Once the weather gets warm, the desire for more color in our clothes increases and, certainly, wearing colorful pants during the spring/summer is nothing new. However, this season, I’m noticing the requests for bold bottoms have increased dramatically with even my more color-averse clients being open to considering them. Everyone, it seems, wants color, which stands to reason given that this is the first warm season in a long time we haven’t lived abbreviated lives with the dark cloud of COVID hanging over our heads. And, let’s be honest, despite the fact that we have somewhat put the pandemic in our rearview in terms of it being an immediate concern, the world still feels rather messed up. Few of us can turn around and not read about some new fresh tragedy staring us in the face. Between regular unbelievably devastating and all too frequent occurrences of school shootings, what many would call the ongoing war on women, racial injustice, and a political landscape that is so tragically broken, is it any surprise that so many of us are looking for anything to lift our spirits?
Now, obviously, none of the current tragedies we’re facing can be assuaged by popping a little color into our wardrobes. Not only do I get that but to even suggest it would be incredibly insulting and insensitive. We’re dealing with serious and complicated issues right now. However, in times when we feel powerless over what’s happening around us, I think we can all agree, whatever can help us get through a day and make us happier is helpful. Can color solve the world’s problems? No. Can it make us feel better? Yes, absolutely.
BOLD BOTTOMS: HOW TO WEAR COLORED PANTS
Today, I am going to talk about colored pants, because I already did a post a few weeks ago on brights in general and because I think this topic deserves its own post. I can hear many of you saying right now, “there is no way I am flashing color across my ass!” The good news is you don’t have to wear colored pants. Nobody is sending you some sort of ransom message with those little cutout magazine letters demanding that you buy colored bottoms. If they aren’t for you, you can move on. However, if there was a time to wear them, the warm weather is the time.
HOW TO LOOK SLIMMER IN COLORED BOTTOMS
Before I get into the looks, I want to address the whole reason why most women wear black bottoms— because they’re more slimming, right? This forms a very rational argument against colored pants. While, yes, darker bottoms can be more slimming than colorful pants, this isn’t the whole of the story.
I will use this somewhat crude illustration to explain why it’s not just black that can be slimming— it’s the relationship and juxtaposition of light and dark colors that is. In the top graphics, on the left, the shirt is black and the skirt is white. On the right, it’s the exact opposite with a black skirt and white shirt. If you’re familiar with optical illusion, then you know that where a black shape is located relationally to a white shape, the black shape will look smaller. Therefore, in the outfit on the top right, the white skirt looks larger than the black skirt on the left despite both boxes being the same size. This concept is what proves that, yes, black bottoms are more slimming than white ones.
However, we need to take this exercise one step further because the assumption is that it’s the color black that creates this effect, which isn’t entirely true. What makes this illusion work is how a darker color is juxtaposed with a lighter one, and by that token, it really doesn’t matter what color the darker shade is. For example, the first outfit on the bottom has a black bottom and a red top compared to the outfit next to it which has a red bottom and black top. The black skirt looks smaller than the red one because black is the darker shade when compared to red. But we need to take this a step further again. In the last two bottom images, you will see that this concept isn’t about black, it’s the relationship of color. In these looks, red is the darker shade when juxtaposed with white, and being the darker shade between the two, the red bottom looks smaller than the white one.
So, yes, black is slimming but so is any darker shade when placed next to a lighter one. If you are scared to wear colored bottoms due to the size of your bottom half, this is a theory to keep in mind when choosing what to wear. However, and I mean this, PLEASE do not obsess over this theory so that from this day forward, you will never ever wear a dark top with colored pants because you’re afraid that your butt will blow up the size of Texas in appearance if you do. First of all, the only real way to see a marked difference is when a side-by-side comparison is made. Second, a body is not slenderized or made to appear larger solely by color alone. There are plenty of ways to mitigate the effects color can have on the shape and size of your body, like choosing a slimming cut of pants, the creation of leg length through heels or other means, and getting a good overall proportion in the pieces you wear. Admittedly, this obsessive fashion rule-following about fashion is a pet peeve of mine. Rules and theories were designed to help you make informed choices, not to box you in with draconian dos and don’ts. You can read more about my thoughts on this here.
Okay, let’s now get into the looks using colored pants to give you some ideas on how to style them.
