Begin/Again: Pants That Aren’t Leggings

Jan 4, 2024

One of the lasting impacts of the pandemic is that many women (especially younger women) no longer own “real” pants, they own leggings.  In my case, for quite some time, my pants wardrobe consisted of jeans that didn’t fit, leggings, and work pants.  There was nothing in between.  

Owning nothing in between made getting ready for a casual-but-not-athleisure-dinner a challenge.  It pushed me into a rut in the fall, winter, early spring, where I was wearing the same outfits in 2023 that I wore in 2019. This is not ideal. So I resolved to buy some new, modern jeans that fit. That really helped, but there was still more work to do. Here are the other pairs of pants that I turn to when I want to wear “real” pants that aren’t leggings (or denim).

Cargo Pants // I would not have anticipated that cargo pants would make a comeback in 2023.  But as hard as I tried, I could not put on the wide leg version without having an LSD-like flashback to 8th grade. But these legging-like joggers from BR Factory (also in petite) are the perfect thing for looking like you got dressed today.  Just swap them into any outfit where you could wear leggings.  They come in multiple colors, but I showed this one because it lets you see the detail.  Also, they’re deeply discounted on a New Year sale, so if you want them, now is the time.

Colored Jeans // Okay, yes, technically these are denim.  But they’re green, so they definitely fit into our different options category.  These washed olive wide legs from Old Navy are the perfect thing to spruce up an old sweater or add life to a t-shirt and cardigan.  On a 5’9″ model they a little below run ankle length, on me (5’7″) they’re exactly right like Goldilocks’ porridge.  They also come in plus, tall, and petite.

Like the idea of colored denim?  Madewell has a pair of jeans in several great cold-weather colors, but I love the Fig, which is a fantastic purple-taupe.  I also love these hot pink ones in case you want to keep the Barbie moment going.

Boden Pants // Boden always has a selection of pants in weird/cool fabrics, colors and styles.  Always.  For something you can wear now and in the spring, these navy pants with a tie belt are it.  They’re a great relaxed work pant.  They’re also on sale for under-$50.  They run to size 20.

Athletic Pants // I have mentioned before that my Mom only shops at Athleta now.  Her selection of Athleta pants is quickly becoming all of the Athleta pants.  But even though it pains me to admit it, she is right about their greatness.  They sell several choices that give you a functional pant for working from home or a casual office that isn’t leggings.  

These Venice Wide Legs are my favorite.  With a sleek top or sweater, they can easily pass for work attire.  With a sweatshirt and puffer vest, they’re weekend wear.  Run XXS-3X.  Highly recommend.

Posts, Work, Work From Home

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  1. Laurelo says:

    I have the Old Navy version of the Venice pants and they are SHOCKINGLY versatile. I look super pulled together at work (helpful when I had to wear compression stockings for two weeks this fall) and SO comfortable. It feels like a great life hack.

  2. Katel says:

    My favorite not leggings pants are the ponte Faye flare from Ann Mashburn. They can be dressed up with blazer for work look equally good with a casual sweater and driving Mocs on weekend.

    • EMM says:

      Co-sign the Mashburn ones, well worth the investment. I wish they’d make the “tall” size in their seasonal and fun patterns/materials though – so far I’m stuck with the navy and black!

  3. Meaghan says:

    I’ve been in the same situation and discovered the Colette pants at Anthropologie late last year – they’re great. Good stretch but don’t get baggy, cute fit, can wear with mules or tennis shoes.

  4. Nichole says:

    If you’re looking for a pant similar to Athleta but less expensive, I live in the Stylus Womens High Rise Wide Leg Pant from JCPenny. I own them in every color.

  5. ABVV says:

    Colored jeans have long been a wardrobe staple for me in my business casual/higher-ed office. An olive pair similar to the one Abra listed has particularly been a workhorse; I’m dreading the day they finally wear out.

    +100 to the Athleta pants recommendation. I bought three of their suits (back when they had more #RIP), and they are a perfect blend of comfort and polish. The Venice fabric in particular has a nice weight that skims/hangs nicely without being constricting (definitely more substantial than the unlined Brooklyns, which are a summer staple).

    If you’re looking for a similar style of pant, I love the Alder Apparel Open Air pants. At 5’10” the 28″ inseam style is the perfect cropped length. I wear them with an Aday Something Borrowed shirt and no one knows they’re technically active pants.

    https://www.alderapparel.com/products/the-open-air-pant
    https://www.thisisaday.com/products/womens-button-up-boyfriend-shirt-blouse-something-borrowed

  6. Chloe says:

    I own those BR pants in three colors – I absolutely LOVE them and they are a great upgrade to the cargos of our youth (ha). I do struggle sometimes with knowing what underwear to wear though because they are thinner than I expected. I’m a fan of ponte pants from Ann Taylor or BR.

  7. Kelly says:

    You found “new, modern jeans”?! Please share – this size 8 middle-aged-now-work-from-home-mom is struggling!

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