Types of Women’s Pants Explained [2021]

Slim, skinny, high-waist, regular… Women’s pants are as complicated as they come and it’s a disservice to humanity if no one makes a guide to understanding them. After all, they’re as beautiful as every single soul reading this is. So why not beautify the world by getting to know and wearing them better?

Of course, we’re not discounting the value of skirts. They can be cute. They can also be fancy. But that doesn’t mean that women’s pants can’t be any of them! If anything, they can be cute while being fancy too. But that’s definitely an understatement.

A Little Bit Of Pants History

Women have been wearing pants in various Asian cultures for a long time. Records go back to as far as the 6th century BC when the nomadic Xiongnu tribes fought against the Chinese Han dynasty. They wore these for most of the practical purposes that you’d wear your own pants today: either because you want to keep yourself warm, comfortable, or just because they look so fashionable.

In fact, you could say that the western world was mostly late when it came to wearing a pair of sacks around their legs. In ancient Rome, they preferred using robes because those looked more civilized and dignified. And guess what they called loose trousers back in the day? Thulakos, aka sacks.

But when these civilizations started to want to wear pants, women were mostly left behind. It wasn’t until the 20th century when it started to become acceptable for women to wear pants. While the women’s rights movement had a huge impact on pants-wearing, there was also a large need for having women in the industrialized workforce because of the second world war. 

In most cases, the skirts were more of a liability. They’d get snagged in corners and make it harder to run around the factories. But the bigger deciding factor was their price. Because of the war effort, most textiles were needed on the battlefield. The cloth became scarce and expensive. And it took more cloth to make dresses than a pair of pants. So what’s a good homemaker got to do?

Eventually, wearing pants and trousers became so fashionable that it stuck all the way until today’s relatively more peaceful world. Bring a 20th-century factory worker to one of today’s fashion stalls and you’d find her eyes bulging wide over the vast selection of women’s pants for sale. Denim or silk, flared or ripped, it’s become a fashion trend that wouldn’t be disappearing in the near future.

Choosing The Right Pants

Looking good in pants should be one of your top priorities if you want to look good at all. But before you get to do that, you have to choose the right pants for you. Women’s pants come in so many styles. Some fit other outfits better. Others just don’t look that good with certain body shapes.

But before all that, you gotta know what kinds of pants are out there for you.

Waistlines And Fit

Not all pants come in the same cuts and ratios. Some are made so that they fit higher. Others show your belly (or lack thereof) while some could better accentuate them than most could ever dream to do.

What we’re talking about here is the waistline.

Regular waistlines for regular pants sit right below your belly button. They don’t cover it nor do they stay so far below. You could think of this as the default for all women’s pants.

Meanwhile, high-waisted pants would cover your belly button. Some could have waistlines so high that they’d sit right under your ribcage. That height doesn’t matter. If it’s above the navel, then it’s high-waisted through and through.

On the other side of the spectrum, you’ve got low-waisted pants. These sit right under your belly. If you want to show off that flat stomach after hitting the gym and proper dieting, then you might want to take a look at these.

Pants’ shapes don’t end there, though. The way they are shaped and fitted on your shins tells a lot about how they are supposed to be worn. Basically, they generally come in four types:

  • Regular Pants
  • Loose Pants
  • Slim Pants
  • Skinny Pants

Starting off with regular pants, you’d notice that they are straight from the hips all the way down to the ankles. There’s nothing wrong with this type of jeans, but there’s not much to gain from them either. They hide your shape while being quite comfortable to walk around with.

Comfort-wise, loose pants are the best. They’re second only to pajamas but beat them when it comes to being fashionable. Some stores call them boyfriend jeans and you would usually find these made in denim. This type of pants tends to have a lot of free space inside that you might feel like you’re wearing a skirt for each leg.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the wideness spectrum, you have slim pants which are meant to accentuate your leg’s shape. They sit quite tightly on your legs. If you have wide hips or well-shaped legs, then you could show them off without showing too much skin with these.

Skinny pants fit much more tightly around your legs than slim pants do. Unlike slim pants, skinny pants can feel like some sort of second skin around your legs. They fit so tightly that most of them are made with elastic materials that stretch along with your legs’ shape.

