Are Pants Optional? (Women)

The acceptance of pants as an option for professional women is changing rapidly. With many organization implementing business casual as a daily appropriate attire and/or for designated days, pants have become a basic piece for professional women.

At the same time, pants are  becoming more and more accepted internationally as a symbol of a female professional, almost as much as a skirted suit is. However, it is still a smart practice to ask what is the appropriate attire for meetings and events.

How to Wear the Pants in Business

professional dress women - pantsNot all pants are made equal. Matched and unmatched pant suits are the styles that will express your professionalism and credibility. Matching trousers and jacket is the more formal option; trousers with an unmatched jacket is less dressy.

The best pant suit options are those in neutral colors in good quality fabrics. The more substantial the weight and texture of the fabric the better. Choose gabardine, wool flannel, wool crepe, tweeds and herringbones and micro-fibers. Select patterns that look like solids from a distance. Always complement a pant suit with appropriate shoes. A medium heel pump shoe makes the pant suit formal and elegant. A lower heel makes it less dressy.

If business casual is accepted in  your organization, you can wear pants with blouses, knitted tops, and sweaters. A sweater set is a smart  combination for a professional business casual look. It is more polished and gives you a jacket look without the need of a structured jacket.  

When wearing pants, always wear earrings and other accessories such as pins, scarves or necklaces. Also remember that when wearing pants you will be noticed more, which demands a high quality trouser as well as impeccable cut and fit.

Follow the same guidelines as for the skirt: Pleats must remain closed without pulling, pockets need to remain closed and the waistband should be loose enough to insert two fingers. Adjust the trousers’ hem to mid-heel length for an elegant polished look. Avoid too short a hem when you wear trousers.

We are getting closer to the time when women wearing pants in the professional world will be just as acceptable as men wearing pants. Until then, make sure that you understand the expected dress standards of each business interaction and dress accordingly. Remember that “if you want respect in business, you want to dress better than your industry standards.”