Are You White Pant Phobic? Here’s My Secret!

June 14, 2013

The Secret to Wearing White PantsLast night I was shopping with a small group of women. Everyone was looking for fun summer looks in anticipation of a warm, glorious summer. As expected, the question of white pants came up. Some said they live in them all summer. Others said they are afraid of them, and still others said they had never thought to buy a pair. The one thing that was very clear was that there are a lot of misconceptions around white pants and part of that is because there are a number of pitfalls you want to avoid if you choose to wear them.

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So, let’s talk about white pants and address some familiar questions. Before we get to that, however, let’s talk about why white pants are so handy. That’s easy. Many of us, especially if we live in a cooler climate, build our wardrobes around black, brown or navy pants or jeans. These dark neutrals are easy and provide a good foundation upon which to build a versatile wardrobe. Of course, in the past few seasons colored pants have been gaining popularity, but not many people I know are banishing all their dark neutral pants in favor of bright colors.

So, where do white pants fit in?

They instantly add a lighter, more summery feel to an outfit. This is especially helpful for people whose best, most flattering colors are deep and rich. In the summer, if you pair your deep, rich colors with black pants, you feel heavy, wintery and out of sync with the season. Now, imagine changing your black pants to white and wear the same deep, rich colors near your face. You instantly add radiance and lightness to an otherwise dark outfit. Ahhh, an immediate sense of lightness surrounds you.

Great, you say, but I don’t wear white pants. They look terrible on me. That’s where the rest of this discussion comes in.

My suggestion, before you dismiss white pants entirely, is to keep reading. It might just change your mind. Believe me, I hear from clients all the time that they don’t wear white pants. And, then, with the right pair in the right fabric and paired with the perfect top, the results are magical … every time.

Debunking the top two reasons for not wearing white pants

I’ve heard all the excuses for not wearing white pants. In fact, I’ve heard them over and over. It’s doubtful you find it surprising to hear the top two reasons women don’t wear white pants:

  • I’m too heavy and they’ll draw attention to my lower body.
  • I’m bound to spill something on them immediately and then they’ll be ruined.

At the shopping event the women there ranged in size from 4 to 2X. As it turns out, every one of them looks great in white pants. Often I find that when a woman gains weight she immediately resorts to black and other dark colors on bottom to (in her estimation) camouflage her lower half. Sure, that can work to some extent, but it’s not the only way. There are plenty of people who look disproportionately larger on bottom even when they are wearing black pants. It’s not completely about color. It’s also about fit and styling.  A well-crafted outfit that includes white pants can easily be as slimming (or even more slimming) than an haphazardly tossed together outfit containing black pants. Not convinced?  In a minute we will talk about some of the pitfalls and styling tricks to choose a great pair of white pants.

But, first let’s talk about the dirt factor. Sure, there’s no getting around the fact that white pants will show dirt more readily than black pants. I also suggest you could be surprised by how long they last relatively dirt-free. You might also be sure that the white pants you get can be washed as opposed to dry-cleaned. That way you can toss them in the laundry at the first signs of any marks and save constant dry cleaning fees (and fewer chemicals).

Not to mention that it’s not the end of the world if you get a pair of white pants and they get irrevocably stained. You either go get another pair (and refrain from eating blueberry pie while wearing them) or you give up on white pants (I recommend the former option). I rarely hear of one of my clients (even those with small children) saying that they ruin every pair of white pants. It’s possible, but unlikely. So, why let that keep you from experimenting with a potentially terrific summer look.

Here are some tips for choosing your go-to white pants:

Choose your fabric wisely. My favorite white pants are white jeans. This is true for several reasons.

  • Denim is heavy enough (even the lighter weight denim) so that you don’t have to worry about the see-through factor.
  • Denim is durable and washes easily.
  • These days denim is versatile.  If you buy a nice pair of white jeans you can dress them up or dress them down.

On the other hand, denim can be a tad hot when the temperatures soar. In which case, you have options. Linen is one of the coolest fabrics, but the see-through factor is often off the charts. Occasionally you’ll find lined linen pants but that usually defeats the purpose of wearing linen — which is to stay cool. And, some women can’t stand the immediate wrinkling that invariably happens with linen. You either love it or hate it.

What do you do when you choose a pair of white pants and they are somewhat transparent? Three things:

  • Wear skin-tone underwear. That way there is no risk of seeing the polka dots from your favorite pair of panties peeking through.
  • Remove the pockets. Why designers put pockets in unlined linen or other lightweight/slightly sheer fabrics is beyond me. Seeing the lining of the pockets is unsightly and distracting and makes it very obvious that the pants are not opaque.
  • Do not wear these pants skin tight. If they are even the least bit sheer the tightness will leave little to the imagination. Plus, wearing them that tight undermines the main purpose of wearing linen pants which is to keep cool — air cannot circulate when the pants are glued to your body.

I replaced all of my white pants this season because the ones I had were either old styles (I’m talking several years old (see, white pants can last)), too big, too small or just uncomfortable. I now have two pairs — a skinnier jean (can’t believe I’m even saying that!) and a pair of looser ones for when the weather is hot and I don’t want to be in something too snug.

If you are wondering how to style them, here are a few ideas (click on the images for more details):


Summer outfit with white pants and vegan flats


Dressier outfit with white pants and vegan handbag


White skinny jeans with longer top and vegan sandals


What are your biggest fears around wearing white pants? Or tell me why you love them! Post a comment for a chance to win a free digital copy of my new book That’s So You!

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