What’s It Made Out Of?

Pants, just like most clothes, can be made out of any material. You can have something as common as denim, or you could have them made out of spaceship fabric if you want something that’s out of this world. But that last part should be out of the question. If you’re buying pants in a regular clothing store for regular humans, you’re gonna have to choose between a few materials:

  • Denim
  • Silk
  • Nylon
  • Wool

Denim

blue denim jeans

Denim is what you first imagine when thinking of blue jeans. It’s a kind of tough fabric, denim is made from cotton that’s been weaved together to become more durable. About half of the pants you’ll see in a clothing store would be made from denim. It also has the most bang for the buck if you have a tight budget, with cheap denim pants lasting longer than most other cheap pants made from other materials.

Silk

Silk Pants

Next up, silk is the kind that you would wear during fall. It’s cool, soft, and flows along as you move. Made into pants, these can trap your body heat so you would feel comfortably warm while on the go. But if you’re planning to buy pants made out of silk, make sure that you always have them dry-cleaned. Silk shrinks when exposed to too much heat and becomes less durable when wet.

Nylon

Nylon pants

Nylon, on the other hand, is a bit like a synthetic version of silk. It flows as soft and smooth as silk while also being quite durable. Most nylon pants are marketed as sports pants because they feel so light and much easier to clean than silk. However, they also aren’t that easy to style because it’s hard to pleat nylon.

Wool

The last one is wool. Pants made out of wool are incredibly durable. Being a good insulator makes it the perfect choice for winter fashion. The biggest drawback with them, however, is that they are too expensive. Pants made from pure wool can rack up a high price tag.

That is unless you go with nylon wool. This material is wool mixed with nylon to make for a cheaper, yet similarly durable, alternative. It also feels a lot softer than wool, so you can expect these to feel much more comfortable than pure wool.

Now, these aren’t all the types of materials you’d find in a regular market. Some brands use special materials like polyester and elastane. But if you need something to start with, then those four are definitely it.

Understanding Pants Styles

So now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s talk about styles.

Pants styles combine all sorts of cuts and shapes so they won’t look like the same dull and regular pants you wear all the time. Each textile material we talked about can carry a certain style better than the others would. And combining materials with different ideas makes the heart of fashion beat.

Textiles And Styling

fashion pant

There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to pants styles. You can find almost any material made into a certain shape because some designers thought that it looks good. But with many designs, you can expect them to look like something based on what they’re made from.

For instance, tough materials like denim and wool can hold their shapes better than silk and nylon ever will. But because denim feels much thinner and smoother than wool, you would usually find more slim and skinny pants made from denim. Meanwhile, many flared pants are made from wool.

Then there’s the greatest advantage of nylon pants: they’re really light. You can’t expect yourself to jog in the rain or swim with wool pants. That is, unless you don’t mind the extra weight. Nylon is usually made into sports pants and joggers that feel light and comfortable. They’re much better in the rough and tumble than silk is and are much cheaper overall.

But there’s just one tiny problem with nylon pants: it’s hard to make pleats with nylon. The same is true for any other synthetic material. It takes a lot of heat to do it. Worse, they would go back to their former shape when washed and dried. That’s why you rarely see nylon as fashionable clothes.

On the other hand, silk is much better at holding pleats. Hence why they’re always so fashionable, you could make a thousand pleats in them and they will never disappear! For silk, pleats are permanent. So as long as you can take care and maintain your silk pants, you’ll always have a pretty pair of pants in your wardrobe that will always look fabulous in a fancy getup.

Pockets, Pockets, And More Pockets!

Okay, so here’s the deal with women’s pants: it’s virtually impossible to find real and functional pockets! Some cheaper pants even have fake pockets. They’re called faux pockets and are usually just stitched together to give the impression that you might have pockets from far away.

But does this mean that women’s pockets don’t exist at all? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for. With most fashionable clothing, you won’t find them having deep pockets at all. Many women’s designs are made so that the clothes follow their curves. Deep pockets would break the impression of a curve, working against the pants designer’s intended purpose. So if fashion is your thing, then you might as well get yourself a purse along with your pants.

