5 Ways to Wear Black Cigarette Pants: Desk to Dinner

I’ve got a new 5 Ways to Wear series in the works and this one features a wardrobe classic — black cigarette pants.

For this series, rather than posting every day for a week, I’m going to do one post each week — hopefully every Thursday for the next five weeks. That way it won’t get quite so redundant, but I can give each outfit a full post.

Cigarette pants are slim-cut pants with a high waist, side or back zipper, flat abdomen area, and a narrow leg opening that end at or just above the ankle.

They became popular back in the 50’s — think Mary Tyler Moore, Audrey Hepburn, and Sandra Dee — and they’ve since become a classic wardrobe staple that can easily be dressed up or down.

These pants are the Banana Republic Devon legging-fit washable bi-stretch ankle pants. Whew! That’s a mouthful.

They have a sleek side-zip so there’s no added bulk in the front, and they definitely fit close to the leg, but I don’t find them to fit like leggings, despite their name.

That said, if you want a pair that isn’t quite as fitted through the leg, the 1901 4-way stretch skinny ankle pants at Nordstrom are a nice choice. Both pairs come in black and navy, and I recommend sizing up if in between. I have a size 8 in both.

For a more upscale pair of cigarette pants, check out M.M. LaFleur’s The Foster Pant (the length is actually adjustable!) And the Veronica Beard scuba pants come highly recommended from several JLS readers — they’re a little bit shorter than the rest.

Shop Cigarette Pants:

Yesterday we talked about quality garments, and I mentioned that natural fibers are generally preferable to synthetics. That said, there is a time and a place for synthetics, and cigarette pants are definitely one of those pieces that benefit from a little stretch.

These BR Devon pants are 47% cotton, 44% rayon, 9% elastane. (The 1901 pants are similar — 52% cotton, 42% rayon, 6% spandex.) In my opinion, this is a nice compromise.

The cotton content gives them a nice finish and allows them to breathe, the rayon gives them a silky texture so they’re dressier than a pure cotton pant, and the elastane gives them some stretch for ease of movement and shape retention.

Neither of these pants is lined, but that’s pretty typical for pants with this much spandex. They don’t feel as nice against the skin as a lined pant would, but the fabric is dense, so they don’t cling or show through. Also, both of these pants are machine washable.

For this first post in the series, I paired my black cigarette pants with a leopard teddie sweater and black suede pumps for a chic work wear look.

These pumps are perfect for work because the pointy toe is flattering, but the chunky 2.5″ heel is practical and very walkable.

Unfortunately, this sweater sold out a while ago, but the idea here is to pair black cigarette pants with a printed sweater that can be the focal point of the outfit.

I think a fine-gauge knit works best because it is more refined and work-appropriate than a chunkier knit, but it all depends on the look you’re going for. A chunkier knit would be a little more casual.

Leopard and other animal prints are trending right now, so I was able to round up some other options that are still in stock, or perhaps you have something like this in your closet already.

Shop Leopard Tops:

You could add a blazer for extra interest, or to break up some of the animal print, but I don’t have one, and I kind of like the simple look.

I went with classy silver hoops and a black satchel to complete this office-appropriate outfit.

If you want to take this look from the desk to dinner, simply throw on a leather jacket, and you’re good to go!

Or, if you want to take it up another notch, you could swap out the conservative pumps for sock boots.

The leather jacket adds an edgy vibe, and the boots are a little more modern and fun than the pumps, but either works.

The nice thing about these boots is the shaft is very slim and fits close to the leg, so you can pull the pants down over top for a long, lean leg line.

They’re also extremely comfortable to walk in. The heel is 3.75″, but it really doesn’t feel like it, and the neoprene makes the boots soft and stretchy against the foot, plus they have a padded footbed.

Because the pants have a fairly high rise and no button/zip, I left the sweater untucked, but that’s a matter of personal preference.

If you don’t like wearing prints, a classic cashmere turtleneck in a flattering color would also be nice with this outfit — especially with the leather jacket and sock boots. And you could always throw on leopard print or snake print shoes to get that print in there somewhere.

Stay tuned for a more casual way to wear black cigarette pants… coming next week!

Outfit Details:

similar sweater // pants // similar leather jacket (budget option) // pumps (also at Nordstrom; budget option) // sock boots (budget option) // earrings (option) // satchel

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photos: Alison Cornell

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16 Responses

  1. I LOVE this outfit!  I really like how you can make it work whether you’re very conservative or more edgy in dress preferences.  

    Have a great day!   

  2. Great outfit! I bought the leopard sweater even though I prefer a V neck and don’t usually wear prints and I’ve been surprised how often I’ve worn it. And I’ve worn it with black knit pants but they have typical jean styling. I’m loving the side-zip pants. I think the style takes the outfit up a notch.

  3. I have pieces in my wardrobe to create this beautiful look.  Thank you, JoLynne, for showing varying price points!!  I have the Bernardo leather jacket (at JoLynne’s recommendation) and it will be a favorite for years!  

  4. This is pretty much what I wear to work if I’m not in jeans. I teach adult ESL courses in Austria, so this is kind of my uniform in winter if I happen to be teaching at a bank or insurance company. For teaching at other types of companies, I tend to go more casual since my customers might be coming straight from the production line.

  5. Great outfit I can duplicate, except for the pumps or sock boots. I received the pants the other day and they fit great. I have the JCrew Factory leopard sweater from last year. I do like this year’s darker color better but since I already had one, I didn’t buy another. The pant is a nice quality and I needed a pant like this in my wardrobe. 

  6. What a beautiful and classic outfit!  Thank you for explaining what cigarette pants are.  I have two pair of black pants in my closet that I’d say are cigarette pants except that they pull on.  And the way they look from the back, I prefer a loner top to cover my backside.  Have a fabulous day!

  7. I love cigarette pants. They have a nice clean aesthetic that lends itself to various scenarios. I always pack a pair for a cruise. I can dress them up at night (heels/nice top) or wear them during the day with runners & a more casual top. 

  8. I have the same J Crew sweater and similar pants. I love wearing it with a bright solid long scarf. Come to think of it…I think I will wear that tomorrow!


  9. Did you take your regular size in these? Debating size to get in BR Devon legging. I’m 5’3” so thinking short length. Now to decide petite or regular. I hate how sometimes the petite doesn’t fit in the crotch area. You know what I mean?  Feels long. It’s nice to have options but when ordering Im not sure. I wear size 4 in Loft. So I’m thinking regular in short length size 4. Some review people say run small and some say size down. :(. 

  10. You slayed this outfit Jo-Lynne! The boots and pants are perfect combination and I love how you match it with leopard sweater. Will definitely try this one!

  11. The pants are so flattering on you and I love the sweater. Are the pumps on the narrow side?  I have had a tough time finding nice medium height black pumps for my narrow feet and I know you’ve said you also run narrow!  Really enjoying your site, have a great Saturday!

  12. Like they say the classics never go out of fashion. These cigarette pants are a perfect example, made for every occasion, you can just pair them up with anything.

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