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