Still, functional pockets do exist. Brands such as Argent offer functional clothing that also works as styling staples. But besides niche products that offer fashionable pants with pockets, there are women’s cargo pants that have huge pockets just for that purpose.

General Pants Styles

Now that you know all that, it’s time to look at pants styles. These styles include:

  • Straight Pants
  • Wide-Leg Pants
  • Palazzo Pants
  • Pegged Pants
  • Women’s Cargo Pants
  • Skinny/Slim Pants
  • Track Pants
  • Slack Pants

This is not an exhaustive list of all styles that ever exist. But it’s enough as a go-to guide before you go shopping.

Straight Pants

Straight pants are literally that. They’re straight if you look at them from the hips all the way to the bottom. You can think of them as women’s versions of most men’s pants.

Wide-Leg Pants

Like straight pants, wide-leg pants are just as straight. But these pants have wide ends, giving them a slightly conical look. These are best worn as summer wear with a pair of sandals and a tight-fitting top.

Palazzo Pants

Palazzo pants are the fancier versions of wide-leg pants. They are at the extreme side of wideness and beautifully flare out and glide as you walk around. Many palazzo pants are made from silk, with beautiful pleats that accentuate your waist and hips.

Pegged Pants

So what if you’re really careless and don’t want your pants to snag on anything you walk on? Pegged pants are the opposite of wide-leg pants. These taper from the waist area all the way to the ankles, giving them that poiseful, pegged shape. Most pegged pants are made to feel light. They’re usually made from soft materials like silk and nylon. But you can also find them made in denim.

Women’s Cargo Pants

Don’t confuse them with men’s dull cargo pants. Women’s cargo pants tend to have smaller waistlines and different shapes. But like men’s cargo pants, these have large pockets where you could put food, phones, snacks, and playing cards in.

Skinny/Slim Pants

A list of pants styles will never be complete without skinny and slim pants. Like we discussed earlier, skinny pants fight much more tightly than slim pants do. But both of them fit more tightly than regular straight pants.

Track Pants

Usually made from nylon, track pants are light and usually waterproof pants that are meant to be worn during exercise. These usually come fitted around the ankles so you won’t snag them while moving around. When looking for a pair of track pants, be sure to check their lengths more than their widths. Usually, track pants come in one-size-fits-all that stay in place with a waistband.

Slack Pants

Slack pants are a different kind of pants. For one, they’re made from blended fabric just as denim does. But they’re made to feel light. These are your typical office pants that your boss and male co-workers wear. Women’s slack pants are not much different from men’s slack pants, except that they stick closer to the skin to make a more curvy shape.

Styling Your Pants

Indeed, pants come in their own styles. That’s one thing. You can have them straight and formal, like slack pants. Or you could get a casual, girl-next-door look with straight jeans or a pair of normal slim pants. Maybe you might want to pull off a fancy look with silk palazzos on a date night. There is so much diversity when it comes to women’s pants that any girl trying out a new look might find it hard to choose between them.

So without further ado, here are three important questions you should ask yourself before getting out of the fitting room and dashing your way to the cashier:

  • Does it fit?
  • What’s the season?
  • Where will you use them?

Does It Fit?

They’re clothes. Of course, you have to choose the one that fits. And since pants come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes, you’ll have to know if those cute, low-waist pants on your hand really are worth buying.

To do this, you have to look at the waistline first. In regular pants, the waistline should sit right below your navel. It should fit comfortably, even without a belt. But if you do need one, make sure that the waist doesn’t crease more than a thumb’s length. Or better yet, do the pinch test. Put your fingers at your sides and pinch about 2 inches of the fabric. If it feels like you can pinch more, then that means it’s too wide for you.

Then check your shins, thighs, and buttocks. For pants with a tight fit, they should not feel too tight while walking. If there is bagginess around the thigh area, then the pants are too wide around the hips. And if there are horizontal lines across the crotch, then it’s the other way around.

What’s The Season?

Whether you’re in it for looking good, working good, or an honest-to-goodness combination of both, you’ll want to check the season before buying. Some clothes are just better worn during the summer when it’s really hot and the beach becomes so inviting. Others for the cooler months when wearing too little could make you feel goosebumps around the legs.