So here is a perfect example of how other strategies mitigate the whole colored bottoms with a dark top concern in case you just checked this look off as a concerned no. Horizontals have a widening effect, which we all know because I think this rule came inside every woman’s “welcome to puberty” packet. What works about them here is the stripes of this sweater from Veronica Beard have a widening effect on the top half of the body which counterbalances the effects that the brighter pants from Ginger & Smart do. The pants also have a straight shape and a very slight flare which can also counterbalance larger hips and thighs. The shape of the pants can also mitigate the effects that crop pants can have. If you wanted to increase your leg length, you could swap out the Stan Smith sneakers from Adidas with a more leg-lengthening heel. I finished the look with a bag from Longchamp.
But, remember, I am speaking in the general sense. Whether these pants are flattering or not has more to do with the unique shape and proportion of your own body with the cut of these pants. Unfortunately, when it comes to fashion, how pants look and fit has just as much to do with whether or not they work for your body.
Now we’ll slip into a look that is more wearable for the body proportion worry warts— dark bottoms with a lighter-colored top. Not only that, but the shirt from Frank & Eileen covers the butt of these fabulous cobalt pants from M.M. Lafleur. Can it get any better? For fun, I added these chartreuse Everlane flats and finished the look with coin pendant hoops from Massimo Dutti and a bright cobalt bag.
Here is another rule that came in your ‘welcome to puberty” packet, the power of monochromatic dressing. I added this nifty little graphic for you to see that, yes, it is true, monochromatic dressing is slimming because when the eye looks at all one color without being interrupted, it visually sees a shape that is longer and, therefore, appears slimmer.
So, here we have a monochromatic look using a green sweater and pants from Judith & Charles. Likely, the easiest way to get your colors to match when trying to match a colored top with colored pants is to buy from the same brand. And, here’s something else you may not know, even within brands getting the shade of a color to match up perfectly in different fibers is really hard, bordering on impossible. I know this because, at one point in my life, I was the designer who would work with factories to get different fabrics dyed the same color and who would also deal with complaints from our sales staff when the colors in different garments weren’t dead-on exact. We had to constantly drill home the point that there is no way you can expect cotton to take color the same as silk or wool, and so on. I tell you this in case you’re shopping and see pieces that are meant to be an exact shade but seem slightly off. Check the fiber content of both pieces. If the fabric isn’t of the same content, just think of the poor designer whose head was stuck in a fabric lightbox as they worked really hard to get the colors as close as possible.
Anyway, I digress. Wearing colored pants in a monochromatic can be a really easy way to create length and slimness in your body. I also added this white blazer from Vince to the look which, going back to my earlier diagram, will help to create a slimmer lower half. Finishing the look, I styled the outfit with beige Margaux pumps, a white Rebecca Minkoff tote, and a chain necklace from Jenny Bird.
Moving away from the topic of body proportions and colored pants, if you’re wondering what to do with a pair besides wearing neutral tops, another way to wear them would be to find a print that picks up the shade of the bottoms. Not for the color-averse, I styled these wide-leg pants from Theory with a printed blouse from Farm Rio that picks up the red and other colors. For fun, I added this hot pink belt, because, why not? And I finished the look with sandals from M.Gemi, a beige crossbody bag, and threader earrings from Lauren Ralph Lauren.
If you’re willing to look past the effects that wearing a darker top with brighter bottoms can have, I am going to tell you one of the greatest things colored pants solve— what to do with all those black blazers you buy and can’t figure out what to do with. If I read one more fashion suggestion that a black blazer is a must-have or an incredibly versatile piece worthy of any woman’s closet, I am going to hunt down these advice givers and punch them all in the noses. Okay, you buy a black blazer, you take it home, and then what? Considering the vast majority of women in the world rely heavily on black and navy pants, what exactly are you putting on the bottom when wearing these jackets besides, obviously, denim and maybe white…because you know white is every woman’s go-to pant color <snicker>? Black pants? Well, good luck getting the shades of black to match, and not you’re not trying to rig some sad suit. Navy? Debatable. Some people wear black and navy together, but a majority seems to be in the “black and navy don’t mix” camp. Versatile, black blazers? Uh, yea, try again. So, there they sit, your black blazers, wanting to be worn, as you stare at them with resentment for them being such letdowns.
This is where colored pants fly in with their superhero capes and say, “I’m here to solve your black blazer problem, ma’am.” Now, yes, okay, fine, the whole black top with lighter bottoms thing can be an issue, but if you know how to mitigate the issues with other slimming effects, this combination can be the answer you’re looking for, and, besides, don’t you actually want to wear those black blazers that aren’t getting used?
I styled these pink pants from Ann Taylor with an asymmetrical white shirt from Veronica Beard and a Massimo Dutti black jacket. I finished the look with black flats, a black Kate Spade bag, and a gold ball chain necklace.
SHOP FOR COLORED PANTS
Ready to slap some color on the bottom half of your body? Here are some more styles to check out.