Shopping can be confusing. Case in point: while we were compiling the numerous types of trousers that exist in the market for this story, we found a total of 16 different silhouettes. Finding the right pair of pants to fit your particular body type can be even more confounding as you need the basic understanding of what each type is and who do they flatter.
And if you’re particularly time-strapped, you need knowledge and clarity to make the right decision or risk looking bad and wasting money. Ahead, we decode the language of pants to help you navigate the racks and style these trusty clothing articles better.
Definition: Somewhere in between skinny pants and straight-cut pants, tapered pants feature a normal fit from the waist to the thighs, and only get narrower past the knee to the ankle. They are sometimes called peg-legged pants.
Pair with: We love these style of pants as they are equal parts comfortable and stylish. Opt for a pair in a luxe material like satin to make your look day-to-night, and pair with strappy sandals and close-fitting top that does not go past the waistline. For formal work settings, look for a pair that has pleated detailing down the front and made of a stiffer material. As these pants cut around the ankle, make sure your footwear is on point.
Definition: Originally part of the uniform of navy men (hence its name), these pants are now super trendy and usually feature a high waist with a series of buttons in the front, and can have wide or narrow legs.
Pair with: Embrace the whole nautical vibe and pair white sailor pants with a boat-neck striped top for that summer-on-the-Rivera look, complete with the trending straw bags and oversized sunnies. Otherwise, a darker pair looks super sharp with tailored shirts, or a t-shirt and blazer combo.
Definition: Sometimes also called carpenter pants or overalls, this style of pants are trousers that have a bib attached to the front, and attaches at the back with 2 adjustable straps. They were traditionally made from thicker materials as they were worn by manual labourers but can be found in everything from cotton to chambray today.
Pair with: For our warmer climate, we recommend wearing these with a sleeveless top under, or a cropped t-shirt with a neckline that rises above the top of the bib. For colder temperatures, we love pairing our dungarees with cable-knit sweaters and turtlenecks. This style of pants can be quite boy-ish, so balance it with a pair of feminine footwear like heeled pumps or sandals.
Definition: Sometimes called bell bottoms, this style of pants were super hot in the 70’s, and are actually making a major comeback these days. This style of pants are fitted at the waist and hips and flare very dramatically from the knee.
Pair with: There are 2 ways you can go about this. You can either balance your overall silhouette with a sleeveless, ruffled top or opt for a simple, fitted t-shirt or blouse. Flare pants are available in many materials, but the most common is denim, which tends to lend a more casual vibe to your look, so you might want to leave this for casual Fridays or the weekend.
Definition: A style of totally-loose pants that flares from the waist itself – the complete opposite of leggings or skinny jeans. They come in many fabrics and prints and have wonderful movement, lending your entire look a natural touch of drama.
Pair with: Not all tops go with these pants as they are so voluminous. You’ll want to keep your tops close-fitted, and if the occasional allows, showing some skin with drop-sleeved camisoles or cropped tops helps to balance out all that material. These pants tend to reach all the way down to the floor, so most styles of shoes will work as they can’t really be seen anyway.
Definition: A style of pants that give the illusion of being a skirt, thanks to its voluminous legs. The hemline can end anywhere from just below the knee to above the ankle. Some styles feature pleating on the legs.
Pair with: Nothing looks better than a pair of culottes styled with strappy, barely-there heeled sandals, or for an edgier look, a pair of flat gladiator sandals. Suitable for both work and play, you can easily transform your look simply by swapping out your top – a cropped, off-shoulder top for Sunday brunch and a sleeveless, button-down for the workweek.
Definition: A style of pants with very straight and narrow legs that typically graze the ankle. Sometimes called skinny, drainpipe or stovepipe pants, this style was made popular by Audrey Hepburn and has seen a revival in the recent years.
Pair with: This super chic pair of pants are almost designed to show off your fabulous footwear, be it edgy Oxfords in metallics or a pair of heeled pumps in a contrasting colour from your pants. If the Audrey Hepburn look is what you’re after, pair with ballet flats, a crisp white shirt, a strand of pearls and a chic updo. For a night out, pair with a cropped top, a sleek clutch and don’t forget to accessorise.
Definition: These pants have straight legs that fall in a straight line from the waist to the ankles. They aren’t as tight as cigarette pants and are flattering for almost all body types.
