How To Find The Perfect Pair Of Trousers

stack of jeans

I know, trouser shopping isn’t top of my list either. Mostly because it turns out we would all far rather be shoe shopping. Who wakes up on a Saturday morning thinking, “yippee, the chance to spend all afternoon in a cramped, badly lit changing room, craning my neck to check out my behind.It’s up there with bikini or bra shopping which is a pity really because little else does the hard yards in your wardrobe as deftly as a pair (okay then, several pairs) of trousers.

Despite the style glossies debating asymmetric hems, ruffles skirts or ditsy print floral dresses, most women wear trousers most of the time. I know I do. What else ticks off flexible, practical, stylish, time-efficient or covers up hairy legs? Buy a classic pair and they can be re-invented season after season. The right trousers look easy and will make you look youthful, polished and that you haven’t tried too hard (which is harder than you think). I’m not going to lie to you though, unless you have a boyish figure, finding trousers that fit well can be an arduous task.  It’s why many women – especially those on the curvier side – give up at the first hurdle. But forewarned is forearmed and hopefully this ten point checklist will take a lot of the pain out of trouser shopping.

Proportions, proportions, proportions

The right proportions are key when buying trousers, actually the right proportions are key full stop to that indefinable formula that marks someone out as truly stylish because cut and detail are everything. What you are looking for is the perfect fit on both the waist and leg- a combination that is surprisingly hard to get right. You want the waist to sit exactly in the right place (just below your belly button and ideally with no gap). Which brings me to my next point: make the time to have items altered. It’s the difference between looking okay and looking sublime.

It’s also worth looking at the trousers you already own, what is it about the ones you love that are so flattering. Take the time to look properly: how slim / wide are they at the thigh/ knee/ ankle? Where do they fall to? Do they cut you off at the most flattering point of your leg/ ankle? It’s also worth being realistic about what shoes you wear most of the time, ie the shoes you can actually walk in.

Don’t get too hung up on trends

At 5ft nothing (with a longer body and shorter legs – lucky me!!), I am never going to make a pair of flares look good unless I’m wearing the highest platforms imaginable which sounds like rather a lot of faff to me. It’s far better to go with what suits your frame –in my case, a slim-ish cigarette pant. Although that isn’t entirely an excuse for not dipping a toe out of my comfort zone. I might not be able to do flares but I can carry off a slightly wider cropped leg which are very au courant. And newer details too such as top stitching.

Enlist a few trompe l’eoil tricks that will help to flatter and create the illusion of longer legs. Stripes down the side (check out Gill’s Zara pair in Trinny’s bath on Instagram) have an instant (extra) narrowing effect whilst a glimpse of flesh around the ankle is always flattering, especially as most women have nice ankles. Prioritise doing the rounds of stores that fall into your budget as brands often repeat the same trouser shapes. As a starting point, Annabel Hodin, personal stylist par excellence is a big fan of Theory, the Audrey style at Piazza Sempione, LK Bennett and Reiss.

What’s on top?

Bear in mind what is happening on the top half as that is going to go some way to elongating your frame. A jacket or top that defines your waist is always going to help if you’re petite or curvy. And jackets that are part of the suit are worth considering as clearly some thought has already gone into how they look or should be worn together.

Size guide

This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list but as a rule, the following rings true:

  • If you have a boyish shape, then high-waisted styles will highlight the waist area, lengthen the legs and create the illusion of curves.
  • If you are curvy, avoid wide leg trousers which will swamp your figure and add bulk. Instead opt for slim, cropped cigarette pants which will frame your figure in all the right places. Trousers with a subtle kick flare also make for an update on the cropped trouser and naturally accentuate curves.
  • If you are petite, lengthen the leg by choosing a cropped style that sits just above the anklebone. A front pleat will also draw the eye down the leg. Pointed flats rather than round toe ones also create the illusion of a longer leg.

Don’t dismiss elasticated waist bands

Elasticated waists are fashion’s best kept secret. My favourite trousers (Caramel’s corduroy joggers and navy wool pair) have elasticated waists. They sit snugly without pinching or creating a bulge and are the comfiest thing to slip into. Smart yet a bit slouchy, they are 24/7 dressing at its very best.

On the subject of denim

Nothing says mumsy or style rut like a pair of skinnies. Experiment with a pair of looser fit “boyfriend” jeans, a pair of ironically named, “Mom” jeans or cropped kick flares which look best with a block heeled boot and a shorter-length jacket.

In other news, it’s all about white trousers

Specifically white cord ones and a slightly flared style from Made In Heaven, which has been the subject of a flurry of late night emails between a handful of fashion editors. Casual enough to be worn with weekend knitwear and yet white suggests a devil may care attitude and a two fingers up to being safe.

Rethink cashmere

Truly I hate for anyone to deny themselves, but cashmere blends need careful thinking. They might seem like a luxurious investment buy, but in reality they are not robust enough to take every day wear and tear. It’s also worth reminding you that wool trousers which are unlined are itchy. Hodin also counsels never buying any trousers which crease when you scrunch test them in the shop. And clearly no pair which creates a camel toe over the crotch.

Don’t forget to take your shoes

Take the shoes you need, or are actually going to wear, be it a pair of heels or trainers, because it’s those details – where your trousers hit the floor or ankle- that will kill an outfit in seconds.

And lastly, a word about pants

Underwear is as important as the trousers themselves. Marks and Spencer’s has a “no VPL”selection  of all its popular pant styles while Selfridges’s 37,000 square foot Body studio promises every possible type of undergarment one could think of. You have no excuses.

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