Early on in my fashion design career, I worked for a company whose reputation was built on their pants. The company, which no longer exists, was called Barry Bricken which designed cohesive sportswear collections for both men and women but was famous for their pants. Barry, the namesake of the company, was obsessive about pants, and working there in my early 20’s as an associate designer for their womenswear collection gave me quite an education on what makes a pair of pants exceptional.
I learned early on that pants aren’t so much about fashion as they are about fit and it was why for years and years, Barry Bricken ran the same classic pants styles continuously. Each season, we’d design one or two what we would call “fashion pants” but always ran the classics which were sometimes internally referred to as the four sisters. We knew that retiring a classic style that a loyal customer had come to rely on would most definitely lead to receiving hate mail. This way of carrying pants styles seasonally was not something exclusive to the company where I worked. Most companies follow the same rule of thumb and stick with what works when it comes to pants.
As a personal stylist, this practice makes my work a lot easier as over the years, I have come to know certain pants by certain designers that I can count on. For you, as a customer, finding a pant fit that you can rely on can also make shopping for pants far less challenging. Of course, you need to find your perfect pants first, which can be a challenge in itself. Believe me, I know this. While it is helpful for me to have several pants styles from specific designers I can count on, sometimes they even fail me. However, more often than not, the following ten pants are styles I can count on. If you are on your own professional pants journey, the following guide below might help.
MY TOP 10 FAVORITE PROFESSIONAL PANTS STYLES
#1- Akris Punto Franca Pants
If I am shopping with a client who can afford this price point, I always pull Akris Punto’s Franca pants. It’s also my own personal favorite to wear. While you can often find Francas in fashion colors and patterns, their hallmark style is a technical cotton stretch fabric that has a beautiful hand (referring to fabric feel as a “hand” is a common fashion industry term) and a crisp year-round look. The side zip closure keeps the appearance of the pants clean and the front square pockets never bag or splay open. There is a front piped crease down the front that I like because the pants always look neat and tailored, even when traveling. Front seams or creases can also optically slim and lengthen the appearance of legs.
Akris Punto pants are an investment, but if they fit you well, the investment will pay for itself in no time. However, if the price point is still out of reach, sites like The RealReal carries them for less than you would pay for a pair of pants at places like Ann Taylor or Banana Republic. Unfortunately, The RealReal never lists styles by name, so the best strategy is to search for Akris Punto straight leg pants and zoom in on the style and look for details known to this pant style.
#2- Piazza Sempione Audrey Pants
I’m not a huge Piazza Sempione fan in general, but I will always pull their Audrey pants for clients. Like the Akris Punto Franca pants, more times than not, the pants fit a client. Named for Audrey Hepburn, these pants look exactly like a pair the famous actress would wear. It’s a simple, basic style with a clean waist (no waistband), side zip, tapered ankle-length and cute notches at the back hems. Also, like the Akris Punto Francas, they offer fashion colors and patterns seasonally in addition to their wool style for fall and cotton stretch for spring. A word of caution about the summer cotton styles, buy the smallest size you can wear because they do stretch out easily.
Piazza Sempione’s Audrey pants are similar in price point to Akris Punto’s Franca pants but can also be tracked down on The RealReal and other used fashion sites for a fraction of the price. And just a side note, when you see the pants online, the super-tall models make the pants look much shorter than they actually are.
#3- M.M. LaFleur Foster Pants
M.M. LaFleur does a great job of responding to the very real issues that professional women face when it comes to fashion. Take their Foster pants, for example. The first time I tried them on and the in-store stylist told me they were self-hemming, I was floored. How many times have you wished for pants where the hem could be adjusted based on the shoes you were wearing? The Foster pants have interior buttons and buttonholes on the leg that can switch these pants from full length to cropped. But, really, you don’t even need the buttons. The fabric of the Foster pants is sturdy enough that you can fold them under and the hem will stay put at any length.
#4- Theory Treeca
The interesting thing about the Treeca pant by Theory is that there are a variety of different versions of this pants style. There are pull-on Treeca pants, side-zip Treeca pants, and Treeca pants with front closures. Basically, Theory took their bestselling classic slim-cut pants with the front closure and evolved them to include pull-on and side-zip styles. Plus you can also get the Treeca pants in different lengths. It was a smart move on Theory’s part to take a fit that sells well and evolve it in order to expand the offerings available. I have put clients in all three versions.
#5- Lafayette 148 Gramercy
The Lafayette 148 Gramercy pants share some commonalities with Akris Punto’s Franca in that they both have tapered legs, side zips, clean lines, and defined seams down the legs. Historically, Lafayette 148 runs a bit larger and rounder in the hip area so sometimes if the Franca doesn’t fit well the Gramercy will. However, I have had cases where both pants styles fit a client equally well. Unlike the Franca pants, the Gramercy does not have any pockets.
#6- Kobi Halperin Alexandra Pants
In some ways, Kobi Halperin took over what Elie Tahari was once famous for, their great work pants. At one time Elie Tahari would have been top of my go-to pants list but a few years ago, Elie Tahari moved away from good, solid workwear and got more interested in fun party dresses. It stands to reason that Kobi Halperin moved in on Elie Tahari’s game considering Kobi was once Elie Tahari’s executive creative director. Now Kobi Halperin pants have a cult following, particularly their Alexandra style.
#7- Akris Punto Frankie Pants
Akris Punto’s Frankie pants aren’t all that much different than their Franca pants with the exception of the Frankie having a front zip closure and the Franca having a side-zip closure and the inseams between two differing by about an inch. It really comes down to personal preference and a better fit between the two styles.
#8- Nic + Zoe Wonderstretch Ankle Pants
Nic + Zoe has a few things going for them with their pants. The first is they make petites, which is a rarity these days. Second, they put comfort at the forefront with pants styles that wear like leggings but look professional. For some, the fabrication of Nic + Zoe’s 100% nylon Wonderstretch fabric can be a bit too shiny and technical and other clients love the feel of them. Like the Theory Treeca pants, Nic + Zoe makes a few pants styles using their Wonderstretch fabric so you get some variety from one consistent fit.
#9- M.M. Lafleur Meija
M.M. LaFleur’s Meija pants represent a new direction that pants are headed, which is a more relaxed, tapered leg style. Given its newness, clients are initially apprehensive to give these pants a try but once they do they are quickly sold. Add to that, M.M. has mastered plus size fit and I have clients range from a size 4 to a size 18 who look good in them. The Meija pants rose quickly to become one of my top ten pants styles within a year of their release.
#10- Boden Richmond Pants
I don’t lean on Boden’s Richmond pants strongly as I should simply because they can be a bit out of sight, out of mind considering there are no Boden stores nearby and they only recently started carrying the line at Nordstrom. Then a client buys a pair and they fit great and I am reminded to look at them more often. Boden calls them their “hero trouser cut.” They have a power elastic content to help retain the shape of the pants and an incredibly classic style that makes them timeless. Even better, Boden also carries this style in petite.
What are Your Go-To Pants Styles?
I am always looking to add to my list of favorite pants? Do you have a style that you have come to love? I’d love to hear about it!