Key Pieces: Little Black Pants

Black pants dressed up or down

If there’s one item of clothing I’ve come to think of as indispensable, it has to be a pair of black pants. They dress up or down, are perfect for travel and make any outfit look more polished. (And if black isn’t your thing, go for navy.)


Left: earrings (similar) | jacket | tee | watch | bag | shoes
Middle: fragrance | pants
Right: earrings | jacket | tee | bracelet | bag | boots

Little Black Pants: My Picks


Even though I’m no longer working in an office, I still keep a couple of pairs of black trousers in my wardrobe, and wear them more often than I’d anticipated. They’re a nice break from denim, too.

  • Slim-leg pants in stretch cotton. A classic ankle pant with a side zip. The fabric has enough structure to smooth any lumps and bumps, but enough stretch to be comfortable. Even though I’m short, I preferred the fit of the Regular size to the Petites. If you are of average height or have long legs, don’t be afraid to also try the Tall size for comparison. These are available in several colors besides black, including navy. For those in cooler climates, there’s also a stretch wool version.
  • Cropped flares. These pants surprised me. I didn’t expect them to be flattering, but because they’re somewhat fitted through the hips and thighs, and the flare isn’t extreme, they work. Here again, I preferred the fit of the Regular size (my legs are proportionally long for my height) so play with sizes until you find the length proportions you like. Several colors available, including navy. (I also bought these in the Cabernet color.)


If you only bring one pair of black pants when you travel, I’d make it one of these. Both are hand-washable and dress up enough to go out in the evenings.


  • A couple of lower-priced options for ponte knit pants HERE and HERE. The fabric on these isn’t quite as substantial as on the Eileen Fisher ponte knit pants, but they both have a good fit and are washable.

Do you have a favorite style of Little Black Pants?

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  1. I like to always have a pair of tailored trousers that look as if they came from the men’s suit department. In fact, I once bought some gorgeous pants (with the matching suit jackets) from a men’s boutique in Berlin that also sold women’s clothes in a corner. The jackets went out of style, but the pants remain classic.

  2. My fave black pants, hands down are J. Crew Pixie Pants. I have 4 pair in both regular length and ankle. I love the fit, the look and they wear well after many seasons! I also love a pair of Lilly Pulitzer Travel Pants that have sadly been discontinued.

  3. The Eileen Fisher stretch crepe pants have been my trouser of choice for years. They work well at home and for travel. Since the cold seems to affect me more these days I have been contemplating the straight-leg ponte pants. Just waiting for a sale. I have found Eileen Fisher pants durable, well-fitting and easy-care. They are pricey but well worth it for the wear I’ve gotten from them.

  4. DYDJ’s have a great pair of knit slim leg. They wear beautifully without stretching and are great for booties, flats and tucked into tall boots. Also,the great NYDJ slimming fit can’t be beat.

  5. Eddie Bauer Bremerton pants – a texture that doesn’t look like a knit, and fabric that holds its shape forever. They’re going to discontinue these some day, and I’m going to be naked from the waist down….

  6. NYDJ are the worst fitting pants I have ever had. I have a shorter than average torso, and longer legs than my 5’3″ height would suggest, so I can’t usually wear a petite. I like the black cotton pants from Jill, and I wear black ponte pants from Jag. I also have a dressier looking pair made by Tribal, a brand that is usually sold a tboutiques rather than mall stores; they have a faintly jacquard pattern to the weave that looks a little dressier, but they still have a lot of stretch, and a pull on waist band.

  7. Everyone should always have a favorite pair of “little black pants” – it’s a must for every wardrobe! They always look good and they go with everything 🙂

  8. My little black pants are 25 years old, they really are! They still fit, had them altered a couple times when I lost a bit to much weight… I’m ready to find a new pair, yet I am sad to see these black crepe pants go. My problem is always a gap in the waist, so I have found a wonderful alteration shop that tailors my clothes when needed. I bought a dress for $9.00 and it cost $20 to get it tailored, but I get more compliments on this dress when I wear it……sorry, I’m rambling on. Your trip looks so amazing. I would love to visit there one day!