How do I pants?
September 20, 2015 8:01 PM   Subscribe

I am a mid-30s lady, and I have recently realized that jeans are not comfortable and I don't want to wear them anymore, but I'm not sure what to replace them with. Help me figure out where to shop and what to shop for!

As it says above the fold: I'm in my mid-30s, grew up in a casually-dressed generation, and am currently staying home with my two kids. I've just decided that I'm over jeans - they never fit right at the waist, they are never the right length while moving around, and frankly they aren't that comfortable anyway. Pretty much the only thing they have going for them is that, well, they're jeans - they go with anything. I've tried regular old denim as well as the stretchy options, but none of them stay both comfortable and well fitting. Why is it that jeans seem to fit differently after they're worn long enough to get warm? Why also do jeans sometimes fit fine until I sit down, and then they are suddenly all bunchy at the crotch, gaping in the back, and too short in the leg? It's weird. I mean, my favorite pair of jeans I ever owned were my maternity jeans, because they didn't do that stuff. In total honesty, I'd still be wearing them, but I don't have enough of a pooch to make them work anymore.

Yoga pants and leggings are too casual on a daily basis for me, business casual (including khakis) is too dressy. I wear skirts on occasion but I'm basically looking for the non-jean workhorse of pants - something classic but not dressy, that will stand up to two kids wiping their fingers on me, that lets me play comfortably on the floor but also looks like real clothing when I go out in public. Also something that will be warm in a Minnesota winter, or have room for long johns underneath. I have summer covered - I have a pair of linen pants that I adore (so comfy! but I cut the tag out, so brand unknown - I think I got them at Marshalls) and a few capris (from Old Navy, Express, and The Limited) that work great. Now long pants weather is upon me, and I'd like to get rid of my jeans in favor of something else. But what?

I don't have much of a style per se - I wear dark-colored tee shirts or simple cowl-neck blouses usually, and flat shoes (lace-ups, flats, sandals or winter boots). I'm 5'5", about 140 pounds, usually a pants size 8-10 depending on the brand. For some reason, despite not being that tall, I usually have to get the long version of pants in order to have them hit right (short torso?). I like having pockets but I could forgo them. I don't want to spend a ton of money on pants, but I could spend $75-100 on each pair for the right kind. All standard US specialty clothing and department stores are available to me, and while I'd rather try before I buy, I'm open to online shopping as well.

So, what do I wear and where do I buy it?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
I UNDERSTAND. I've come to the same no-jeans conclusion recently. We're in luck because comfortable trousers are totally in style and tons of places are making them now. Pants like this, this (more expensive, but as an example for shape) and this are so comfortable, go with tons of stuff and can be dressed up and down. Two of those also have elastic waistbands which is the best and doesn't necessarily have to = slob anymore. This pair is also a good example.
I also think this slightly-tapered look is super flattering on most body types, whereas the super wide leg trousers that are also in style right now are more difficult to make work.
posted by thebots at 8:21 PM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

It's a pity they chose such an off-putting branding for themselves, but this is precisely what NYDJ ponte pants are for. Vince Camuto make a popular pair as well, but they are a little more work, less casual, since they are not styled like 5 pocket jeans.

Eileen Fisher makes the fancy version.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:26 PM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

I sort of think of Boden for this, even though... Boden. They do a wide-leg wool trouser, too.
posted by holgate at 8:28 PM on September 20, 2015

Betabrand. Yoga. Dress. Pants. I want them so bad but don't need any more dress pants. Please buy some and tell me if they are as awesome as they are said to be.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:47 PM on September 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

I believe this is what Land's End's starfish collection is for.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:49 PM on September 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Patagonia makes some really great corduroys. They look like real pants, but feel like yoga pants. They're just stretchy enough to move in really easily, but don't look like they have much stretch and don't bag out like a lot of stretchy pants. I've been eagerly awaiting fall so I can start wearing mine again.
posted by duien at 9:17 PM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Disagree that pricey ponte stuff fits the bill for "the non-jean workhorse of pants - something classic but not dressy, that will stand up to two kids wiping their fingers on me, that lets me play comfortably on the floor but also looks like real clothing when I go out in public." The fabrics are not durable when machine-washed and I wouldn't want to stretch out the knees sitting cross-legged on the floor, etc. Ponte can be pretty high-maintenance, and dressy.

I think you want some slim-fitting cargo pants, in olive drab. J. Crew usually does an outstanding job with these. Olive is a neutral like denim that will go with your existing shirts and sweaters. It's fashionable, not sloppy, but it's comfy. (And J. Crew is always having sales, and they sell most pants in 'tall.')

(I too came to the jean realization many years ago now, and much happiness ensued.)
posted by kmennie at 9:41 PM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you're willing to give jeans one more shot, I'm a fan of Jag pull-on jeans. They're kind of like maternity jeans lite- they were recommended to me post-baby and were a lifesaver.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 9:41 PM on September 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

The "dress pants" as well as the leggings pants* from Uniqlo are great and come in a big range of colors/patterns. I'm your size and I've never had a problem with fit.

