Google disagrees with me on what "petite women's work pants" are.
September 20, 2013 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend durable, somewhat fitted, not outrageously expensive work pants that will fit a small woman (5'0", 100 lbs, athletic build)? And by work I don't mean office-appropriate: I'm a carpenter and I spend my days at a grimy construction site.

As a petite novice apprentice carpenter I'm finding it difficult to find clothing that fits at specialized construction gear retailers. However, I just can't afford to keep ruining my expensive technical climbing pants.

Here are my three pairs currently in rotation: with occasional mending they do the trick but are clearly designed, and priced, for the mountaineering aspect of my life:
Patagonia Rock Craft (I might stock up now that these are on sale!) – fabric is very thin but not easily ripped, simple to hem, decent fit – they very curiously flatten my butt but who cares
Prana Monarch – the fabric piles and shows wear where tools and harness tub against it pretty much on contact, had to take size 0 in at waist and hips, but they look and feel great (although the convertible zipper is unnecessary and uncomfortable when I'm crouching)
North Face Horizon Tempest – these are lightweight and easy to move in, but even the smallest size is too large at the waist and overall super baggy, the extra fabric around the ankles gets caught on stuff and the fabric sticks to sweaty thighs, yuck. Also, the fabric looks darker when wet from thigh/groin/lower back sweat - double yuck. I check my dignity at the site entrance, but still.

Also: Carhartt or Dickies women's pants don't come in sizes small enough. I've some Dickies Girl pants – these fit well, are easily hemmed and are the price is right – a heavier duty, more practical and maybe not quite as sexy version of these would be ideal.

Here's what I'm looking for:
  • Available in small sizes, waist 25 or smaller, or a size 0/00 that is actually small
  • Fitted at the waist and through the hips and thighs – there is so, so much stuff hanging off of me at any given time that I don't need any extra fabric
  • Short inseam or a petite cut preferred, but I am able to hem most pants
  • A gusseted crotch would be nice, but not absolutely necessary
  • Reinforced at the knees would be nice. I might pick up kneepads eventually but the professional grade ones tend to be way too big anyway and I'm young enough that my knees are still holding up well
  • Medium or low rise
  • Some stretch preferred, but not absolutely necessary
  • Strong, durable fabric. I'm currently working indoors so insulation is not a concern at this point, but it will be eventually – I'm in Seattle, so water resistance is nice but I can treat clothing with Scotchguard when needed
  • Cargo pants are okay, but nothing too fancy or the guys will give me a hard time
  • Not super pricy (although recommendations for more expensive pants are okay too since I'm occasionally able to find gently used pairs cheaply on eBay)
Unreasonable, special snowflake request: no big belt loops in the back which, when weighed down by my tool belt or harness, will rub against my lumbar vertebrae. It's hard to believe, but even tiny things like underwear labels can become tangibly uncomfortable after a long day.

I'm also happy to listen to recommendations for any other work gear sized specifically for small people! Thanks!
posted by halogen to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I just came from a Rocky Mountain gardening conference where a vendor featured work pants for women. Red Ants Pants ( are designed to fit women, but I don't know how small their sizes run. They looked like Carhartts and should work well for construction, but I thought they were on the expensive side. Hopefully they'll work for you!
posted by summerstorm at 12:34 PM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might be able get things in your size direct from the manufacturers if you call them. My wife often has to go direct for shoes to fit her feet. Stores often don't carry them because there is no demand but sometimes they still get made.

Also have you considered tailoring?
posted by srboisvert at 12:43 PM on September 20, 2013

Have you tried boys' sizes? It's been a long-ass time since I wore those sizes, but my memory was that things like jeans were as strongly constructed as the adults versions. Something like a Levi's slim fit boys 505 might do the job. Or even smaller sizes of a "husky" version might fit your hips better.

Another thought would be to hit up the thrift shops and see what brands and sizes look good after a lot of usage.

Another idea might be to check out uniform shops or police tactical outfitters. They might have a wider variety of sizes.

(As for durability, Carhartt has a good reputation, but only if you buy the very expensive work-type versions. They have cheaper and crappier versions that are no better than Wrangers, but at twice the price.

I've also found that quality varies with pants. I almost always buy two of any pant that I buy, and almost without fail, one of them falls apart much faster than the other.
posted by gjc at 12:45 PM on September 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

You might try girls' uniform pants (like about a size 12) --they're designed to wear well, and there are some brands you can get with reinforced knees or stretch fabric. Plus they are dirt cheap.
posted by drlith at 12:55 PM on September 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Check out the kids' section of Lands' End, particularly the "iron knee" offerings. Lots in boys. Lands' End has a big size range, with some styles in slims and pluses, and a great return policy, so it's easy to order a slew and have a big try-on to get the fit just right; you might find that -- yes, what gjc already said about husky. I have worn the "iron knee" stuff and, in the pair I had, at least, it was indeed an innovative thing -- it was really sturdy, but you couldn't detect it from the outside.
posted by kmennie at 1:04 PM on September 20, 2013

I was going to suggest boys or girls Carhartts too.

I've given up on finding women's jeans. (I'm 5' in shoes and about 95 lbs, so. )
posted by leahwrenn at 1:38 PM on September 20, 2013

I want to recommend Duluth Trading Company's work pants, because they are about $50, have a zillion pockets, and are tough, but the smallest size (4) has a 26.5" waist. It might be worth calling or e-mailing to see if they have or are thinking of adding smaller sizes.

By reinforced in the knees, do you need padding, or do you just need the knees to not tear? I used to just iron a patch to the inside of new jeans, much like the Iron Knees above, so you could try that with pants that fit.
posted by mgar at 2:11 PM on September 20, 2013

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