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Are You White Pant Phobic? Let Me Share My Secrets…

Every spring, as the temperatures rise, the question of white pants comes up.  Either you live in them all summer or you are intimidated by them and keep them firmly at bay.

If you have banished white pants from your summer wardrobe you are missing a great opportunity to lighten up your wardrobe and add a summer feel.  Sure, there are pitfalls to overcome before you welcome them into your closet, but I promise these pitfalls are not so overwhelming that you have to exorcise white pants altogether.

I am going to help you bust through the typical misconceptions about wearing white pants so you will feel confident and excited to wear them.

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, single 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.

My clients range in size from 2 to 3X.  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 a 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 is 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.  If you feel like a dirt-magnet, then it will be important to buy white pants you can wash as opposed to have 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 try bleaching them to see if that will obliterate the stain, go get another pair (and refrain from eating blueberry pie while wearing them) or you can always give up on white pants.  Just don’t give up on them before you’ve tried them!  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.

Tips For Choosing Your Go-To White Pants

Choose Your Fabric Wisely

  • Start with denim: 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.

  • Consider linen:  Linen is one of the coolest fabrics, but it has two big drawbacks.
    • The see-through factor of linen is often off the charts.  You can always find lined linen pants but that sometimes defeats the purpose of wearing linen–which is to stay cool.
    • It wrinkles within seconds.  It’s inevitable.  If you wear linen, you will wrinkle.  Just accept it and wear it or leave it at the store.  It helps if the linen is blended with something else so the wrinkle factor is controlled a bit.  No one is ambivalent about 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.
  • Give them some breathing room. 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.

3 Tips for Styling White Pants

Balance is key: If the pants are skinny, wear a looser top.  If they are a wider trouser-style, keep the top more fitted.  Here are two examples:

White linen/lyosell pants:

Pair with a fitted top like this:

White jeans:

Pair fitted jeans with a floaty top like this:

If you wear white capris, be sure to read my last blog post on ‘How to Look Great in Cropped Pants

Wear the right underwear.  

Wear skin tone underwear.  The last thing you want is people staring at your butt because you can see polka dots or purple underwear.  Even white undergarments will shine through like a neon sign.  A surprising other option is red undergarments!  For some reason I can’t explain, red will disappear underneath white.  Try it and see!

What shoes will you wear with white?

You don’t have to wear white shoes with white pants.  In fact, depending on the shoes, I would recommend avoiding it.  White strappy sandals are fine because you are seeing a lot of skin.  A white pump can make it look like you are wearing marshmallows on your feet.

When in doubt choose metallic shoes.  They

  • Feel lighter than wearing a dark color.
  • Go with everything so no worries about matching or clashing with other colors in your outfit.

Here are three examples:

Silver Thong Sandal:

If you want a white sandal, make it strappy and here it is mixed with a soft animal print:

Or even a metallic wedge pump is great with white pants (and jeans!):

The most important thing is that white does not have to be your nemesis.  Embrace it.  Start with a pair of well-fitting white jeans using all the tools above and see what you think.  You just might have fun with it and look great…in fact, I’d bet on it!

Do you wear white pants in the summer?  If so (or if not), please share on my blog.


4 Responses

  1. Great article Ginger! I’ve always shied away from white pants, but now I’m ready to go out and find a fabulous pair of white jeans. Can’t wait. Thanks for the inspiration. Oh and pairing it with metallic shoes is brilliant! Now just to figure out the jewelry — I bet I can find something fabulous. Smiles.

  2. I spent a long time without white pants. They looked good on other people, but I didn’t think I could pull them off. The linen ones were too sheer, and the denim were too heavy. It took me a couple of years, but I finally found some cropped white jeans that are the right weight and shape for me. Got them actually at Old Navy last year. And you’re right about buying season – you have to get them before it’s really summer, else they are gone! I have a pair of lined, white slacks, but almost never wear them. Mostly because the lining makes them way too hot in Louisiana. And, they are dry clean, so it’s hard to eat out in them. I’m afraid of sitting in something…


    1. We sound like twins, Amy! I can’t stand see-through pants and jeans can sometimes be too hot during the the hottest part of the summer and linings…yikes…defeats the purpose. So glad you found some and how great that they were at Old Navy! You can freely sit in them and not worry about ruining them 🙂

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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.