It’s 45 years since female office staff at Yorkshire Television in Leeds won the right to wear trousers within their place of work, following much grumbling and seven hours of talks between management and unions.
Trouser suits, actually. They had to be smart and tailored, certainly not “slacks” (whatever they were). But still, freedom of dress could be expressed and practicality at work achieved – and now, it’s pretty much impossible to imagine not having several pairs of tailored trousers to wear in the workplace, although the proliferation of cheap, black, stretchy, shiny bootleg styles is enough to make some of us half-wish that trousers were still subject to a ban (and not just at work).
Fortunately, this is the season of the trouser, and that means if you plan to make just one update to your working wardrobe, it simply has to be a pair of tailored trousers.
Finding the right pair of trousers, however, is easier said than done, especially this season, when there is so much choice. Starting with length, some trousers are cropped to below the knee or swaying above the ankle, while others are very, very long, so long that they cover your high-heeled shoes. In some ways, this is good, because it makes your legs look long, even when the trousers are wide (as most are, this season). But then, the hems sweep on the ground and get all mucky, and very wide trousers can actually be quite dangerous when coming down stairs.
It’s best to select the shoes or boots you intend to wear them with most of the time, and get the trousers hemmed to fall 1.5cm off the ground, with the help of a friend to measure, and a professional tailor – particularly if there are turn-ups which you would like to stay turned up.
However, if you can manage it at all, wide trousers with flats are the best look of the season, with trainers, loafers or brogues.
Look for a pair of grey flannel trousers, smartish, but with fluid lines that makes them easy to wear and quietly elegant, to team with a chic blazer, a silk shirt, your favourite cashmere V-neck sweater or polo neck, or a cream or tan or black trench coat – the list goes on and on, as grey, slightly slouchy, fluid, wide-leg trousers are definitely the most versatile of the season.
For a more flamboyant touch, look out for a pair of smart tartan or check wool trousers – perfect teamed with knitwear and high neck blouses (add a tie, if you like, as at Roberto Cavalli). These should be a little more formal in their tailoring, and can range from cropped slim-leg to long and slightly wide leg.
Cropped trousers are another major trend, although not one that’s universally easy to adopt. Try with a chunky heeled shoe or boot and then at least you’ll be able to show off slim ankles. Really, though, it’s a shape to experiment with. The right pair of cropped trousers can look sensational; the wrong pair, and you’ll make Wee Jimmy Krankie look like a supermodel in comparison.
Simple, tapered, slim(ish) trousers are a perfectly acceptable option this season and worth spending money on. Consider a colour other than black, but make it a rich, autumnal tone for a luxe look.
There’s lots of playing with proportion this season, so try different shapes of trouser under skirts and tunics, tabard shapes and sleeveless long jackets. Make up your own rules and you might hit upon something striking and new that really works for you.