Business casual and business formal dress pants are often a hard wardrobe item to fit, especially if the hips, waist and thigh area are your fussy bits. I wish I could prevent the situation where you have to try on many, many pairs of dress pants before you find ones that work (or have the potential to be altered to work). But alas, much like jeans, that’s the nature of the beast.

If you’re looking for a pair of classically tailored, no-nonsense dress pants, you’ll find these fit tips useful. Hopefully they will help you to eliminate some options before even trying them on.

Style Considerations

First, consider these factors when it comes to the design:

  • Look for good drapy fabric: Dress pants love weighty substantial fabrications which allow them to fall straight down to the foot. Think wool-rayon-polyester and cotton-rayon-polyester blends with a hint of stretch for extra comfort. Crease lines are optional.
  • Beware of side entry pockets: This doesn’t mean that you should ignore dress pants with side entry pockets because at times they can work. But styles without often look better. No pocket lining showing through and no gaping pocket openings when you sit down. Alternatively, subtle front slant pockets and back welt pockets work well too.
  • Look for flat fronts and a wide waist band: A wider waistband has flattering corset effects. A flat front is definitely a sleeker look than pleats, especially when you sit down (no poufing). Belt loops are optional.

Fit Considerations

These are the important factors to consider when it comes to fit:

  • Waist fit: You’re after a tailored but comfortable fit. Nothing too tight. Remember that a waistband can be altered to fit if it’s too roomy.
  • Grazing hip fit: The fabric should glide over the hips, thighs and bottom area and drape straight into a bootcut or wide legged hem. Not too snug and, as far as possible, no whiskering. If the pants whisker on the thighs, size up and adjust the waist to fit. A bit of whiskering is fine on jeans but dress pants should be fairly whisker-free. For dress pants a looser fit is better than a snug fit – unlike jeans.
  • Waistband position: A waistband that rests above the high hip and below the navel is good, so think mid to high-ish rise. This creates the illusion of a flatter belly, whereas an overly high rise can accentuate a rounded belly.
  • Rise length: Getting the length of the rise right around crotch point is extremely important. Too short and you’ll end up with camel toe. Too long and you’ll look short in the leg and awfully long in the waist. Opt for a tailored fit that does not cling to the crotch, but that’s not too long either.
  • Leg length: The black slacks below are the perfect length, almost skimming the surface of the ground. Unfortunately, you’ll need to commit to a heel height with dress pants.

Semantiks 'Athena Bree' Pants Semantiks 'Athena Bree' Pants

These black bootcut dress pants hang perfectly. The fabric is lustrous and substantial, and the front slant pockets are flattering. The waist band is not quite as wide as I would have liked, but this is a small price to pay for a good, clean and flattering fit. Not bad for $78 and available in sizes 0 to 16 in navy, black, charcoal and chocolate brown. If you’re battling with dress pants, you might like to start here.