Monday, June 4, 2012

How to wear track pants or jogger(s) (without looking like George Costanza)

Isabel Marant grey marle trackpants

I have had this post sitting in my drafts folder for the past 1 to 2 years, when I purchased myself the Isabel Marant grey ‘sweatpants’ I had been searching high and low for.

When I first received them I was a little stumped (hence I drafted this post for myself): How do I wear sweat/jogger/track pants without looking like George Costanza? Remember him from “Seinfeld”? Jerry said to him: "You know the message you're sending out to the world with these sweatpants? You're telling the world: 'I give up. I can't compete in normal society. I'm miserable, so I might as well be comfortable.' " Haha, ok, that may be partly true for some, but I sure do enjoy the comfort and ease these pants bring to my daily wardrobe.

It seems the track pant (or jogger) is still going strong, albeit getting more refined (in bold colours, fine fabrics and slimmer, more tailored cuts), and in the past few months I have added two more pairs to my wardrobe, both silk, one in a gorgeous cobalt blue, and another from Topshop Boutique in black. I bought these elasticated pants to wear while I was pregnant, and just rolled the waistband a few times as I got bigger (they have been great post-pregnancy too, as my waist slowly returns to its previous size). I decided to revisit this post and publish it for my own (easier) reference, and also, just in case it might be of interest to anyone out there…

Although the pair above are by Dion Lee (available at The New Guard), my silk pair by Country Road look exactly the same, with the same gold 'ends' on the drawstrings (except I bought mine for about $60 on sale, score!)

It started with the paper-bag waisted trousers, then the harem pant (which I still live in, in fact I am wearing a pair as I type). After the Alexander Wang and Isabel Marant’s Spring 2009 shows (returning the following year on the catwalks again), the sweatpants made their foray not only onto the catwalks, but also some of the most stylish women, and those on the streets.

Garance Dore customized a pair of fitted American Apparel sweatpants into cuffed shorts, which looked sharp paired with a blazer, button-down, and heels.

A look I could not pull off

I am eyeing these Sass & Bide pants above...

Ok, it appears the principles on how to wear these pants are similar to those on how to wear harem pants.


Colours: Stick to shades of gray or neutrals (if in the cotton sweat pant fabric). Otherwise, if in viscose, silk or rayon, I am drawn to the bolder colours...

Fabric: if in cotton sweatpant material, opt for slightly thicker fabric (not thin cotton) so they don't look too casual - giving them some shape. Otherwise try to stick to dressier fabrics such as silk.

Pair them with heels: so you don't look like you rolled out of bed.

The cut: Opt for slim-fit sweatpants with a banded bottom or sweatpants cropped right below the knee, or tapered hem styles which are slightly tighter at the calf so they have some form of shape in them and can be worn with heels.

Roll them up. As you do with boyfriend jeans, peg the trackpants the same way: a foldover tuck and then a few rolls . Or, if the pants have elastic ankles, scrunch them up mid-calf (I try doing this with my Isabel Marant pants) .

On the top: a smart/elegant button-down shirt/blouse, a structured fitted top, a fluid cropped blouse or a crop top - nothing too long or too baggy, or you'll look like you just got out of bed.

On the bottom (shoes): wear them with heels, pumps, chunky-heeled ankle boots or brogues.

Go for casual elegance. Wear them with a loose tee and fitted blazer for the right mix of careless confidence.

How to wear it:

Do like Isabel Marant - team with classic trench and black ankle boots


pair them with heels, a dressy top and a blazer;


motorcycle or tough leather jacket, loose tee and killer heels


tuck a feminine/floaty blouse into thick-waistbands and wear them with chunky-heeled ankle boots (I have been wearing mine with my Rag & Bone Newbury boots)


for a night out - pair it with a dressier top (sequins and beads always help).

Almost anything goes, as long as the pants are fairly fitted and tapered and/or hit above your ankles.


Wear them too baggy. They should fit like regular pants, tight around your bottom (unfortunately this is not the case with my Isabel Marant, so I pay extra attention to what I wear with them).

Go top to toe sporty: no sneakers or hoodie (unless you are heading to the gym, of course).


And like with harem pants, the most important thing is to wear them with confidence!

What about you, do you have a pair of these in your wardrobe? How do you style yours?


  1. Great post!! Particularly loved the Seinfeld quote hahaha :)

  2. Love these type of pants, so comfy. I have that Sass & Bide pair, but from an older season, in dark brown. And I also have a silk patterned pair from Karen Walker that I love. I can't get enough of the Karen Walker ones - next season she is doing them in a cotton denim type light fabric with white spots, and I think they'll be more practical for post-baby than the silk?

  3. Well done, very well done post - and great advices! I had to laugh out so loud about the Seinfeld quote. So true - also in the relation to the character XD
    I'm not a fan of the sweatpants look at all. Mainly because I can only spot it IRL on women and girls that cannot combine them at all - and it looks good. NOOOOOOT.
    That being said I wouldn't wear them myself ever although I love comfy clothes. For me a pair of sweatpants stay a pair of sweatpants and I wouldn't combine them even not to a blazer or a trench.... I like it only on the last look - with the white shirt and sporty (jogging?) blazer.

  4. Very useful post! I actually bought a pair of Etoile Isabel Marant joggers pants and was finding it difficult to choose the right outfit/shoes to go with them. This was a good help ;)

  5. what awesome tips! :) been living in my sweats for the last few months! looking forward to jazzing things up with some heels and contrasting tops!

  6. No matter how much you pay for them, who designed them or what you wear them with, they're still sweatpants!! Everyone still sees them as just thst, whether its sweats with heels or in another fabric. Sorry, not a fan. There are so many other styles of pants which are comfortable & dont make you look like a fashion victim

  7. Some great looking options here.. :)

  8. congrats on the new member of the family brig! I've always been a fan of the sweatpants, but do find it difficult to wear sometimes . your guide will definitely be helpful . . . thanks for sharing!

  9. Thanks for this guide, I have a black silk pair and have just bought a new a wool blend check pair and this has given me lots of fresh inspiration. So comfy for long days at work :)