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10 Ways to Wear Black Dress Pants to Work

If there is one item sure to be hanging in all of our closets, it’s a pair of black dress pants. They are our go-to, the most basics of the basics. And while the practicality of being able to turn to them over and again is part of their appeal, they are the first piece to feel redundant.

One of the most common complaints I heard from clients, looking for a style update was, “All I wear are my black dress pants.” This typically meant they were wearing their black pants the same boring way and not styling them. 

Over the years I’ve featured dozens of black pant outfits, with recommendations on the kind of cut and style that will work best for all different body types. 

So today, I thought I would share a guide to creating cohesive outfits around a simple pair of black pants by featuring the top black pants (chosen by our readers) and rounding up some of the best looks we’ve created over the years using them. 

Reader Favorite Black Dress Pants 

VINCE CAMUTO Luxe Pull-On Pants
EILEEN FISHER Stretch Crepe Slim Ankle Pants
READER FAVE! Spanx Perfect Black Pants

Talbot’s Bi-Stretch Barely Boot Pants – $109.  All sizes, including petite and plus. Runs full. 

Spanx “Perfect” Black Pants – $128.  All sizes including petite and plus. 

Banana Republic Mid-Rise Straight Pant – On Sale: $44.  All sizes including petite and plus with choice of inseam 

Vince Camuto Wide Leg Trouser – $79.  Sizes 00 – 16

Theory – $295 Limited sizing 0 – 12, runs small. 

10 Ways to Wear Black Dress Pants to Work

Black Pants with a Statement Jacket 

Classic Bootcut Pants


Tank, $40 | Tweed Blazer, $70 |  Tweed Blazer, $70  |  Bag, $450  |  Pants, $109  |  Wedges, $30  |  Earrings, $68 

Let’s start with today’s featured look, ideal for a professional office. Here, I’m using black pants like a pedestal to show off a statement jacket. Working with toppers (blazers, jackets, and structured sweaters) with interest like texture and subtle pattern is the easiest way to elevate a basic pair of black pants.

Pro tip: To create a cohesive look, pay attention to the buttons on a topper. If the button is black, pair with black bottoms. Many inexpensive jackets have cream or white buttons; in this case, it’s helpful to have your tailor/dry cleaner replace them with either a gold or silver-tone OR one wrapped in the same fabric as the jacket.

I’m using the Talbot pants above because (1) they are a reader favorite, and (2) they have a flattering cut in what they are calling a “barely boot.” This means that the leg of the pant only slightly flares at the bottom, giving a lovely line to the leg with a hem meant to break on the top of your shoe. 

These are a very traditional trouser, so if you don’t like “skinnies” and need an ankle pant alternative, they are worth considering. It’s generally a good rule of thumb to size down in Talbots. 

When wearing a bootcut pant: your top needs to be fitted to your body (it doesn’t have to be skin tight) and if you’re wearing a jacket, the bottom of it should stop at your hip bone. Chances are if you wore a blazer any longer than hip bone the look will feel overwhelming on you. 

I really like this layering tank by Karen Kane (also available in black). You want to wear a scooped or straight neckline with a v-neck jacket. This creates space between your chin and chest creating a long, elegant neck, and helps extent the line of the body. 

For shoes, you can wear a pair of pumps, but you might also consider a wedge. These by Nine West are only $45.  A wedge with a bootcut are a nice pairing because the weight and shape of the wedge balances the width of the leg. 

I’ll be featuring these earrings by Argento Vivo throughout the season. They are reversible hoops so you can quickly switch from gold to silver, depending on your outfit. And they are under $70

Finally, you can’t go wrong with a high quality, classically shaped black bag with a little tonal texture. This black bag by Gigi New York is an investment. I so appreciate it not being covered in logos, BUT  you can have it monogrammed which makes my preppy heart sing.

Another look I created a few years back (in case you still have these pieces) shows the timelessness of this combination. 

Outfit from Wear to Work: Perfect Tweed Blazer 

Column of Color

Classic Red Blazers for Work

Image from Red Blazer Outfit for Work

Creating a column of color is an old trick that helps you build a uniform-like look. Pick any black layering top, like a shell or sleeveless black blouse, pair with your favorite black pants, and add any topper in a complimentary color.

Here, I used the classic combination of black and red. You can see how the black buttons in the red blazer pull the look together. For fun and interest, I used these popular tortoise print heels instead of the standard black pump.

Suiting Separates 

Well Dressed - How to Wear Spanx Perfect Black Skinny Pants to Work

Image from How to Wear Spanx Perfect Pants to Work 

Pro tip: Never break up a suit and wear it as a separate. Proper suits (bought together, cut from the same fabric, etc.) are designed to be worn together. Once you break it apart, you’ll notice that it doesn’t feel right. You’re likely pairing it with the wrong fabric, or the shape of the jacket is not matching the shape of the bottoms. 

Instead, have better separates in your closet so you can create suit-like looks with more mix and match versatility. 