*(I know you say no leggings, but these are much more on the pants end of the scale)
posted by ariadne's threadspinner at 11:09 PM on September 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I recently discovered these Kuhl splash pants, and they meet my new criteria for work-to-home pants. Though they look rugged in the photo, they are well-fitting, look nice with a dressy top, and are higher in the back than the front, making them easy and comfortable for the kind of floor-sitting that is necessary when hanging with little ones. They are also lightweight, but I bet could manage long johns underneath when the colder weather starts.
posted by dreamphone at 3:37 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Please buy some and tell me if they are as awesome as they are said to be.

I own a pair of the Betabrand yoga pant dress pants and am... less than impressed. The faux fly front is too faux-looking, the legs (on the straight-leg cut) are rather wide, and they're overall no better than any ponte pants I've gotten from mall stores or Target. (For the record, I love ponte and have owned some great ponte pants, which I would recommend if they hadn't been discontinued.)

Old Navy makes a pull-on jegging that I love and that doesn't give me grief like regular jeans. I wear them almost every pants day. They feel more like maternity jeans than leggings, except not so loose around the waist. They've got an obvious faux fly too, but for $25 it's much less of a big deal. Only the smallest sizes are available online (pleeeeease don't discontinue these, Old Navy), but they might be available in-store.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:02 AM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

This is very dependent on your style, but Carhartts work great for this for me.
posted by metasarah at 5:47 AM on September 21, 2015

Eh, I've had both the NYDJ and Camuto ponte pants for a couple years now--I ride my bike in them and toss in them in the machine--they have handled the abuse really well. YMMV, of course. They are too warm for the summer months, however.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:34 AM on September 21, 2015

Seconded patagonia cords.. I'm wearing a pair right now.
posted by cakebatter at 8:45 AM on September 21, 2015

I've been enjoying the pants Everlane recently put out - they don't seem too formal to me, and they work with just a t shirt or a sweater.
posted by prefpara at 9:58 AM on September 21, 2015

Can I recommend maternity jeans? They are SO MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE THAN REGULAR JEANS and look really great. They have elastic waistbands, which are great (and discrete) and I find the fabrics so much more comfy. Just a thought!
posted by caoimhe at 2:43 PM on September 21, 2015

ugh the shapeless mannequin they've got these pants on are doing them no favours, but.. I recently bought them and just want to live in them forever. They're leggings, but they have seams and are made of some kind of thicker not so stretchy fabric, and they have elastic on the sides of the waist, and they're overall really wonderful.

I also bought a couple pairs of scuba leggings (mine had "5 pocket detailing", those look like they don't have it.) which are quite thick and stretchy and don't fit as tight as leggings, and seem fairly workhorsey.

I realize DEX is a canadian brand, but I'm not sure enough about american brands to send you out with a brand.. but I saw lots of the same stuff from most designers in the bay, which is a department store, similar to Macy's in the states.
posted by euphoria066 at 3:51 PM on September 21, 2015

I suggest ditching pants altogether and trying dresses! I know how that might sound! Believe me! I used to be a dress hater, for DECADES. I lived in pants and jeans forever and thought dresses were way too frilly and girly and not good for much but looking nice. But I haven't put on pants in 3 years now, and I don't miss them ever. In fact, I went to volunteer and was supposed to wear pants and realized I didn't own any, so I wore a cotton dress and cotton leggings and converse and was so much more comfortable than I ever was in jeans. The bonus, of course, is that everyone thinks you look nice. Meanwhile you're like "ha ha, I'm not wearing pants. IN PUBLIC!". Depending on your size, Target, Old Navy, Amazon, wherever should have you covered. I am fat so I buy a lot of stuff online and I am a member of Gwynnie Bee. I don't ever wear anything remotely formal or that requires fancy laundering. Everything I own can go in the regular washing machine and most of it can be machine dried, though I tend to hang things up since they seem to last longer. In the winter, tights and leggings are still way more comfy and even warmer than pants are. I'm serious, dresses have changed my life. I used to spend so much time tugging pants up when I stood up or walked around, tugging them back down when I wanted to sit so they wouldn't strangle my waist, and getting things hemmed or taken in. Since dresses, I don't have to worry about any of that anymore! Also, dresses go with many shoe types, not just fancy ones. Ballet flats, Converse, flip flops, heels, oxfords, all look great! Also, I own a ton of dresses with pockets so you don't have to forego that convenience. I'm telling you--DRESS LYFE.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 4:13 PM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Athleta has some ponte pants for sale right now that I own a pair of and like quite a bit. They seem to be holdign up reasonably well. Also have a pair of NYDJ pants that I like a lot - but they were a bit of a fluke finding them, for some reason seemingly identical versions of the same pants don't fit me the same way so I haven't been able to duplicate them. They're also pretty $$$, but I got mine at Macy's on some discount, which helped. REI tends to have a lot of stretchy climbing inspired pants that might work for you.
posted by annie o at 6:23 AM on September 23, 2015

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