Pair with: Elongate your legs by pairing your flattering straight-cut pants with any shoes that have some height to them, from ankle boots to sky-high stilettos. If you are already blessed with longer gams, this style of pants also works beautifully with ballet flats and sandals. They have a very versatile silhouette, so you can pair them with almost any style of top (just remember to tuck it in if you are more petite).
Definition: Starting from anywhere just below the below button to below your hip bones, low rise pants were super big in the 90’s, especially paired with cropped tops. You can find them in a straight-cut, boyfriend, wide-legged and skinny variations.
Pair with: Petite women, low rise pants are your best friends as they help give the illusion of a longer torso. Pair them with a top that just grazes the top of your waistline, and if you want to show off yoga-toned abs, pair with a cropped top and a jacket or shirt over to balance the amount of skin you are showing.
Definition: Loose-fitting, casual pants that have large pockets on both sides of the thighs. These pants are usually made from khaki or a similarly rugged material as they were originally designed for military purposes. Sometimes also called combat pants.
Wear with: Definitely channel Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider with these pants. Opt for a pair with a slightly slimmer leg and offset the naturally masculine nature of this style with a pair of strappy stilettos. Finish your look with a well-tailored shirt for more formal settings, or a plain white t-shirt for some serious model off-duty vibes. Don’t forget the oversized sunnies.
Definition: These pants taper to the knee and flare out gently toward the ankle in order to. It is named as such as the design of these style of pants are meant to accommodate boots.
Wear with: This flattering style of pants go with basically any kind of footwear, but we recommend pairing them with something with height so as to elongate your legs – think anything from pointed pumps, boots or strappy heels. Bomber and cropped jackets are particularly good with this style of pants as they tend to fall just at the top of the waistline, which makes your torso look longer.
Definition: Originally a variation of sweatpants, joggers are a casual style of pants that were made for athletic purposes. However, with the rise of athleisure, designers have reintroduced the pants in all sorts of materials, from satin to canvas to denim. They typically have a tapered cut and elasticated cuffs at the ankles.
Pair with: Make like all the celebrities are and juxtapose your joggers with a pair of barely-there strappy stiletto sandals. To make them office-appropriate, pair with a smart shirt or throw on a blazer. Casual weekends call for you to pair them with the latest kicks, and a well-made but simple t-shirt for an off-duty look.
Definition: Full-length pants traditionally worn for horse riding. They are close-fitting below the knee and usually have reinforced patches on the inside of the leg. Many designers have offered their modern interpretation of these pants, making them suitable for everyday wear as well.
Pair with: High street versions of these pants don’t look out of place at all, and sort of resemble a skinny-meets-harem pants hybrid that gives off an effortlessly cool, slouchy vibe. Pair with a tailored shirt and heels for more formal occasions, and a simple t-shirt or tank top for casual settings. Tip: we love these pants for travelling as they are comfortable and have pockets.
Definition: Pants with a waistline that start from several inches above your navel. High waist pants were super popular several years ago, and we don’t see this trend dying down anytime soon. The legs can be anything from flared to super skinny.
Pair with: We love this style of pants as they accentuate your waist and helps you effortlessly achieve an hourglass shape. For a night out, go for something cropped and allow a sliver of skin to peek through, or pair with a sheer, lacy camisole. For the office, we love high waist paper bag pants with a turtleneck or a smart blouse with pleated or ruffle detailing.
Definition: These pants gather at the ankles with either an elasticated or tailored band, with the rest of the pants being typically voluminous and with a drop crotch. Think Princess Jasmine in Aladdin, or at the last yoga retreat you were at.
Pair with: With some exceptions, harem pants are usually casual, and tend to have a sort of bohemian, hippie vibe about them. We love these for casual weekends with friends, on beach vacations or festivals. With all that volume, you should ensure that your tops don’t fall below the waist of the pant, and should be more fitted so as to balance out your silhouette.
Definition: One of the latest styles to emerge in the last few years, frilly hemmed pants are exactly as their name suggests: a pair of pants that have ruffles at the hemline instead of the traditional straight, clean cut.
Pair with: Fun and fresh, treat frilly hemmed pants like you would for normal pants; just bear in mind the frills will add a feminine touch to your overall look. We like them with a plain, soft t-shirt and mules for that off-duty look for weekends, and a smart blouse and heels for the office.
Text: Mona Teo/Her World