Here, a casual yet structured blazer is over a pair of skinny leg black pants. The jacket has a bit of texture, the shoes are a brushed suede, and the bag has quilting details. These small elements come together to give what is a relatively simple look, a level of complexity. 

Moto Jacket 

Outfit from How to Wear a Moto Jacket to Work 

Because moto jackets look best when worn open, throw one over your black column of color for an updated, edgy yet still professional look. The moto jacket we featured yesterday from Ann Taylor would work perfectly here.

Simple Sweater 

There is nothing as basic as black pants with a sweater. But how do you take it from boring to a styled look?
Here, it’s about fit and a sophisticated color pairing, as I did here with black and camel, and below in black and red, and then add lux (not necessarily expensive) accessories.In any look, impeccable fit is the absolute most crucial element. It doesn’t matter if your pants are $50 or $500; fit is what creates that well-dressed look.

The same goes for quality. Buy the best you can afford and take care of your clothes. When you wear simple pieces, the fit and quality take center stage and make or break your look.

Here, we elevate the look ever so slightly with a pattern loafer in a slim profile, and bold gold tone jewelry.  

Or, you can keep it simple like this red and black look below and focus once again on fit and grooming. By adding a bold lip, oversized sunglasses and a dramatic coat, you can take this  outfit from nothing special to rather glamorous. 

Outfit from Waterproof Boots for the Office 


Lots of Layers

Outfit from Wear to Work: Burgundy Sweater Blazer 

Keep black pants from looking lifeless by adding seasonal layers, like this collarless sweater blazer from J. Crew (still available in an array of colors). It’s a nice alternative to the more formal looking blazers, mix in a scarf and interesting layering piece for more depth. 

Texture and Details 

Don’t be afraid to add texture and pattern to black pants. This instantly elevates the style factor, especially in the fall. 

Below are a few examples of looks created over the years that lean away from the traditional black/white, red, camel combination and mixes things up. 

Outfit from Wear to Work: Lace and Leopard

Wearing a blouse and pair of pants to the office is just about as standard as it gets. After a while, though, you can start to feel uninspired. That’s why having a closet full of interesting basics is the key to creating a composed work appropriate outfit, that is still easy to throw on.

Everything about today’s look is simple, but with the exception of the pants, each piece has something extra.  It’s these extra details that add the interest needed to create a cohesive outfit.

Luxe Fabrics

Outfit from How to Wear a Velvet Blazer to Work 

I found this velvet blazer and was inspired to create a look I would wear to a formal work event. It’s just elevated enough. The cut and style keep it professional, while the velvet adds a bit of drama without being over the top.

By pairing it with workplace staples, you won’t look like you are wearing a special occasion piece.  The whole look is thoughtful, chic and effortless. Best of all, most of the pieces can be worn several different ways so you get the most out of your purchases. 

Our Content is Inspired by Our Readers

Our readership inspires all of our posts and is not sponsored or paid for by brands or retailers. 

Recommendations are based on my experience as a personal stylist View Post and wardrobe consultant for over a decade. I worked with busy, down-to-earth women who wanted to look chic and feel confident but were often confused by so much of retail. 

Some links are affiliate links, which means if you purchase via our site, we receive a small commission.

If you enjoy our content and would like to help us grow, please consider following on Instagram and join our Private Facebook Group to access more advice and exclusive in-depth conversations with other like-minded women.

10 Ways to Wear Black Dress Pants to Work10 Ways to Wear Black Dress Pants to Work

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Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

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Libby C

Wednesday 30th of September 2020

I really like the advice about not splitting up a suit! It's so true. Your ideas on how to change up the black pant outfit are inspiring!


Wednesday 30th of September 2020

I love all the looks, however, I hate keeping a jacket on all the time. I know this was about pants, but if I am wearing long pants and shoes, I will be cold in a sleeveless tank. Is it just me or are the cutest dressier options all sleeveless? I would love some suggestions for short or 3/4 sleeve tops to wear under a jacket.

Dail A Ciani

Wednesday 30th of September 2020

I agree and my situation is a little different. I wear a lab coat all day at work so a jacket is not an option. would love ideas for tops, 3/4 sleeve or long to wear under a lab coat or alone.


Wednesday 30th of September 2020

You know I am all about black dress pants! This was perfect! Thank you!


Wednesday 13th of February 2019

Do you have any suggestions for nice earrings (small gold hoops, studs) that are quality but not over $1000? I'm looking more for $100. Is that automatically going to mean cheap junk?

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 13th of February 2019

Hey Sarah, It doesn't necessarily mean "junk." We've featured many more affordable options over the last year. If you want real gold, I would look to a local jeweler in your neighborhood. They tend to have a nice assortment of basic gold hoops and a range of prices. Plus, you'd be supporting a local business.

QVC is another option, I frequently wear these inexpensive studs.

If you wanted a better costume piece, I'd go with something like these Kenneth Jay Lane hoops.


Wednesday 13th of February 2019

While I have finally gotten used to skinny jeans/pants, I am really thankful that boot cut is coming back. Love this look!

Megan Kristel

Wednesday 13th of February 2019

Same! It's nice to finally have some variety!