As theater and travel begin to open up, I realize I need simple black pants—something between jeans and wearing a dress—but the choices are many and confusing. I’d like a classic pair that I can wear with flats or low-heeled boots, washable and in a style that will last for years. Skinny or wide-legged? Belt or not? To help! — Rosemary, Pleasantville, NY
The perfect black pants, like the perfect white T-shirt, are one of the holy grails of fashion. It hovers, seemingly just out of reach in our imaginations, the answer to all our wardrobe problems, if only we could find them.
After all, you can take the perfect black pants with you almost anywhere. Throw on a sweatshirt, sneakers on your feet, and walk down the street to buy milk or walk the dog. Add a blazer or dressy shirt and some boots and head to the office. Don a tuxedo or sequin top with high heels and attend a black-tie event.
That’s why stylist Elizabeth Saltzman told me that while she renounced black clothes during the pandemic to “see life in bright colors,” she made an exception for her favorite black pants.
“They’re a classic and a staple,” she said. And the permutations are endless.
Indeed, every season seems to bring an abundance of black trousers. Search for “women’s black pants” on Amazon or Nordstrom or Macy’s and thousands of results will come up, in just about any combination: flared and fastened, high and low waisted, leather and nylon, stretch and fitted.
It’s both attractive – the perfect pants, they’re here! – and overwhelming. How to choose?
Victoria Beckham seems to include black pants in every collection she makes, and often wears her runway bow tucked into black pants and a white shirt or a giant sweater, so I asked her how she decided which pair to wear.
“I have a firm favorite that has been in my closet for over six years that I would recommend,” she said. “They have a straight leg with a slight taper, slightly cropped and wrinkle free.” She said they go well with both loafers and stilettos, and she recommended choosing a pair with belt loops, as they give you the option of stopping or not.
Whether or not this cut works for you, the important thing is that she’s been wearing the same pair for six years. Just like you can wear just about any style of jeans these days, 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.
That also means that any investment you make can depreciate over time. Divide the price by the number of possible wear times years, and what seems very expensive at first may look cheaper.
Ms. Saltzman recommends starting with Theory, saying that the “Outerknown’s Emory pants are a personal favorite.” J. Crew and Cos also have different options. There is also always the Aritzia “Effortless pant”. The name actually says it all.
Your style questions, answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa answers a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send her anytime via e-mail or Twitter. Questions have been edited and compressed.