Photo: Courtesy of retailers
Whether you work in a high-powered office, run around the city all day for meetings, or freelance from your couch, having a go-to pair of black work pants to throw on when you need to look professional is a must. “Black work pants are a staple in any closet and should stand the test of time,” says freelance stylist Ansley Morgan. “But the lack of size-inclusive options means it is hard to find clothing that is high quality.” So we talked to her and 11 other plus-size women, whose jobs run the gamut from photographer to fashion stylist to entrepreneur to CEO, about the work pants they rely on for their day jobs and side hustles. Read on for their favorites, including high-waisted trousers, breezy culottes, and even a pair of polished-looking jeans. A note that all of the pants on this list fit at least a size 20, with some accommodating up to a size 40 (we’ve noted which have extended sizes in individual blurbs).
Best under-$100 plus-size black work pants
The consensus among the cool people we talked to is that Universal Standard is the, well, standard-bearer when it comes to plus-size workwear, and three styles, vetted by six different women, appear throughout this list at different price points. According to writer and life coach Reneice Charles, “Universal Standard is known for their quality, style, and size inclusivity,” so they’re a good retailer to start with when trying to find the perfect pair of black work pants. She calls their high-waist Moro Pocket Ponte Pants (which are available in sizes 00 to 40) her “go-to pants” and a “foundational piece” of her wardrobe. The mid-weight Ponte fabric is also pill-, wrinkle-, and crease-resistant, so it’s especially great if you have to travel for work. Another fan of these pants is Strategist contributor Maya Kosoff, who told us she was “pants-allergic” until she discovered them. Kosoff describes the fit like this: “The waistband lay flat around my hips. The legs were slim but still breathable. The cuffs tapered so nicely around my ankle.” Interested buyers should know that Universal Standard has a “Fit Liberty” guarantee, so if your size goes up or down within the year, you can return the item you’ve purchased for a brand new pair, and the company will donate your old pants to First Step and Dress for Success.
Eloquii is another brand that got name-checked as a go-to source for plus-size work pants (with four women mentioning various styles by name). “Eloquii is my go-to brand for work attire,” says brand consultant and entrepreneur Megan Ixim, who likes how their pieces straddle the line between “trendy and timeless.” Lifestyle and fashion blogger Ashley Carter pointed us to this particular pair of black work pants, saying “The Eloquii Kady Fit Pant is worth every penny because the fabric is so high quality, the pants keep their shape, and they come in three fits.” Ashby Vose, the head of brand at plus-size contemporary label Ori, agrees: “The Kady Fit Pant is Eloquii’s signature work pant, they’ve offered it for years and have perfected the fit.” The pants’ three fits break down as follows, according to Vose: The Classic Fit is designed for proportionate hourglass shapes and goes up to a 26, the Viola Fit is designed for those who wear a larger size on bottom than on top and goes up to a 28, and the Gena Fit is designed for those who carry their weight in their midsection with smaller hips and thighs and goes up to a 28. The pants are also available in tall, regular, and short lengths, so they’ll fit a variety of heights as well as sizes. In addition to black, they come in six colors with matching blazers for suiting, too.
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Ixim pointed us to Eloquii’s 9-to-5 Stretch Work Pant, saying they have “a nice stretch” that makes them comfortable all day long. They go up to a size 28, and, like the Kady pant, are available in regular, tall, and short lengths.
Both model Isabelle Yong and plus-size fashion blogger-slash-dancer Tanvi Geetha Ravishankar love these high-rise pants from Torrid, which accommodate up to a size 30. “As a plus-size girl, I will highly recommend keeping a pair of black palazzo pants in your wardrobe, because they accentuate the length of your legs,” regardless of how tall you are. Ravishankar agrees and adds that she appreciates how the high waist and wide leg feel retro, but still modern enough to look professional.
Two of the cool people we talked to also praised J.C. Penney’s Worthington line for its affordable options. Arianne Thigpen, a fashion blogger and co-founder of Austin–based community Curvy in Austin, told us she has always relied on the Worthington line for work attire and particularly loves the Ponte Straight Pull-On Pants — which go up to a 5XL, or 34 — because “they’re basically thick, fancy leggings.” Model and fashion blogger Sabrina Servance also recommends these, noting that the already reasonably priced pants often go on clearance (and when they do, she buys two pairs at a time).
For another affordable pair, try Target’s Ava & Viv line, which makes a pair of mid-rise work pants that Servance says are “perfectly cropped.” They go up to a size 30 waist and are also available in gray, navy, and khaki.
“I recommend the Power Pockets Allie Sexy Stretch Ankle Pant, which goes up to a 28, because they are universally flattering,” says Carter, adding that these Lane Bryant pants provide enough stretch to contour your curves while still being comfortable to wear throughout the day. “Plus, they are the perfect length for any work shoe, whether it is a flat or heel.”
If you want the same stretchy material, but prefer a wide-leg silhouette, Carter also loves these Lane Bryant pants, which go up to a 28. “If you’re looking for a pant that can help slim the hips of a pear shape or balance an apple shape, this is perfect,” she promises. Plus, these have a no-gap waist, “which is every girl’s dream,” she adds.
