Wide-Leg Pants for Grown-UpsI was at a holiday dinner recently when the conversation turned to fashion, and my cousin’s cousin Debbie, a teacher on Long Island, turned to me and stated matter-of-factly, "If you wore the trend the first time around, you can’t wear it again." I can’t believe women have taken this rule to heart. Yes, fashion experts say it all the time, and it probably does steer those who are still tempted by hot pants in the right direction. But it’s unnecessary for stylish women over 40 who know how to wear a trend. Consider the breakneck speed at which fashion trends are being recycled and think of the clothes and accessories we’d miss just because we wore them in what seems like another lifetime: capes, military jackets, tunics, wrap dresses, sailor pants, long pearls, big cocktail rings, puffer jackets, voluminous sleeves — and wide-leg trousers, which I’ll get to in a minute.One thing about our generation is that we still crave the thrill of the new. Do we honestly look like the kind of women who would be happy to restrict ourselves to boring basics for the rest of our lives? So let’s amend the rule: If you wore a trend the first time around, you’re not going to wear it again in exactly the same way.Take those wide-legs, the best pants of the season. The old look was very Charlie’s Angels: wide from high waist to hem; a tight poor boy sweater or stretchy leotard that bared every bulge; a big leather belt with oversize oval buckles; high, clunky platform shoes. Wide-legs now are longer and leaner, with a clean, hip-slimming waistline and legs that flare just enough to disguise the thighs while creating the illusion of a nipped-in middle. On top is a feminine blouse that ties at the neck, a trapeze-shaped shrunken jacket or a sexy cropped top. I’m sure there are those who are shaking their heads, doubting that wide-leg pants are flattering. I had my doubts too, until I tried on every pair here and discovered that a mannish trouser that defines the waist can make even a petite (in her highest heels) look and feel toweringly stately. The pair I thought would look the worst — the silk ones — actually looked the best. Here are a few things I learned about wide-legs.
- You can’t judge them on the hanger. You have to try them on.
- There are modified wide-legs and extreme wide-legs; you probably want the first ones.
- To tuck or not to tuck? When in doubt, keep it out. Layered still looks cool.
- Stay clear of such distractions as puckering side pockets, wild colors, fancy fabrics and dizzying patterns. The width is enough of a statement. You’ll look thinner in a neutral solid like black, gray, beige, navy, or brown.
- The extra leg room is a dream for a pear-shape body — the antidote to last season’s skinny slacks, which showed every ripple. To be honest, if you’re both short and squat, this still might not be the best pant for you.
- If you’re not tall, wear your sky-high chunky shoes (not skinny stilettos). But remember, chunky doesn’t have to be clunky, like the platforms of old.
Wide-Leg Pants for a PartyInstead of a dress, slip on super-elegant slinky silk in a delicious mix of mustard and plum. This bright sleeveless top drapes and shapes the upper body. Deep plum trousers minimize the way black ones do. If you’re tall, slip into fancy flats and you’re good to go. Piazza Sempione cotton/silk crepon top ($355). Marie Marie double-face silk trousers ($495). Missoni gold brocade flats ($495).Wide-Leg Pants for the Corporate OfficeThe best trouser fit is tight in the butt, snug on the hip — and these Poleci pants in black chalk-striped wool ($304) are it. We love the narrow waistband and sleek angled pockets. Great with Milly’s double-breasted wool jacket ($531). Styling tip: Chaiken’s gray silk charmeuse top ($260) stays untucked. If you’re five-foot-three-inches or shorter, you will need the height of platforms, like Derek Lam’s in leather and suede ($850).Wide-Leg Pants for 9 to 5 and Cocktails AfterwardCalling all pear shapes: Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. sailor-inspired wool pants ($215) are the roomiest of the bunch, with a side zip that slims. Keep it trim with this body-hugging knit shirt from Chaiken ($286). Top off the lean navy base with a touch of luxe: Piazza Sempione’s fitted nubuck leather jacket ($2,730). Pollini slingback pumps ($535).Wide-Leg Pants to Wear to DinnerWhat’s polished and tailored? J. Crew’s Parker pants ($160), with slant pockets, will let you breathe easier. Keep the part that’s seen across the table unabashedly feminine in BCBG Max Azria’s sexy silk wrap ($178), which defines and whittles your waistline. Stuart Weitzman black patent pumps ($260).Wide-Leg Pants for the Casual OfficeHipster pants are for someone happy to show off her shape, because they don’t hide much. Michael Kors has the perfect pair in camel stretch wool ($725), with a flat wide waistline and no pockets to add bulges. Go ahead and tuck in a bodysuit — Norma Kamali’s brilliant new poly jersey blouson ($425) has just the right amount of ease. Chadwick’s T-straps ($40) add a chunky but ladylike finish.Originally published in MORE magazine, December 2007/January 2008.