Material-wise, denim is an all-rounder that you can use at any time of the year. It’s relatively light and quite good with heat insulation. So whether it’s scorching hot in July or freezing cold in January, you’re going to feel slightly comfortable. But if you want the best of the best, you should aim for wool during the colder days, and silk and nylon during summer.

Style-wise, you should focus on lighter clothes during the summer. All wide-legged pants work when the days are warm. And if you’re planning to go to the beach, a pair of palazzos outfitted with a tank top and sun hat will surely make you feel and look wonderful.

Where Will You Use It?

Now don’t get us wrong. The pants are wonderful. They’re handy, help you look good, and let you lie on the grass floor and take a nap without having to worry about anyone peeking underneath. But as awesome as they are, they surely won’t be great in every situation.

Or will they?

Both for practical and social purposes, you’re gonna want to have a few different kinds of pants. You’ll want to have at least one for work, one at home, and while walking around the house/apartment/condo, and maybe one more for date night or a girl’s night out. Then maybe you should get a pair of track pants for exercising.

Luckily, straight denim pants are a good, budget-friendly alternative. That should be a staple element in your wardrobe. Work pants will be trickier since that’s going to depend on where you work. But if you’re going to an office anyway, then slack pants are fail-safe for sure.

Our Top Women’s Pants Recommendations

Okay, so now you know how to pick your pants, style them, and when to wear them. What’s next? Here’s a list of pants that you might want to look for. We built this list based on how they’re designed and what they’re for besides the things that make them unique. So enjoy!

Nothing Beats The Original: Levi’s 501 Original Fit Women’s Jeans

Pros:

  • Classic blue jeans
  • Machine washable
  • Durable

Cons:

  • They don’t make them the same way anymore

Material:

  • 100% Cotton (Denim)

When it comes to blue jeans, nothing really beats Levi’s except for, well, Levi Strauss and Co. And when it comes to Levi’s, their copper rivets make their denim pants the best. So if you want the cream of the crop from this fancy brand of blue denim and American dollars, then you should check Levi’s 501 Original Fit Women’s Jeans because that’s the design that started it all.

Flow Your Glowing Palazzo: Flowing Wide Leg Trouser By ZARA

Pros:

  • In-seam pockets
  • Machine washable
  • Ships anywhere around the world

Cons:

  • Some areas might not be available for shipping
  • Can be quite brittle

Materials used:

  • 100% Polyester

Palazzos are special. They flow, they make you glow, and best of all, make everything you go to more beautiful by just having you there. But this Flowing Wide Leg Trouser by ZARA is more than that. It’s machine washable as long as it’s set at a low spin. Just be careful with this one. Polyesters are similar to nylons except for one thing: they’re much softer. In fact, they’re too soft, making them less durable than nylons. But it’s a nice tradeoff for comfortable clothing anyway.

Deep Pockets For Deep Women: Wide Leg Trouser By Argent

Pros:

  • Real deep pockets
  • Tailor-fitted

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Dry clean only

Material used:

  • 95% Virgin Wool
  • 5% Elastane

We know, fake pockets are terrible. Good thing that Argent knows that too. This Wide Leg Trouser by Argent is tailor-made for every buyer, created with the best quality materials and perfect design for the modern working woman.

From Portugal: Women’s Cotton Loopback Track Pants By Sunspel

Pros:

  • Luxury quality
  • Incredibly soft
  • Machine washable

Cons:

  • Luxury price
  • Must never be dry cleaned

Material used:

  • 100% Cotton (Main)
  • 95% Cotton (Ribs)
  • 5% Elastane (Ribs)

If you want the best comfort at any price, then the Women’s Cotton Loopback Track Pants by Sunspel could be the best one for you. It’s a Portuguese brand that ships luxury clothes all over the world. And it’s the perfect lounging partner for chilling and relaxing at home.