For more casual offices, the right pair of black jeans can also serve as a workplace wardrobe staple. According to TheCurvyCon co-founder Chastity Garner Valentine, these Straight Leg Jeans from Loft have a lot of versatility and could be worn both for casual work events and weekend outings. “I love the structure and tailored look that Loft denim has,” she says. “There is a good mix of stretch for comfort and structure for the look.” They’re available in sizes 14 to 22.
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Thigpen said that while these may appear to be a basic pair of black pants, they actually have some fun details like “the front slash pockets (which won’t gap), and the belt loops, which give you a chance to add a pop of color with a bright belt.” They go up to a size 24 and, right now, are 40 percent off.
If you know your workday is going to be bookended by a lot of running around town and need to prioritize comfort, Yong suggests these elastic-waist culottes from Asos, which comes in sizes 14, 16, 18, and 20. She told us she likes that they have an attached ribbon belt, which keeps them looking polished without feeling tight or restrictive in any way.
Morgan swears by Brass Clothing’s “comfortable and chic” All-Day Pant, which she says is “like wearing your pajamas to work” (in terms of comfort, not appearance). The pants have “a waistband that sits just where you want it,” she adds, and go up to a size 3XL or 26. (The brand recommends sizing down if you are between sizes.) “These are a high-quality pair of pants at a reasonable price,” Morgan assures.
If you work in a more creative space, Ravishankar pointed us to these uber-cool vegan leather pants from Eloquii. She suggests pairing them with a sheer blouse and a nice pair of sandals. Normally, these would fall in the below category, but right now, they’re half off (which makes for a good time to snag them if you like them). They are available up to a size 28.
Best under-$150 plus-size black work pants
“An ankle-length cigarette pant is a timeless classic, offering a tailored look that is perfect for work,” says Vose, who also cites Universal Standard as a go-to workwear destination for sizes 00 to 40. She told us she is also extremely impressed that these pants are available in petite sizing as well (in sizes 6 to 32), which is rare, according to her. Morgan is another fan and adds that the “slim fit, ankle-length pants are the epitome of sleek workwear,” noting that they can be dressed up or down, and worn both to the office and to after-work drinks. Photographer and plus-size model Jessy Parr agrees, saying, “Dressed down, they give off a bit of a ’50s vibe that I love. Dressed up, they still have a little something about them.”
Parr says that her other favorite work pants are these pleated culottes. “These feel so luxurious without the price tag,” she says. The billowy pants — which go up to a 4XL or 28 — are made with breathable twill and have a high waist, subtle pleating in the front, and an elastic waistband in the back for added comfort.
According to Charles, “On the rare occasion that I find dress pants that look chic and stylish but feel like loungewear, I’m immediately devoted to them for life.” She told us that is exactly the case with these Jibri Slacks. She loves the high-waisted, wide-leg silhouette and promises, “They’re so versatile.” The brand sizes their clothes using a 0-to-4 scale, which is equivalent to a 10 through a 28.
Best under-$200 plus-size black work pants
Ixim, like many others, called out Universal Standard for its “inclusive sizing and masterful design work,” saying that she happens to love these wool trousers as a “practical and sophisticated” workwear option. The wool suiting fabric and figure-skimming silhouette would look at home in even the most high-powered office setting. Like all the brand’s clothes, they’re available up to a size 40.
Morgan praised Eileen Fisher for its commitment to sustainable, plus-size fashion with a focus on “elevated basics that create the perfect base for your wardrobe.” Her favorite Flex Tencel Ponte Straight pants have a structured silhouette and a Tencel knit fabric that gives off a luxurious sheen even though it’s actually a knit. “This means they are fancy enough to wear to work, but comfy enough that you will want to wear them outside of your nine-to-five,” Morgan assures. They go up to a 3XL, or a 22, and the Tencel fabric is made from responsibly harvested trees, according to the brand.
Servance calls this stretchy, high-waisted pair of jeans from Good American “magical” for their well-designed fit and ability to accentuate her curves. The pants — which go up to a size 24 — also have some thoughtful features like a gap-proof waistband and reinforced belt loops. And they’re also available in a crop version if you’re looking for a warm-weather pair.
If you prefer your jeans to have more of a flared leg, try AYR Dynamite Jeans, which Lauren Chan, the founder and CEO of luxury plus-size brand Henning, recommended to us in our best plus-size jeans roundup. “These jeans bring luxury to the plus-size-denim space — and I feel chicer and sharper when I put them on,” she says. “Plus, the black hasn’t faded and I’ve had them for a year.” They are available in sizes 14 to 24.
Best splurge-worthy plus-size black work pants
Speaking of Henning, Vose is a big fan of its Bank Pants, which go up to a size 24. While she notes that they aren’t cheap, she promises that they’re worth the investment because they offer key design features like a hidden elastic-back waist, which prevents gapping and reinforced inner thighs, so “chub rub can’t destroy your favorite work pants.” They’re sure to “feel comfortable and long-lasting,” she says.