I am delighted with the shift away from skinny jeans and tightfitting pants to looser styles. But I am stumped on what to wear on top with wide pants. Wearing a school uniform for 13 years has made me allergic to anything too stiff, but I also want to look professional. What is the best way to negotiate proportions? — Lauren, Fort Wayne, Ind.
When Levi’s declared the death of skinny jeans in the summer of 2021, there was both denial (skinny jeans forever!) and celebration (finally!). Whatever camp you fell into, however, it’s true that baggy, oversize pants are staging a comeback, in part because of the Covid-sparked focus on comfortwear, and in part because, as Laura Brown, the editor and creative consultant, said, there’s something about the swish of that much fabric around the legs that can make you “feel very ‘stride-y.’”
They are like power pants and comfort pants at the same time! (It’s the fashion equivalent of having your cake and eating it too.)
But it’s also true that when you are thinking about what to wear with oversize pants, the answer is, to quote Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War,” aim to be “perfectly balanced, as all things should be.”
That means that if you are going big on the bottom, you should go smaller on top: cropped, skinny or shrunken. (Just as the inverse is true: Oversize shirts go well with leggings.) If you do want more volume on top, make sure there’s at least a suggestion of a waist. If left untucked, an oversize shirt atop oversize pants will make you look like a blob.
Still, there are a lot of options. Hillary Taymour, the founder of Collina Strada, whose wide-leg cargo pants have become front row staples, and who is herself a regular wearer of oversize pants, suggests starting with “a slim sweater or pullover to help give you the comfort level to start trying more daring things.”
“I layer lots of tightfitting tops for texture — think lace or mesh — with my wide legs,” she said. “Also try cropped jackets to help with proportion for fall.”
Ms. Brown said she liked to pair her big pants with a loose, short-sleeve floral shirt. “My favorites are by the Californian brand Dôen (very Birkin and Bardot) and also Etro men’s for a great paisley and funky ’70s colors,” she said. “Zimmermann does fun, girlish ones, too.” (For less expensive versions, try Anthropologie, Reformation and J. Crew.)
Coincidentally, Jeffery Kalinsky, Theory’s new creative officer, just unveiled his first distilled group of “wardrobe basics” for the label — and included in that category a boxy little camp shirt in a bonded satin that paired neatly with low-slung slouchy trousers. The line also included a shrunken one-button blazer that topped off the same. It’s not quite the golden ratio, but in wardrobe terms, it’s pretty close.
Your Style Questions, Answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.