A Thief’s Number One Enemy: Pick-Pocket Proof Women’s Travel Pants By Clothing Arts

Anti Theft

Pros:

  • Easy to move around
  • Multiple pockets
  • Hidden pockets
  • Waterproof
  • UV-proof

Cons:

  • Can get too hot for tropical travel

Materials used:

  • 96% Nylon
  • 4% Spandex

The Pick-Pocket Proof Women’s Travel Pants by Clothing Arts does exactly as it says it does. With multiple pockets and hidden pockets everywhere, this one’s a must-have if you travel all the time. The pants are even waterproof so you could keep your phone safe in the rain. It’s also UV-proof at UPF 50+ so you won’t have to worry too much about sunburn. If anything, it’s definitely a pickpocket’s worst nightmare. Besides getting caught by the cops, that is.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Are leggings considered as pants?

Answer: The thing with leggings is that they’re a moral middle-ground when it comes to modesty.

By Merriam-Webster’s definition, leggings should be considered as pants simply because they cover the body from waist to ankle. But because they stick too close to the skin, they may be considered too inappropriate for public view. So other people may think that leggings should be considered as underwear or even lingeries.

But the thing with definitions is that they change with time. So if you’re team #leggings then you probably want to call them that.

Question: Are leggings considered as pants?

Answer: The thing with leggings is that they’re a moral middle-ground when it comes to modesty.

By Merriam-Webster’s definition, leggings should be considered as pants simply because they cover the body from waist to ankle. But because they stick too close to the skin, they may be considered too inappropriate for public view. So other people may think that leggings should be considered as underwear or even lingeries.

But the thing with definitions is that they change with time. So if you’re team #leggings then you probably want to call them that.

Question: What’s the difference between jeans and pants?

Answer: Jeans are a kind of pants. That’s all there is to it. The term pants is an umbrella term for clothes that cover both legs separately from waist to ankle and jeans are just one of the many kinds of pants out there.
By popular usage, what people call jeans are usually blue jeans which were popularized by Levi Strauss & Co. in 1871. These are made from denim, which is a textile material made from cotton and wool.

Question: What’s up with Levi’s copper rivet?

Answer: You may or may not have heard about it, but there’s a reason why the Levi’s brand is so popular to this day. Back in the day, the first Levi’s 501 had copper rivets that made their pockets incredibly durable. It was marketed as a long-lasting pants design so everything — including the pockets — should be tear-proof.

But there was a problem with the copper rivet. They tended to scratch the surfaces their customers would sit on. And it wasn’t long until these guys started complaining.

At first, Levi’s tried to fix it by covering the copper rivet with denim. It was a nice try. But alas, the denim would eventually fade and the copper rivet would show, scratching surfaces as it usually did. So in the end, they took away the copper rivet and used a new stitching technique to keep them in place: bar-tack stitching.

Question: Why are there fake pockets?

Answer: There are two reasons. One: fashion. Two: physics.

Often, fake pockets are there because it’s a design choice. When designers make their clothing designs, aesthetics form a huge part especially since no one is going to buy a pair of clothes that make them look ugly. They create sewing ratios and proportions that would fit on most body types, accentuating whatever they want to accentuate.

In other words, the clothes that designers are told to make usually look good even without a pocket. Now that’s where the physics part goes.

Oh, but that’s not where the fashion part comes from? Nope. The fashion part is this: everybody’s so used to seeing pockets on clothes that it just doesn’t look right if you see a pair of pants with no pockets on them.

Final Thoughts

So there you go. If you’re still starting out with adding pants to your wardrobe, then it’s probably too early to call yourself a pants master. But with what you’ve got from this article, you’re most likely not too wet in the ears anymore.

Pants come in different shapes and sizes. The materials they’re made out of have a huge effect on the overall design. Some materials allow better shapes. Others flow around gracefully. They also have different insulating capacities, so you know you’re wearing winter clothes because they keep the cool out.

But before we end this, here’s a final tip. Whether its pants, skirts, or an haute couture design that’s neither a pant nor a skirt, you better remember this. Clothes and fashion are what we make of it. Besides their practical purposes, the pants you wear are just a way for you to express yourself. It shouldn’t matter if other people tell you to choose one just because they like it more. You should choose on your own because you like it more.

And like all clothes, women’s pants look much better if you’ve got the confidence to walk in them.

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