Secret Yoga Pants for Work: Which Are Best?

“That outfit is not appropriate for work,” my supervisor said quietly.

“Why?”  I demanded.

In retrospect, the question was hilarious.  I was wearing a too-short orange tee shirt and black cargo pants with the sides torn and the hems worn out from where I kept stepping on them.  But I was furious.  I was humiliated.  This was my first job out of college, working for a nonprofit I believed in, and I worked really hard, I followed all the rules (I even tore through the employee guidebook searching for rules that my outfit broke), and I expected to be judged for what I did, not how I looked.

That, and other experiences like it, prompted me to study the unspoken parts of what ‘appropriate-for-work’ meant.  I wanted to keep my sense of personal style, but I didn’t want to get pulled aside by supervisors anymore.  But more specifically, that experience got me near-obsessed with finding a pair of work-appropriate pants I didn’t hate.

So are there pants out there that are work-appropriate, flattering, flexible, soft, durable, lint-resistant, machine-washable, and somewhat affordable?  No, not all at once, that’s too much to ask, but you can get a decent subset of those from Ministry of Supply, MM. LaFleur, and to a lesser extent Betabrand.  (And since the Betabrand Mondo Anniversary Sale makes their Dress Pant Yoga Pant extra affordable, I wanted to get this up even though I still haven’t gotten some answers back from Ministry of Supply.  I’ll update the post when I do.)

The tl;dr

Here are some secret yoga pants you can wear to work, their dimensions, their materials, and how they make your butt look.

NamePriceFabricInseam (Size 12)Rise (Size 12)Dat Butt
MM. LaFleur Oshima Pant$19552% Cotton, 38% Nylon, 10% Elastane.26.5 in11.375 inGreat
Ministry of Supply Structure Your Day Classic Leg Pant$105 ($55 with Friends and Family discount)94% Nylon, 6% Polyurethane 34.5 inMid-riseGood
Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pant$78 ($46.80 with Betabrand anniversary sale)Various (some combination of 3 or more of the following: Rayon, Nylon, Polyester, Cotton, and Spandex)28-34 in9 or 11.5 in (mid or high rise)Too Much

MM. LaFleur Oshima Pant

About a year ago, I bought a pair of Oshima pants despite their price tag for two reasons:

  1. I have acid reflux
  2. I have, according to fashion, stubby legs

Allow me to explain.

Pros: Really Comfy For High-Waisted Pants

High-waisted pants divide me up into flattering proportions, but my acid reflux means generally I can’t have anything tight and non-elastic on my waist.  The Oshima pant manages to be both high-waisted and generally non-constrictive on the parts of my waist that bothered my reflux.  It’s the highest-waisted of the dress pants in this category I’ve tried.

The Oshima Makes Your Butt Look Awesome

If you look at MM.LaFleur’s Oshima Pant product page, every single color has a product image of the models’ butts.  This is why.

Awesome, yet work-appropriate!

I can basically guarantee you this will make your butt look awesome.  This is the only dress pant I’ve gotten compliments on, and I’ve gotten compliments from more than one person on the fit of these.  (Also, the Oshima’s leg silhouette is kicky and fun.)

Pros: Length (If You’re Short)

The Oshima was short enough for my apparently petite-length legs.  I have to get basically all of my pants hemmed; petite size pants tend to fit me poorly, but regular-length pants are all somehow too long?  The Oshima was the only pair of slacks that fit me well off the rack.

Pros: Plus Sizes Available

MM.LaFleur recently finally launched a plus-size line as carefully fitted as their other stuff!  That’s amazingly wonderful, especially if you’ve ever had the plus-sized clothes experience of “this must mean you like leopard print sequin sacks”.  Their sizing now goes up to 22W.

Pros: Fabric and Colors

The fabric’s sturdy, stretchy, and as smooth as you can get with a matte fabric.  Of the yoga dress pants I’ve looked at, this is by far the one that looks the most like an actual dress pant in terms of fabric drape and appearance; it’s matte and it’s just structured enough to fool people.

It’s held up well to machine washings.  It also comes in more fun colors than any stretchy dress pant I’ve seen other than the Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pant.

I tried the Foster as well, but that design didn’t work well with my body shape.

Cons: Dubiously Lint Resistant

MM. LaFleur’s website advertises these pants as lint-resistant.  They might be.  However, I can tell you emphatically that they are not in the least cat-fur resistant.  These attract cat fur more than any of my other pants.

