There's Much Ado About Going Out Tops... But What About Going Out Pants?

We've culturally defined the going out top; but what, pray tell, are we supposed to pair it with?
Hannah Smothers
Brooklyn, US
Why don't we ever talk about going out pants?
Thomas Barwick via Getty

Close your eyes, think going out top in your mind, and your brain will create an image. It’s velvet, or maybe it’s sequined; there is some element of flowiness or, alternatively, sexy structure. It allows a hint of cleavage and/or belly button, perhaps because it is “strappy.” It’s inappropriate, in some way or another, for the office. It’s for going out; it’s a going out top.

Yet try to do the same thing with the phrase “going out pants,” and your brain will be like, “???!?!?!??,” because, currently, there is no such thing as Going Out Pants. Even though it’s uncouth to leave the home in only a shirt and no bottoms, all we ever talk about is the top. What do you wear on the bottom? What pairs with a going out top? Surely the answer is going out pants, but searching for this phrase is fruitless; there is no dedicated subsection of a retailer’s website like there is for going out tops, no literature on this subject. Why, pray tell, the fuck not??? Arguably, pants are swayed more by the rapid tide of trends than tops. Just look at the current battle between low-rise and high-rise waistlines, the way skinny jeans replaced “mom jeans” only to be defeated once again by the sort of pants Jerry Seinfeld sported in the 1990s. Also, all pants are just now inexplicably culottes? Pants are in chaos, pants are crying for help. And still, we remain distracted and consumed by going out tops.


“Enough!!!!,” I say. It’s time for Going Out Pants to get the respect and attention they deserve. I am sick of looking upon a closet filled with going out tops, utterly confused about what to pair them with. In 2020, my hope is to acknowledge that Going Out Pants exist, and move toward a shared definition of them. They could be anything—we have the power to decide—but a few things to consider:

  • They must be somewhat comfortable, and not the sort of pants I’ve heard described as “standing room only,” or, so tight around the thighs/butt that one cannot sit when wearing them.
  • They must be easy(ish) to remove, because Going Out typically involves drinking, which typically involves a lot of peeing.
  • They must be flirty, or somewhere on the spectrum between “cute” and “hot.”

With these tenets in mind, let’s consider the best contenders:

High-waisted, straight-leg jeans (blue or black)

Kendall Jenner wearing jeans

Jackson Lee / Contributor via Getty

I’m lobbying for these first because they have been my go-to Going Out Pants for several years, after I donated my final pair of skinny jeans in 2017. The straight-leg silhouette is just better for my tushie and my thighs, which prefer having space to roam around. To me, this is the Platonic ideal for Going Out Pants, because they are widely available, almost uniformly flattering, and are plain enough to partner well with the most audacious going out top you own.

Leather/pleather leggings

Khloe Kardashian in leather leggings

gotpap/Bauer-Griffin / Contributor via Getty

I don’t go to “clubs” but I imagine people who wear these pants do, as I mostly see them walking toward bars I don’t think I’d be allowed into. I only ever have one question about this pants choice: Are you very sweaty under there??? OK, maybe two questions: How do you pee?? I am reminded of the episode of Friends where Ross gets stuck in his leather pants, and then gets covered in various substances to try and remove them. Still, black leather-ish leggings remain a worthy contender, if only because they are dressy, but also so plain. Anything can be worn with them.



Sophie Turner wearing Dickies

gotpap/Bauer-Griffin / Contributor via Getty

A certain type of woman who goes out in downtown Manhattan and shops at Urban Outfitters and Reformation almost definitely wears some form of Dickies as her Going Out Pants. This is fine, and even sort of a flex. “I am simply so hot, I can wear pants meant for labor to the bar, and I look great,” is what these pants communicate. I like this as a Going Out Pant; they are comfortable, and it’s cool to wear slacks with an unexpectedly “flirty” top (like a going out top).


Gigi Hadid wearing trousers

Something I see supermodels doing a lot is wearing suits. Supermodels are hot, and so now my brain thinks trousers = hot??? It’s Pavlovian, maybe, but so what? There is true virtue in trousers as a Going Out Pant: they’re comfortable (plenty of leg/thigh room), they are multipurpose (can easily be worn to, say, a big meeting), and many trousers flow nicely and therefore look cool when you’re moving around in them. Also, wearing really big pants feels powerful, and feeling powerful is good when Going Out.


Rihanna wearing sweatpants

ECP / Contributor via Getty

Sweatpants?!? you might be thinking. They’re for lounging, not going out!!! Yes, precisely. Which means these are perhaps the most comfortable contender for Going Out Pants. Sweatsuits are cool now, and this is a gift to legs everywhere. Much like the aforementioned Dickies, sweats look especially cool when paired with a slinky going out top; a true business-on-the-bottom, party-on-top situation. But they also look cool when styled with a matching sweatshirt, which is perhaps the most powerful outfit to wear out in public, at nighttime.


A jumpsuit

Phoebe Waller Bridge wearing a jumpsuit

Aside from the obvious issues a jumpsuit presents in the bathroom, it is perhaps the best going out option: A jumpsuit defies this psychological experiment, as it is simultaneously going out top and going out pants. Jumpsuits are somehow inherently sexy—like, Yeah, this outfit makes it look like I don’t have a crotch, but I do. The economics of a jumpsuit can’t be beat, as it’s one of the rare, singular pieces of clothing that’s actually an entire outfit. Also, because these are half top, there is already a whole world of going out jumpsuits, ripe for the picking.

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