Now that the theater and travel are starting to open up, I realize I need a basic pair of black pants – something between jeans and wearing a dress – but the choices are many and confusing. I would like a classic pair to wear with low heel ballet flats or ankle boots, washable and in a style that will last for years. Lean or wide-legged? Belt or not? Help! – Rosemary, Pleasantville, New York
The perfect pair of black pants is, like the perfect white t-shirt, one of the holy grails of fashion. Floating, seemingly out of reach in our imaginations, the answer to all our wardrobe woes if only we could find them.
The perfect pair of black pants, after all, can take you just about anywhere. Put a sweatshirt over it, trainers on your feet, and walk down the street to buy milk or walk the dog. Add a more elegant blazer or shirt and boots and go to the office. Wear a tuxedo or sequined top and high heels and attend an event in a black tie.
That’s why fashion designer Elizabeth Saltzman told me that even though she swore to take off her black clothes during the pandemic to “see life in joyful colors,” she made an exception for her favorite black pants.
“I’m a classic and a staple,” he said. And the permutations are endless.
In fact, every season seems to be wearing yet another size of black pants. Search for “women’s black pants” on Amazon or Nordstrom or Macy’s and thousands of results pop up, in virtually every combination: flared and anchored, high and low waisted, leather and nylon, stretch and tailored.
They’re both tempting: the perfect pants, they’re out there! – and overwhelming. How to choose?
Victoria Beckham seems to include black pants in every collection, and she often wears her bow on the runway with black pants and a white shirt or giant sweater, so I asked her how she decided which pair to wear.
“I have a firm favorite that has been in my wardrobe for over six years that I would recommend,” she said. “I am straight leg with a slight taper, slightly cropped and without creases.” He said they went well with both moccasins and stilettos and advised choosing a pair with belt loops, as they give you the option to slip on or not.
If this cut works for you, the most important thing is that she has been wearing the same pair for six years. Just like you can wear just about any style of jeans today, you can wear just about any style of black pants. If a shape makes you feel good and gives you confidence, that’s all that matters.
This also means that any investment you make can pay for itself over time. Divide the price by the number of potential wear and tear over years and what may seem very expensive at first glance may seem cheaper.
Ms. Saltzman recommends starting with Theory and states that “Outerknown’s Emory pants are a favorite”. J. Crew and Cos also have a variety of options. Plus, there’s always Aritzia’s “effortless pant”. The name pretty much says it all.
Your style questions, answers
Each week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a fashion-related question from a reader, which you can submit at any time via e-mail or Twitter. The questions are edited and condensed.