Perfect Black Pants

We found the best ones, so you don't have to.

Great black pants are the ultimate fashion cure. They make you look thin when you feel fat. They go with almost everything in your closet. They feel as comfortable as jeans but add polish.

Finding the perfect pair isn’t always easy. But this size-two reporter grabbed two friends—one a size eight, the other size ten—and hit the stores.

Each woman had a different agenda: The size eight wanted pants with a waist that didn’t ride up—and irritate her belly-button ring. At just under five-foot-five, I wanted pants that made me look taller, while my size-ten friend was after comfort.

Department stores tended to have the widest selection. Boutiques had a smaller, albeit trendier, stock. Chains such as Benetton and Ann Taylor often had good sales on basic black pants.

A few observations after trying on dozens of pairs: Side pockets add unnecessary bulk. Unexpected details like extra-wide belt loops were appreciated, and a touch of spandex made for the most forgiving fit.

Here are the pants that proved to be our favorites:

• Emi pants from Tahari (style EU7MV21U), $198. A blend of polyester, wool, and spandex, these pants were my favorite because of a flattering 2½-inch decorative waistband with double belt loops. The cut made my legs look long and lean, which made me feel inches taller (the pants did need hemming). Available at area Bloomingdale’s.

• Audrey pants at Ann Taylor (style 139457), $128. The size-eight, five-foot-five woman in our group loved these pants, made from triacetate and polyester. They were classic enough for the office yet hip enough for a dance club. And stretchy enough to accommodate a healthy backside.

• 850 pants from United Colors of Benetton (style 4850S6075), $69. These poly-viscose-blend pants made the size ten (size 46 in Benetton’s sizing) very happy. A thick waistband with front- and side-button closures was slimming. (The pants did need hemming on her five-foot-four frame.) The material hung like thick fabric but was breathable and light, with an element of stretch. They felt like wool without the itch.

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