Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Mail Bag: Dressy-Casual Pants

…here is my dilemma...I personally am not fond of jeans on me any longer. I find them unflattering on me and I always feel "under dressed" even if the occasion is casual (meaning everyone else is wearing jeans). I'm looking for pants, not necessarily skirts, which would work well in a casual setting. I would be so thankful if you could please hint me towards some looks that you have achieved with this dilemma.

Thank You so much!!


Your question takes me back to my days in the USMC, stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Even off duty, in civilian attire, we had to abide by the local command’s dress code. The rules included: no exercise clothing (unless you were actually working out), no tank tops for men, no spaghetti straps for women, belts always worn if your clothing had belt loops, no visible underwear, no exposed midriff, no holey, tattered, or dirty clothing. Basically, we were required to look neat and sharp at all times. While jeans could be worn, officers (like myself) were discouraged from wearing them, particularly at command events. I had two pair of khakis that I would have to starch and iron (with creases!) for any non-uniformed, official functions. How I grew to hate khaki pants!

But khakis were the first thing I thought to suggest to you for pants that are dressier than jeans, but still casual. Chains like The Gap usually carry khaki pants as a staple. I’ve bought khakis at department stores, but you have to search to find them in updated cuts (i.e. not mom jeans). I’m afraid I don’t have any photos of myself in khakis. I’d like to pretend the khaki-period never existed for me.

For the cooler months, I like corduroy pants. They come in a variety of wales and colors. I recently heard that they are considered “out” by the younger set, but I think they have an old school vibe about them that is always “in.” Corduroy strikes me as less preppy than khaki, but still dressier than jeans. (A pic of me in my other corduroy pants here)

If you hate khakis and corduroy, you may want to reconsider denim. True, denim can be uber casual, but you can formalize them with the right wash and cut. A dark wash not only flatters, but looks dressy enough for a night out with heels. The current trouser-cut jeans are a less casual style than your usual boot-cut.

I’m curious to hear what suggestions other readers have. Cargo pants are too casual and actual trousers may be too formal. It seems that the dressy-casual pant is an under-represented category in current clothing offerings!


Anonymous said...

Chains like Gap and Old Navy sell tailored pants that I think are meant for a business casual office wardrobe but that could work well for someone who just wants to avoid jeans. Fabrics like twill and cotton with some stretch are also a good choice in black and brown. Dark colors make it more dressy, but a shorter length (making them appropriate to wear with flats) makes it a little more casual. Lightweight wool has a nice drape and can be worn in all seasons. Heels for night and flats for day can make these very versatile pants. Personally, I would avoid khaki as light colors can make a large bottom look larger, and to me khaki spells Mom-Pants no matter how chic the cut.

Anonymous said...

J Crew chinos! They're amazing - so comfortable and yet so non-jean.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you say about a dark wash being quite good; especially with the top and shoes (and the all imporant accessories!)

Kim said...

My new staple is trouser-cut dark-washed denim. They are stylish, flattering, and a lot prettier than regular jeans. I have three young children and the "mom" look is something I've grown tired of.

Anonymous said...

I really understand feeling like you don't want to dress at a different level from everyone else yet don't want to dress just like them in an item uncomfortable for you.

Is there perhaps any cut of jean that would flatter you but be in a different fabric than denim? You can show that 5 pocket stuff but still have a fabric that behaves differently. I like a brushed cotton velvet in wine.

Kasmira said...

Yes, I forgot about cotton velvet pants! They are another great alternative to jeans or corduroy. I have a brown pair that I wear in a casual setting.

Rebecca said...

We have discussed "jean substitutes" on my blog before and one suggestion is to wear a casual skirt, either corduroy or denim are both sufficiently dressed down. If it were me, I'd wear wool trousers. The trick, IMO, is to keep your shoes very casual, like a nice flat boot.

BTW, I love both the pictures of you in this post!

Anonymous said...

I love jeans, but my alternative is a good pair of wide leg pants. Without ironed-in creases (which is a look I detest on me anyway).

I have a few pairs. And they work in my (fairly casual) office setting, too, which is always handy.

Mrs E said...

I have the exact same jeans from express. I love them, i can waer them to the office, but also great for a night out. By the way I think your blog is fantastic!!