Best Budget Pants for Women of 2021
The PrAna Briann was the most versatile product we tested, comfortably transitioning from work to play with no wardrobe change necessary. The high-quality fabric is nice enough to be dressed up for work or dinner but has enough stretch and breathability to be comfortable for brisk dog walks; we even wore these on an eight-mile hike and loved them. The nylon and spandex fabric is soft against the skin, has enough stretch for ample range of motion, and is treated with a durable water repellent finish to boot. The slim fit is flattering, the mid-rise waist is comfortable, and these pants were one of the best fitting products through the waist, hips, and thighs. Tall or short, these performed well for our women testers who ranged in height and had three different inseam lengths.
One tester noticed that the fabric picked up more dog hair while snuggling with her furry friend than other options in our testing lineup. PrAna's sizing runs a little on the small side, but the size chart is accurate, and we recommend consulting it before making your purchase. This product was one of the more expensive ones tested, but with its quality materials and versatility, we believe the investment is worth it, especially for someone looking for an option that can serve you just as well in the office as it can in the great outdoors. This garment is ideal for traveling when luggage space is at a premium, as they can chameleon easily from one setting to another.
The Carhartt Rugged Flex Slim Fit was another favorite among our testers. The cut fit each tester well, and the slim fit was flattering and easy to pair with a range of outfits. The midweight cotton/spandex blend feels soft against the skin and is comfortable for all-day wear. The length works well, and there is also a tall inseam option for the longer-legged folks. Testers were pleased with the functional pockets on this slim-fit option, which includes an additional back pocket that is the perfect size for a phone and sits slightly higher than the patch pocket, which meant testers could leave their phone in that pocket without sitting on it. The front pockets are also deeper than most found on women's pants, which is always appreciated.
The mid-rise waist did gap on one of our testers, and fit better with a belt. With the slimmer fit and heavier fabric, they were less comfortable for the mile walk and squats than some other options, but they still have enough stretch that this was only a minor concern. This garment is a stylish, slim-fit option with a flattering cut, offering all-day comfort, durability, and versatility.
The Dickies Relaxed Fit Straight Twill's durable, yet breathable fabric and an excellent range of motion made this product one tester's favorite pair to skateboard in. The relaxed fit and stretch left enough room to move freely, while still fitting well around the waist and hips. Three inseam lengths offer options to women ranging in height. The fabric was stiff when it arrived, but softened up in the wash, feeling smooth against the skin. The twill looks nice enough to wear in casual work situations while offering durability and quality at a great price.
Pockets were the biggest downside; the back pockets are small, and while one has a button keeping a small wallet in place, they are not deep enough to securely hold a phone. The front slash pockets curve down at the bottom, causing the pocket to gap unflatteringly, and making it easy for contents to slip out when sitting down. From work to play, these Dickies offer a great range of motion, good fit, and quality construction at a reasonable price.
The Daily Ritual Patch-Pocket Chino offers all-day comfort and versatility in a style that can easily be dressed up or down, depending on the day's plans. The lightweight cotton is soft, and has a bit of stretch, making them comfortable for short walks, sitting at a desk, and doing various other activities. The pockets are deep enough to hold a small wallet and a phone with relative ease.
These have the highest rise of pants tested, hitting at the belly button, but the waist is a little loose, and the fabric stretched out after a few days of wear, making a belt (as well as frequent washing) essential. They only come in a 29" inseam, and our shorter testers ended up cuffing the legs. This garment is flattering and comfortable and looks good with a wide range of outfits. It's a stylish, affordable option that will be at home in nearly any wardrobe.
The Dovetail Britt Utility offers well-fitting, durable workwear that features 11 functional pockets, including a zippered back pocket, and front pockets deep enough to hold a cell phone without interfering with the range of motion of the hip joint. These fit great through the waist, hips, and legs, with just enough room and stretch to move comfortably in all directions, while still being flattering. They are available in three lengths and a handful of neutral colors. The heavyweight canvas is a little stiff at first but softens up with wear while still providing durability. Dovetail is an American company founded by women to provide functional workwear designed to fit women. They adhere to the UN Global Compact to ensure human rights and labor standards are upheld and minimize environmental impact.
The sizing varies by fabric, but the size chart contains detailed information, so we followed the size chart and were happy with the fit. They were also the most expensive product tested, which can make it hard to fit into a tight budget. If you are looking for a well-fitting, flattering pair of quality workwear as tough as you are, then these are worth spending the money on, as they are durable, comfortable, and flattering.
