop Kick Pants

Runner-Up Winner: Athleta Endless Cargo Pant

Best Detail: J.Crew Flare Ponte Pant

Best Wide Leg: Eileen Fisher Wide Leg Pant

Best for Warm Weather: Athleta Brooklyn Ankle Pant

Most Versatile: Universal Standard Moto Pant

Best Skinny Style: GAP High Rise Ponte Skinny Pant

My Least Favorite: Athleta Endless Pant

My Favorite Black Pants: The Gap Ponte Crop Kick

sweater | pants (14) | boots

Style:  These Gap Ponte Pants are constructed from midweight material that would be comfortable in most weather. Plus, there is piping detail running down the front of the leg for a little bit of interest. The crop kick will show off cute shoes (like my current favorite ankle boots), and the “kick” (aka mini flare) is a little bit more up-to-date and interesting than the skinny version of these pants. The ponte fabric won’t wrinkle easily, making these great for those mornings when you don’t have much time between your morning cup of joe and heading into the office.

Fit: These stretchy, curve-hugging ponte pants claimed the title for Overall Winners and have won a permanent place in my closet. I’m wearing my typical size 14 above, so these do run true-to-size in my experience.

Overall Runner-Up: The Athleta Endless Cargo Pants


sweater | pants (16) | boots

Style: These Athleta Cargo Pants were my favorite for the look and design but won runner-up because the GAP pants above just fit so well. I love the cargo style, and it’s super on-trend right now. There are not only cargo pockets, but also two buttons at the ankle that can accommodate boots if that’s how you want to style these. I love the little utilitarian touches — these pants definitely feel like a part of my wardrobe that was missing until I picked them up. These pants are formal enough for the places I’ve worked, but they might not fit the bill for more formal workplaces.

There are also two pockets on the back of the pant, but they are nearly invisible with discreet black metal zippers. The side pockets are angled and silver, however, and add to the design of the pants. The waistband is comfortable and elasticated.

Fit: I did size up to a 16 in these – Athleta leggings run large on me, but the pants tend to run just a little bit small in the thighs, and I prefer to make sure the pants drape properly in front and can stand a little bit of extra room in the waistline to get that.

Best Detail: J.Crew Flare-Leg Trousers in Italian Ponte


sweater | pants | boots

Style: Again, many of the pants I tried on for this article are ponte material because it doesn’t wrinkle and is perfect for work (or travel). I deem these pants “Best Detail” because I love these cute, front-zip details. I think these J.Crew flares look sleek yet are made of a stretchy and comfortable material (ponte), which makes them perfect for daily office wear.

These pants are midweight, similar to the GAP ponte pants, but I love the full-length flare and the interesting front detail of having a zipper than can show off cute shoes. The quality is definitely there with the construction and material of these pants.

Fit: I love how lengthening this style is on my frame. I’m average height, but I feel like my legs look long in these pants. I really loved these – I just wish there were a curve option because I get a little bit of gapping in the back of the pant.

Best Wide-Leg Trousers: The EILEEN FISHER High-Waist Pants


sweater | pants (L) | boots

Style: Am I becoming an Eileen Fisher girly?! The first Eileen Fisher item I have ever tried on was during the last Nordstrom sale (a super cute drapey jumpsuit), and I loved it, and now I also love these pants. The fabric is high quality and thick, so the appearance and drape are smooth. The wide-leg style is fun, a little different, and functional for warmer weather. I think you could style these, so you looked like the coolest art teacher in town.

Fit: I’m wearing the size large, and I would say these pants still run a little bit big (I normally wear an XL, so I’d size down). There is a nice wide waistband, and other than that; these are just straightforward black ponte pants with a wide leg.

Best For Warm Weather: The Athleta Brooklyn Ankle Pants


sweater | pants (16) | boots

Style: The sportiest looking of all the black pant options! Athleta’s Brooklyn Ankle Pants are best suited to more casual office environments. The subtle black stripe on the side of the leg is definitely reminiscent of track pants. One feature of this style is that the material on these pants is noticeably lighter than the Athleta Endless or Endless Cargo pants and would be perfect for warmer weather.

The pants feature subtle back pockets with black metal zippers. Only the front pockets are also more invisible for a functional yet sleek look. As usual, Athelta is thinking about consumer comfort and has included a comfy, elasticated waistband. This style is labeled to be both “featherweight stretch fabric” by Athleta – an accurate claim, in my opinion. Ultimately these aren’t the pants for me since I don’t overheat easily and don’t rock a super sporty style, but I think these are a great option for many. 

Fit: I tried both the size 14 and the size 16 in these pants – I’m wearing the 16 above.  The 14 was a little tight in the thighs, while the 16 ran big in the waist. Not the most ideal dimensions for the pear-shaped.

Most Versatile: The Universal Standard Minimalist Moro Pocket Signature Ponte Pants


sweater | pants (S) | boots

Style: Look, listen. If you’re looking for a pant that feels like sweatpants but looks sharper than sweats, you’ve found them. The fabric of the Universal Standard Moro Ponte Pants is really soft and thick. The thickness of the fabric also guarantees a flattering drape. The waistband is elasticated, and the pant tapers at the ankle just slightly. I wouldn’t normally tuck a shirt into a pant like this (I don’t actually love the look of the waistband, even though it’s very comfortable) – the tuck is solely for the purposes of showing off how these pants look to you, dear readers.

This pant has pockets on the sides, but truly absolutely no other embellishments, making this the most versatile pant of the bunch. You can dress this up with a blazer and blouse or down with sneakers and a hoodie. You really can’t go wrong with this one.

Fit: I love the concept behind Universal Standard. In Universal Standard’s sizing, a size 14, like myself, is a size small. If you haven’t ordered from Universal Standard before, just check their size chart – I found the size conversion to be accurate.

Best Skinny Style: Gap High-Rise Ponte Skinny Pants


sweater | pants (14) | boots

Style: These GAP ponte skinny pants are the same fabric and fit as the Overall Winners above, but these are the skinny style. I love a boot in spring or fall, and I think skinny styles can look really sleek with boots. Honestly, these pants are so comfortable and I think they look formal enough for many office environments.

Fit: I’m wearing my typical size 14. I love these pants on my curves, and frankly, I’m keeping both the crop kick and the skinny pants to serve different purposes in my wardrobe. 

Best Crossover (But Not For Me) : The Athleta Endless Pants


sweater | pants | boots

Style: The Athleta Endless pant is straightforward black joggers, just one notch more versatile. These pants look and feel like a cross between a trouser and a jogger (because they are!). The pants feature back and front pockets and taper slightly at the ankle. The material is midweight and stretchy.

However, the pant doesn’t offer much in the way of design details. Plus, these are likely too casual for many workplaces. Although the pants are labeled “breathable,” the weight of the fabric is noticeably heavier than the Brooklyn Ankle Pant, which might be useful to know if you’re wearing these in warmer weather.

Fit: I tried both the 14 and the 16 in these pants. The 14 ran a little bit small in the thighs, and the 16 ran big at the waist. The sizing is just a little off here for my pear-shaped figure.

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I truly found some great pants in the process of writing this article. I can’t wait to dress them up for my next work event or throw them in my suitcase for my summer trip to Portland and the Redwoods with my husband, or during my next visit to NYC to see my sister. If you’re looking for inspo on how to style black pants for spring, check out this great article Shana put together.

Which pants do you love? And where will you wear them?



Hey, Pinners…

Welcome To The Black Dress Pants Awards!


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