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September 25, 2013 at 4:34 PM

Often ho-hum, pants move into the spotlight this fall with new cuts and patterns


By Samantha Critchell / The Associated Press

Pants are always popular, especially with real women with real lives to lead, but they rarely spark a lot of excitement. What can you do with two legs and a waistband, after all?

More than you think, responds the fashion industry this fall.

“Pants feed back into the overarching idea of personal style,” says Samira Nasr, fashion director at Elle magazine. “There really is a choice in how adventurous you want to be.”

She adds: “Pants are the go-to because they are the most comfortable thing, they look good and they are a functional garment.”

Still, can you get the compliments with pants that you always seem to receive when you wear a new dress?

Absolutely, says designer Nanette Lepore: Find your fit and a good tailor, and the kind words will come.

A teenager or young 20-something who probably mostly wears jeans or shorts has never really lived through a high-fashion pants moment, she says. This is her chance.

She can break away from leggings or skinny jeans — or at least try them in prints — and she should try the relaxed track-pant silhouette that has broken out as a trend, says Lepore, who designs a youthful line for JCPenney called L’Amour.

“I have them on today,” she says. “I wear them with a nice peasant top … but most girls will wear them with a simple T-shirt.”

For a more sophisticated customer, she recommends clean, slim-leg trousers paired with a tailored suit jacket.

As for a wide-leg option, it’s out there, and Nasr predicts there will be even more of them next spring. But she adds that they’re an acquired taste and won’t be for everyone.

Lepore says women “just love skinny pants. We will put other things on the runway, like that soft pant, which morphed into a cargo pant, but I don’t see a flared leg coming back anytime soon.”

The jumpsuit, however, is ripe for a return, says designer Abi Ferrin, who spent three years retooling the silhouette to create one she thought would work for her own more curvy shape.

Ferrin is better known for her dresses, but she really wanted the jumpsuit in her repertoire.

“It seems scary until you try it on, but you put it on, and put on a tall shoe, and it looks great,” Ferrin says. “It’s work upfront, but it’s one and done. You get the ease of pants, but all you have to do is add earrings and a cuff bracelet.”

Trying on pants is something many women dread, says Devina Foley, vice president of merchandising at retailer Loft. She’s been dubbed “the pants whisperer,” as she has worked with chief style director Alia Ahmed-Yahia to overhaul the design and fit of the company’s pants.

“There are a lot of women who need to hire a baby sitter because they know it’s going to take them so long to get pants,” says Foley. It doesn’t have to be that way; it could be a five-minute transaction, she says.

The last time pants were a must-have for the important fall shopping season was about five years ago, and there has been improvement in fabric technology since then.

There are good options in wool and cotton that allow for some drape but still have a smoothing effect, Foley says.

At Loft, the waistband also has become a little wider to create the look of a flatter middle, and the side seam down the leg has been moved forward slightly so the front looks slimmer.

When shoppers find a pant they like, they buy multiples, Foley says, which they don’t do with a dress or a skirt. Although most pants are not as exciting as a cool printed shirt or expensive-looking necklace, Nasr says you need that perfect basic canvas.

“I take comfort in the fact that a great pair of pants is a great pair of pants,” she says.

Photos: L’Amour Nanette Lepore Jeggings, $30 at JCPenney; Lilka Arrowhead Palazzo Pants, $88 at Anthropologie; H&M Jumpsuit, $60; Topshop Reptile Print Jogging Pants, $70 at Nordstrom; Loft Marisa Plaid Ankle Pants, $80





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