The Carhartt Crawford offers sturdy, durable, comfortable workwear at a reasonable price. The fabric was softer, stretchier, and more comfortable than anticipated, while still being sturdy and durable. This aspect, combined with a relaxed fit, offered the best range of motion and was a favorite for all-day wear, especially for work that required movement. The tan color did not show dirt, and the plethora of functional pockets easily held wallet, phone, keys, and whatever else needed to come along. These Carhartts come in three inseam lengths and a few neutral colors.
One tester found that the waist was a little loose, and needed a belt to keep them up. The Crawford scored high in comfort and ease of movement, but their utilitarian look lost them aesthetic points. While testers agreed that these are a great choice for sturdy workwear, they found it hard to dress up for nicer occasions.
The Roxy Oceanside was a tester favorite for lounging. The linen/viscose fabric felt great against the skin and was lightweight, breathable, and comfortable, making them ideal for warmer days. They were the only pants one tester was willing to put on for a walk in the heat of the Central Valley on one trip. The elastic waist is comfortable and forgiving, with a cord drawstring to fine-tune the fit. The cut is relaxed, with room to move while being flattering through the hips and thighs.
These had the lowest rise of the products tested, and the waistband kept creeping down while doing squats. The lightweight fabric is ideal for warmer temperatures but would be too thin for cold winter days. They are also quite casual and hard to dress up for fancier occasions. This garment is a lightweight, comfortable option ideal for casual BBQs, beach time, and working from home in something besides leggings.
The Daily Ritual Wide Leg Crop Chino is made of soft, lightweight cotton that is soft against the skin, is comfortable, and provides a full range of motion. They were comfortable for all-day wear, including working at a desk, walking, and moving around, without rubbing, digging in, or chafing. The wide-leg cropped cut is a fun, modern take on the classic chino, and is great for semi-casual situations. They are available in a few different colors, and we loved the olive green selected for this test. These were also one of the more affordable options in the test.
These chinos have a 26-inch inseam, which hit awkwardly at the ankle for our 5'3" tester, and just above the ankle on our 5'5" tester. With the wide leg and cropped length, these would probably look cuter on taller women. They were also a little roomy through the hips and waist, we consulted the size chart, and bought the pair matching the hip measurements, but the waist measurement was half an inch too big. This is a stylish twist on a classic chino and is ideal for taller women looking for a cropped option.
The Lee All Day Straight Leg is a basic casual bottom that offers a great fit and is easy to move around in. The fit is flattering through the waist, hips, and thighs, and allows for room to move, with minimal restrictions. They are available in three lengths and a wide range of colors, from basic black to a bright jungle green, providing neutral and colorful options. They can also be easily dressed up or down for a wide range of occasions. They are quite reasonably priced for the quality of the material.
This product is the least breathable in the walking test. The pockets are not great, with the back ones being too shallow for a cell phone. While a phone fits in the front pocket, it inhibits the movement of the hip. The waistband dug into the belly while sitting at a desk for extended periods, but was comfortable while working on our feet. These are a functional, good-fitting wardrobe basic at an affordable price.
The Grace Karin Cropped Paperbag Waist offers a high-waisted style that can easily be dressed up. The cut is flattering, with a high-waist accented with a sash, and a cut that is slim enough through the hips and legs to show off assets but roomy and stretchy enough to move easily without restricting movement.
Based on the size chart, we purchased a small, being just at the large side of the size small measurements. They fit great through the hips and legs, but the waistband was too tight. We would recommend sizing up if purchasing this garment. The consensus between testers was that if the waist was not so tight, they would be a great balance of cute and comfortable. They offer a fun, comfortable, stylish option for work or play.
Why You Should Trust Us
Transitioning from work to play is always better if a wardrobe change is not needed in between. Having worked a variety of jobs from getting down and dirty outdoors to working in offices, Jessica Albery appreciates the importance of having the right garment for the situation, and if they are comfortable enough for a leisurely walk or skate after work, even better. She uses her attention to detail and accuracy to thoroughly evaluate each product. She roped her sister-friend in to help test pairs in order to get a more complete picture of how they fit and obtain different style preferences and input on comfort and range of motion while doing different activities.
Testers worked at desks, shops, and outdoors to get an idea of how comfortable each garment was in a wide range of situations for all-day wear. They also walked miles after work and on days off in the Sierra Nevada, as well as performing specific tests to check the range of motion. They skateboarded, painted, did yard work, went for picnics, BBQs and out to dinner, and lounged around the house. Essentially, they put each pair in as many different situations as possible to get a general feel for how comfortable they were for daily life. Here, we present to you a fleet of pairs and a well-rounded review.
Analysis and Test Results
We determined what qualities we find are essential in a good pair of pants and then purchased the 10 most promising pairs available. We performed hands-on tests to evaluate each garment on the comfort of materials, range of motion, fit, aesthetics, and versatility, and present a side-by-side comparison of each pair in our fleet. After testing each product, we tallied the results and outline the pros and cons of each pair.