Cons: Super-Ouchy Contrast Binding (Pre-May-2017 Oshima Only)

There was a line of stiff fabric on the middle of the inner waist of the pair of Oshima pants that I bought in December 2016.   MM.LaFleur’s customer service called it contrast binding, 

Owwwww. Also, see what I mean by them attracting cat fur?

It wasn’t noticeable to me when first trying it on, but after wearing those pants for a day I virtually always ended up with a thin line of bruises around my waist.  It’s a testament to how otherwise comfortable they are that I have worn them several times despite this pretty serious design issue.

Happily, in the newest iteration of the Oshima, that line of contrast binding has been replaced with far more flexible merrow stitching!

Way less likely to injure you!

I’m a little surprised that they didn’t call out this change anywhere– MM.LaFleur usually brags on their website about fit improvements, and this is a pretty dramatic improvement.

So basically, if you have any kind of tummy and you’re looking to buy old Oshimas from a reseller, I strongly recommend double-checking when those Oshimas were made.  The ones with the interfacing will not work well for you unless you’re OK with bruises.

Cons: High Waist Highly Unflattering If You Have A Tummy

The Oshimas look great if you’re wearing something over the waist.  They have a little bit of a shapewear effect, even.

I’m deliberately wearing a thin, tight layer on top of these pants.

However, for me, the high waist of the pant was one of the primary sells, and it works poorly with the extra abdominal weight I gained through my health issues.  The Oshima fabric has enough give that it doesn’t bother my reflux much even when it covers my entire waist, but that give means it doesn’t ‘suck you in’ as much as a less comfy fabric would.  Consequently, if you have extra stomach, it is not a good look on you — especially in the light colors.  Brace yourself.

NOSHIMA.

These pants are less obscene in the Chili Flake and significantly less so in the black, but the fit issues for stomach-y ladies are the same even if you can’t see it as clearly.

Cons: Super Duper High Price

If you’re going to pay $195 for a pair of pants, they had better be the best pants in the entire world.  These are super great pants– all of the MM pants I’ve tried have been remarkably comfy and flattering, if sometimes a bit tight on my sensitive waist– but since these weren’t literally perfection in a box, back they went. 

I want to add, though, that there are legit arguments for this price– they’re made in the United States, unlike the other competitors, and MM does a lot of expensive work to ensure good fit (like scheduling extra fittings, hiring extra fit models, tweaking frequently based on customer feedback).  That doesn’t mean the vast majority of people could afford these pants, and that’s upsetting to me.

Cons: Color

The Chili Flake color of the Oshima was kind of disappointing. Instead of being that cheerful dusty orangey lipstick color I saw online, it’s a muted orangeish pinkish red:

Closest I could capture. This color photographs *really well.*

“Cons”: You Can Only Mostly Do Yoga In Them

I did actually attend a yoga class in my pair of 2016 Oshimas and they were juuuuust a tad too stiff to fully work for yoga.  

Pretty close, though.

 

Ministry of Supply Structure Your Day Classic Leg Pant

I’ve been a fan of Ministry of Supply for men for years, so I was delighted when they finally came out with a line of womenswear.  Lots of men’s lines focus on quality and durability; vanishingly few of them are willing to branch into womenswear.

What Ministry of Supply does is really especially neat.  They sit at the intersection of technology and textiles–  their clothes are all built for range of motion, and most have some additional specialization like temperature-regulating, odor-regulating, or 3D-knitted fabrics.

I have mixed feelings about Ministry of Supply’s pants, too.  Overall-fit-and-performance-wise, I think they’re the best of the secret yoga pants, but they’re not secret enough yoga pants.  The fabric they’re made of is obviously a performance fabric.

Pros: Fit

I find the Structure Your Day pant waistband comfier than the Oshima pant waistband, but partly that’s because the Oshimas are way higher-waisted and that bothers my reflux. The Structure Your Day pants are also more flattering on me overall than the Oshimas are, though the leg silhouette is less cute.

A thing to note, though: Ministry of Supply, like MM. LaFleur, is constantly iterating on its designs and the fit of its womenswear is likely to change, since they’ve just this year started their womenswear line. The fit is definitely going to change for their shirts, which is good, because their current tops are super terrible on women even with average-sized busts.  In terms of pants, I heard from the manager at a Ministry of Supply store that future women’s pants might have a thinner waistband, if that works better for you.

Pros: Cost

While $105 is a lot for dress pants, Ministry of Supply is constantly running some kind of promotion on said pants.  If you sign up for their mailing list, they’ll give you 10% off your first order, which they may or may not upgrade to 15% after a while; generally, if you buy 3 or more articles of clothing, they’ll give you 15% off your order.

