Oct 032011

For someone who rides much of the year in skirts I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about pants. The next couple of posts will take you through my by-now-slightly-obsessive quest for the perfect pants, along with some tips for managing the imperfect pants I ride in now.

By “perfect” I mean perfect for biking and working: Cycle Chic in the very best sense of that now-trademarked term.

I’m seeking workplace wear that is office-appropriate. Your office may be cool with stretchy yoga pants every day but that doesn’t work for everyone.

My personal style is more tailored (and I prefer to feel more fully dressed in the office J). As Eldest Daughter said the day I wore some suspiciously yoga-y leggings with a big sweater, “Mom! Pants for your work need to have seams!”

Everyone’s criteria will be different. For me the pants fail if:

  • They look like I could go bouldering in them. I don’t need all those pockets and zippers and places to hang carabiners; I’m not bivouacking or climbing at Red Rocks. I’m walking into a five-story academic building with a latte stand on the first floor (praise be to the coffee gods) and later I’m going to a Chamber of Commerce meeting.
  • They make a swishy sound when I walk. If it’s so wet I need truly waterproof gear, I’m putting an outer layer over my work pants anyway.
  • The detailing screams “sportswear!” In this category: Big patch pockets, really contrasty stitching, and other design elements that don’t pass the boardroom test.
  • The legs flare too much at the bottom so I’m worried that they’ll get caught and rip if I don’t do something to rein them in; that’s an extra step I’d like to avoid if I can.

Notes to manufacturers:

  • Consider that women who wear larger sizes also want to look good and feel comfortable while biking without squeezing into Spandex. You’ll have their undying love and access to their credit limits if you design for them too. Too many of the pants I looked at top out at size 12 or XL. Have you looked at America lately?
  • I wish the sportswear folks who have a head start on performance fabrics and bike-suitable tailoring could get over the need to hang your reflective logos and feature descriptions on the outside of the clothes. Ann Taylor and Liz Claiborne do not do this. (I do want reflective elements–I just want them to be subtle–even hidden until I need them.)
  • I also wish you could disabuse yourself of the notion that large front pockets are somehow flattering for women’s bodies. Um, no. Not good on anyone. Really. Trust me.
  • The more you show us your product with photos front/back and the ability to zoom, the more we can imagine the pants on our own butts. This is a requirement when buying online since I don’t have a three-way mirror and my best friend to save me from a tragic mistake.
  • If you tell me I can bike in the pants you get Bonus Awesome Points if you have actually designed them with a waistband cut slightly higher in the back, lower in the front; a gusset that eliminates seams running straight up the tender girl parts; and a fabric that has a lovely soft non-chafing finish on the inside and some dirt-repelling qualities on the outside.

This is one of the few blog posts I’m hoping gets plenty of links at the bottom from people who want to sell me something–that is, if you are the designer of the perfect pair of bike riding/work pants.

Better yet, if you’re a woman who can match my pickiness and who has a favorite pair of pants you can tell us about, go for it. Please. I beg you.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What attributes make a pair of pants perfect for your biking?
  • Have you found those pants? WHERE?!
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Reader Comments

  1. Although I hate patronizing big box stores, I have found much success with Michael Kors pants. They are designed to make my fairly large ass look flattering and well tailored. They flare a bit at the bottom, but I tend to roll my pant legs up, and because there is part spandex in them, they don’t require as much ironing as still look absurdly professional. I love striped pants, because they tend to distract the eye a bit from any small distractions/dirts/etc.I have long legs and a big butt, so finding pants that flatter both is often a challenge. Oh…also their waist band is perfect and no weird bulges in the zipper area and the belt loops aren’t goofy or overly large. Perfect. I know this sounds like some spam comment, but I’m all about the Kors pants.

  2. As to pockets, how about not putting buttons on back pockets that catch on things and pop off too easily and no side seam pockets that expand and make you look way to wide there.

  3. I am fortunate to work in a pretty informal environment, so my perfect pants are Eddie Bauer nylon capris. Not too many pockets, soft fabric, no gusset, but comfy to sit on a saddle. I am extending their season by adding SmartWool leg warmers for my morning ride.

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