Comfort of Materials
Comfortable fabric is a solid baseline to start evaluating each model; if the fabric isn't comfortable, they are less likely to be worn. We evaluated each pair on how the fabric felt against the skin. We also walked one mile in each to determine if the material breathed, chafed, or rubbed. We rated them on their all-day wearability. Were we happy to keep them on, or did we want to change out of them? Were they comfortable sitting at a desk working? What about for more active work?
The PrAna Briann was the top performer in this category, with fabric that feels smooth against the skin, is breathable, and is comfortable to wear all day long, from sitting at a desk to moving around, to after-work walks. The Carhartt Crawford's soft fabric also feels great against the skin and was another one that is quite comfortable for all-day wear and walking. The Roxy Oceanside's linen/viscose blend was ideal for warm weather walks and lounging around the house.
Range of Motion
Range of motion is also important when choosing a pair of pants. We wanted to find out which pairs provided freedom to move in all directions and which restricted motion. We performed a wide range of movements, including squats, lunges, bending over, climbing stairs, walking, and sitting. We evaluated whether the pants dug in uncomfortably, felt restrictive, and if the range of motion was inhibited.
The relaxed fit and flexible fabric of the Carhartt Crawford means there is plenty of room to move in all directions. They provide the most freedom to move in all tests, including squats and lunges, and are also fantastic for project days at work or home, crouching, kneeling, and running around. The PrAna Briann is the slim fit model with the best range of motion, having enough flexibility for freedom of movement. The Dickies Relaxed Fit Straight Twill was comfortable to move in, making them a favorite for skateboarding.
Each pant was evaluated on how well it fit in the waist, hips, thighs, calves, and inseam. To ensure consistency, we took measurements and used the company-provided size chart to choose appropriate sizes. For the most part, this worked well, with only one product being way too tight in the waist. With different body types and style preferences, something that might fit one person well may not fit another individual. We took this into consideration when writing about the fit of each pant to help you find a pair that will work for you.
The Dovetail Britt Utility was one of the best fitting garments, fitting testers well through the waist, hips, and legs, with no gapping or sagging. The PrAna Briann also fit testers exceptionally well through the waist, hips, and legs. Both these options come in three different lengths, making it easy to match the inseam to height, meaning there are options for a wide range of women. The Carhartt Rugged Flex Slim Fit also had a flattering fit that testers liked, and comes in two different lengths.
Each garment was evaluated on aesthetics, including overall visual appeal, detailing, fabric quality, colors available, and how the pant looked while wearing it. While personal preference can vary in style, we worked to present an objective review of the visual appeal of each product.
The Carhartt Rugged Flex Slim Fit Pant was a tester favorite for aesthetics, made of quality materials, the slim fit, and higher rise offered a flattering silhouette, which testers liked. They were easy to pair with tops and shoes for a range of wardrobe styles for different occasions. The Daily Ritual Patch Pocket Chinos' slim fit also scored well and is easy to dress up with a nice top, shoes, and rolled cuffs. The Grace Karin Cropped Paperbag Waist is one of the dressier pairs tested and is flattering and stylish, easy to dress up or down. They are also offered in a rainbow of colors, from neutrals to brights, to fit any wardrobe.
Our lives are not one-dimensional, and it is nice if pants can be used for multiple activities. We evaluated each product on how versatile they are. Garments that could be dressed up for the office or dinner out, but still comfortable enough for walking and wearing all day scored well, while pants that were good for one activity but not others lost points. We also looked at the functionality of the pockets of each garment, especially in regards to phones. Many women's pants have small, impractical pockets, and no one wants their phone to slip out of their tiny pockets. If a phone and wallet fit comfortably and securely in a pocket, the garment gained points for practicality.
The PrAna Briann was the most versatile bottoms tested; the fabric and cut looked nice enough to wear with boots and a sweater, but were also the most comfortable for walking, and was great for all-day wear. These easily chameleon from the office to after-work walks without a wardrobe change. The Carhartt Rugged Flex Slim Fit and the Daily Ritual Patch Pocket Chino are both cute enough to easily be dressed up while still being comfy enough for more active endeavors, and both have decent pockets.
While the Dovetail Britt is a little harder to dress up, it gets a shout-out for its 11 amazingly functional pockets, including front pockets deep enough to never lose a phone or impede movement, and a zippered back pocket.
After spending hours wearing these 10 pants in a variety of situations, we thoroughly evaluated them and presented the pros and cons of each pair to take the guesswork out of online shopping. We selected a wide range of styles, fits, and fabrics, so whether you are looking for a daily driver, work pants for the office or the outdoors, or a pair that chameleons from one situation to the next, we have something for everyone.
— Jessica Albery
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More