If you want $50 off your first order instead, drop me a line (lishan -at- reasonably presentable dot com) and I’ll send you that friends-and-family promo.

Most relevantly for me, the cost of getting your pants hemmed is included in that price.  If you buy them in person, Ministry of Supply staff will pin them and send them to a tailor for hemming; if you buy them online, Ministry of Supply will reimburse you for getting them hemmed.  Since I virtually always have to hem pants, that’s incredibly valuable for me.

Pros: Fabric Stretch and Weight

These pants are the stretchiest of the dress pants I’ve tried while managing to be less obscene on me than the Oshimas.

Way more flexible than I am.

They’re lighter-weight, more breathable, and more moisture-wicking than the Oshimas too, which makes them better for the summer.

Pros: Pockets!!!!1!1

Unlike the Oshima, these actually have working pockets on both the front and back.  Not huge pockets, but pockets big enough to actually put a cell phone in.

Pros: Fully Functional Yoga Pants

I’ve tried!

Cons: Basic Colors

Right now, they only come in navy, black, and a warmer grey.  I have them in all three colors (the grey in the slim leg, the other two in the classic leg).

Cons: Fabric Drape, Feel; Stitching Durability

I said to a friend, “guess what’s awesome about these dress pants!”

“They’re yoga pants,” she said.  “I can tell.”

They’re a nylon-heavy fabric.  They’re a little plasticky to the touch, and they’re slightly shiny.  Not super-noticeably so– shiny like a wool suit rather than like vinyl– but boy, does it show in photographs.  They photograph like your butt has been covered with oil.

FLATTERING.

The overall effect is kind of cheap-looking, fabric-wise, especially in the grey fabric (which also shows fabric drape issues more than the darker colors do). I’ve also noticed that on my grey pair, which I’ve had the longest, the stitching along the groin (a place where I always have fit issues for some reason!) is loosening a bit.

Is it… growling at me?

 Not what I’d expect for a $100 pant that’s supposed to be ultra-durable.  Though in fairness, they only list them as being abrasion-resistant.

Cons? Not As High-Waisted As Oshimas

They don’t work with my new Rankin 2.0 shirt unless I’m going for a video-game-heroine kind of look.

Cons: Sometimes, They Make Funny Noises When You Walk

If your thighs are especially inclined to rub together, you might occasionally notice a kind of whooshing sound when you walk.

 

Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pant: Largely Secondhand Knowledge!

Last year, I bought a pair of Betabrand’s Dress Pant Yoga Pant in the boot cut and promptly returned it. I really wanted to like it– it’s the cheapest of the options on this page!– but I found the material too thin and unstructured to properly hold a dress pant shape. You can actually see that a little bit in the product photo for the specific color of pant I bought:

They come in different fabrics, so it’s entirely possible that the drape and structure vary significantly across fabrics.  The pants I bought came in the 68% rayon, 27% nylon, 5% spandex blend a majority of their dress pant yoga pants are made of. They fit *me* like extra-unflattering leggings instead of pants, but my boss has a pair and they fit her super well, so your mileage may vary.  They’re also available in a really, really wide variety of colors and lengths, they come in both mid and high rises (specific dimensions in the table above), and their sizing goes up to XXL.  If you want the high rise pant, do know it doesn’t have belt loops– only the mid-rise dress pant yoga pant does. 

Their customer service representatives, who I called for said specific dimensions, were also super helpful and informative.

I don’t have pictures of my own experience with the Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pants.  I do, however, have a dear friend who owns a pair who was willing to weigh in with her experience (which makes me a little want to try Betabrand’s Audrey Pant!)

Asimaiyat, Guest Blogger:

I have the Dress Pant Yoga Pants in the straight leg cut, in navy. They’re basically yoga pants with some trouser styling like a fake placket and pockets. The different hem lengths are nice — the short length is perfect for me, [a truly petite lady]. They’re a little too tight in the rear for a situation where looking professional is super important, but I think they’d be fine for a casual office, especially for someone less curvy. I have also had issues with the elastic in the waistband twisting around after a couple of washes.

The Audrey are much more of a trouser. They’re made of a super lightweight material so they feel comfy, but they aren’t as stretchy as the originals. I haven’t noticed any of the discomfort you sometimes get with fitted waistbands. I got the 10 based on my measurements but it was way too big, like falling off, so I exchanged it for an 8.  That size fits well but is still a pretty relaxed fit, to me more than it looks in the pictures. I think they’re very good for office wear, especially in warm weather.

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