Does the look I'm thinking of even exist?
November 1, 2016 5:51 PM   Subscribe

I am a 30-something woman, and I would like to 1) wear pants 2) to work 3) in the winter 4) with a heel no higher than 1 1/2 inches 5) and not look frumpy. Where can I find the items I need to pull this off? First, the pants. I'm assuming that I want something more fitted/skinny than loose/bootcut. But nothing skintight, no leggings-as-pants or their ponte equivalent, and it's winter, so no "ankle" or "cropped" lengths. This eliminates pretty much all the dressy pants I've seen this season. Then, the shoes. I don't even have the most basic idea of what I'm looking for. Most low heels and wedges seem to be designed with the assumption that you've completely given up. Any ideas?
posted by Ralston McTodd to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I’m going to start with the controversial opinion that Mary Janes’ are an excellent shoe for pants.
posted by tooloudinhere at 5:53 PM on November 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

Are boots acceptable footwear? I've seen many flattish ankle through knee high boots, even in my (ginormous) size.
posted by esoterrica at 6:03 PM on November 1, 2016

Do Chelsea boots with a low heel not work? I'd do a pair with a somewhat pointed toe.
posted by dysh at 6:05 PM on November 1, 2016

I too prefer non frumpy low heels, and I think right now is a difficult season to shop for them as most places are carrying winter boots etc. I just looked for my favorite suede wedges which are alas not in stock.

That said I did find a few nice things in a cursory search, what about something like this:

madewell Mary Janes!

I live in Denver and I wear snow boots and switch out on bad days but most of time I can get away with something like that.
posted by cakebatter at 6:05 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

What's your winter like, and/or are you going to be changing your shoes when you get to work? Is the prohibition on ankle-length because it's cold outside, or cold inside? (You can mitigate the former with giant winter boots on your commute, you see)

Anyhow, how about wide-leg pants with loafers or a pointy-toed flat? That sees me through a lot of situations. I wear my cropped pants with knee-high boots in the winter (pants tucked in, which I know not everyone loves).
posted by chocotaco at 6:06 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I saw a nice work outfit recently with wide-leg pants paired with a close-fitting turtleneck sweater, tucked in. Probably a belt. The turtleneck would have to be a fine knit and pill-free.
posted by lakeroon at 6:06 PM on November 1, 2016

I just bought two pairs of Ryan straight leg pants for work. They are not skin tight but not sloppy or loose either, and I really like them. Be advised Banana Republic's vanity sizing seems to be out of control these days; I had to go down two sizes from the size I KNOW I actually am, so I'd advise trying them on before you buy.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:18 PM on November 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Boots. Low heedled boots! Then pick a boot cut pant or tuck in your straight leg pants. You may need to hem things shorter. Especially nice pants.
posted by Kalmya at 6:19 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

My pants to work look is skinny cords (straight leg and narrow but definitely not leggings), knee high low heeled boots over the pants, and a nice solid color sweater.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:20 PM on November 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

There is an elusive pant cut - not skinny or straight. They are fitted and ever so slightly tapered at the knee and then a little wider. They are sharp, flattering, and the only cut that I think look polished on me with flatter shoes.
posted by ReluctantViking at 6:26 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wear these Cos slim fit trousers* on repeat all week in black and navy, with a shoe from Fly London (desert, chelsea, wingtip, wedge, bootie). But I second the question on what your winter is like. For serious weather, just get a pair of real boots and leave your shoes at work to change into on arrival.

The non-frump factor can be pulled off in the simplicity of the silhouette, and/or good hair and jewelry.

*I'm 5'5", so while these look cropped on this model, I actually had to have them hemmed.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:35 PM on November 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

No serious winter here; I'm in the mid-Atlantic region.

I'm 5'5" too, that's why I prefer at least a tiny bit of heel.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:39 PM on November 1, 2016

Try something like the Betabrand dress pant yoga pants with something like a Sam Edelman Petty bootie or a similar bootie from Lucky Brand. Banana Republic has some nice dress pants too.
posted by matildaben at 6:45 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Twill is a good fabric to look for.
posted by bleep at 6:51 PM on November 1, 2016

Express has slim pants which might work for you. Although I don't see the problem with wider legs myself.

I think a big part of whether your overall look will be frumpy or not depends on what else you are wearing with the pants and shoes. When I think frumpy I think of clothes that are too big, not well-cared for, and not flattering. If you find good pants that fit you well and get them hemmed (if you need to) to the right length, and attractive, comfortable shoes, then good tops and accessories will take you the rest of the way. I think fit and color coordination are more important to non-frumpiness than heel height.

Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 7:18 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

How do you feel about menswear inspired footwear? Loafers and oxfords are popular right now and many styles come in a heeled version.
Heeled Oxford
Penny Loafer
posted by Rora at 7:19 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ann Taylor Loft boot cut or flare leg jeans could be just what you're looking for. They're made in a variety of cuts, from curvy to modern, depending on body type. For my build, the modern cut is the bee's knees. Check the fabric and make sure they've got a couple of percent stretchy stuff in with the cotton. They're comfortable, form-fitting through the hip/thigh/butt region, and flared just enough that they drape awesomely if you're wearing shoes with enough of a heel. If they're too long, just get them hemmed. Get a darkwash rinse for a very put-together business casual look, and pair it with a cardigan/blouse and a cute scarf, and you're good to go. Loft cropped modern jeans are great with sandals in the summer but also are perfect for wearing tucked in to knee-length boots in the winter.

Go to Zappos to browse an endless selection of boots online that you can return hassle-free if you need to. You can search by brand, heel height and lots of other criteria.

Go to a discount store that sells fashionable stuff like TJ Maxx or Marshall's for a good pair of basic knee-length boots. I have a pair that's black with brown trim that goes with everything.
posted by the thought-fox at 7:24 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wear Banana Republic Avery pants every day in rotating colors (black, Navy, tan, and grey) in varying fabrics. The sizing is weird though; size down. I bought a few pairs in "my size" on sale recently and they are not my size - too big in the hips. Although they are labeled as ankle cut, they really are not, at least not on me.

I wear Dansko Lulu shoes nearly every day. I think they're fairly stylish and they look good with the pants.
posted by sockermom at 10:08 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

My go-to is close-fitting jeans or pants with knee-high Frye boots. I'm 5'9" so said boots are marketed as over the knee. This might be too casual for you...

To me, round-toed shoes or boots with non-skinny pants make me feel short and childish. Pointy or square toes feel more polished. Are you open to quirky footwear? I'm fond of Fluevog shoes - many are higher heeled than you'd like, but there are plenty of choices beyond their typical chunky goth shoe/boot. And if you find shoes that are well-made and suited to your foot shape, you can get away with higher heels. I typically walk 4-6 miles in a workday, and have no issues with 3.5in heeled Fluevog Swordfish boots.

The best heeled shoes I've ever had are ankle-height Doc Martens with approximately a 4in wedge heel. The sole/heel were soft and rubbery - cushy enough to stand up to ailing to work, tall enough to stomp through puddles. Alas, the soft sole material didn't last long, and they can't be re-soled, but I can't bear to dispose of them.

I also love those cowboy boot-shoes from the 80s. I have a few vintage 80s pairs, but the glue between the sole and shoe tends to dry out and fail. Roughly a 1.5in Cuban heel. My best ones are Guess/Marciano.

Pants are so tricky. Everything is cropped these days. I used to have good luck with J. crew and Zara, but alas, not in the last few years. eBay or Poshmark if you want to hunt for older stuff...
posted by ortoLANparty at 10:19 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fly London wedges! All the style names start with Y, like Yegi and Yip, etc, and there are sandal, shoe, and bootie uppers all with the same sole. They are extremely, unbelieveably comfortable. You can walk like 5 miles in them and be totally fine. The heels are about 1.5 inches high, and those thick gummy soles are more springy than sneakers. Plus the leather is very soft, so no blisters. They are just super, even for tender feet or bunions.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:36 PM on November 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

These shoes are super comfy and look sharp with work pants.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:56 AM on November 2, 2016

A wider-legged pant that is fitted in the butt/hips looks fine with flats or low heels, and is not at all frumpy. It's still very professional because it's not fitted through the thigh. (This is what I'm wearing now, and I'm 5'1".)

For the shoes: you want a "kitten heel."
posted by mchorn at 7:10 AM on November 2, 2016

As for shoes, I love Rockport's Cobb Hill line. If you don't need to wear cold weather shoes, they're perfect.

These are my favorites. Nice heel, totally comfortable. I have them in 3 colors.

I like these for rainy days. Also incredibly comfortable with a nice heel.

I don't have these but they're in the same line and also very good looking.

Good luck!
posted by thatone at 9:27 AM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've recently had to revamp my work-appropriate shoe collection due to an ankle injury (no more heels or wedges for this girl!). I recently bought two pairs of oxfords and am in love. They look great with trousers (or even dresses) and are very on-trend right now.
posted by tryniti at 1:10 PM on November 2, 2016

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