These dress pants are secretly yoga pants—and they’re amazing
Betabrand's 'formal' yoga pants are a game-changer.
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If there's one thing we can all agree on regarding any possible silver lining of staying at home for the better part of a year, it's this: Pants have become optional. That is, the kind of trousers, slacks, or even jeans that look presentable in public. Even those of us who work from home can get by with just a tidy-looking top for the occasional video-on Zoom call. (Fact: At the beginning of the pandemic, Walmart reported a marked increase in sales of shirts only.)
By this point, the thought of donning any pants without the word “sweat” or “yoga” is a frightful one for many. That's where Betabrand—a pant that claims to be a yoga pant and a work pant in one two-legged package—comes into play.
What is Betabrand?
Betabrand is a San Francisco-based clothing company that makes dresses, sweaters, and some kind of midi skirt/capri situation aptly named the “sassiest pant.” Some of the designs are chosen through customer voting and crowdfunding. But its main and original product is pants: the Dress Pant Yoga Pants, that you may have seen in an Instagram or Facebook ad or two (or if not, you will now).
If you don’t get the gist of the product from its name, you certainly will by the photos accompanying the ads. Before the pandemic, these showed models wearing the pants with blouses and blazers straight from a Girlboss lookbook and doing moves you might see in a Yogalates class—a wheelbarrow pose here and a handstand there—but in a setting and attire more befitting a boardroom than group fitness studio. Now, the outfits and poses remain the same, but the models are in a home-office setup, rather than a corporate one.
The idea is to combine the best elements of the pants-wearing experience (modesty, leg warmth...) and eliminating the inconvenience and discomfort of (gasp!) buttons and zippers, for a price of $68 and up. It’s a tall order, and I felt skeptical about the claim that pants could really achieve exercise-worthy comfort with a certain level of professionalism. Perhaps they might succeed or, in attempting too much, they could just be the sartorial equivalent of a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner: overly ambitious and disappointing.
In February, shortly before stay-at-home orders went into effect, I set to find out, with the help of two of my coworkers—video producer Melissa Rorech and kitchen and cooking staff writer Valerie Li—and three pairs of Betabrand pants.
Betabrand’s size options range from XXS-petite to XXL-tall. My fellow testers and I all fall in varying points in that range—Valerie is petite at 5 feet 2 inches tall, I am of medium height at 5 feet 7 inches tall, and Melissa is on the tall side at 5 feet 10 inches tall—and we each got different styles to test. Valerie donned the skinny-leg cigarette dress pants, I tried the classic straight leg pants, and Melissa got the six-button dress pant yoga pants. We all ordered our usual sizes. Melissa and I thought they were true to size but Valerie's pair was a little big around her waist but wearable. And so, we wore them.
What's it like to order Betabrand pants?
Even pre-pandemic, ordering the Betabrand pants was a surprisingly complicated experience. I purchased our three pairs at once, and a week later, I received one pair (my own, the classic straight-leg version). When the others hadn’t arrived about a week after that, I double-checked the confirmation email—and saw small print stating that the other two pairs were pre-ordered, and thus wouldn’t be shipping for another two months. There was no indication those other two pants were a pre-order situation, either on the site or when I put them in my cart. To me, this is valuable information to know before you spend money on something, not after, and it’s bizarre that Betabrand didn’t have a “pre-order only” note on the items that would take a few months to ship out. Later, I realized that there is a tab on the side of the dress pant yoga pants page where you can sort between “in stock” and “pre-order” items, but it’s not intuitive and I don’t think most people would think to do so their first time on the site. (I clearly didn't, anyway.) I was able to cancel the order and put in a new one for pants that were actually in stock, thanks to help I received from a kind customer service representative. I'm not sure if or how the ordering process is different now, but it's a good idea to ensure the pants you want are definitely in stock before you make your purchase.
What do we like about Betabrand pants?
Even before I started doing my job from home, I worked in a casual office where cropped flare jeans were more likely to be part of my office uniform than slacks or chinos. But I have seen The Good Wife, and I have been inside an Ann Taylor Loft , so I feel confident saying that Betabrand pants are almost indistinguishable any pair of work pants you could pair with a blazer or blouse. In any case, they are more than appropriate for a day at the office (and thus a virtual one, too)—especially in a casual one like mine. In fact, when I wore them to work, one colleague told me I looked like a candidate for “something.” (This was in the midst of the Democratic primaries, which may have had something to do with that assessment.) “Those pants look really crisp,” said another at the end of the day.
The pants are made of a blend of rayon, spandex, and nylon, which is comparable to a pair of Lululemons or Outdoor Voices Tech Sweat leggings—Lulu’s Wunder Under pants are made of nylon and lycra and OV’s Tech Sweats are made of nylon, lycra, and polyester. But Betabrand's pants have a heavier weight and thicker weave, which helps them look and feel more like pants than tights. To me, this also made them just slightly less comfortable than actual yoga pants—the thick fabric made them feel less flexible and less ventilated to me than pants I’d wear to a workout class. Valerie, on the other hand, thought they were “way more comfortable” than her Lululemon yoga pants in terms of “breathability and stretchiness,” saying, “The material is soft and hugs my legs tightly—like the loungewear you’d put on at home.”
What's not so great about Betabrand pants?
Aside from the odd ordering process, we didn't have too many complaints. At the end of the day, Betabrand pants are dressed-up yoga pants—but they're still basically yoga pants. This means the stretchy fabric is kind of clingy and if you look closely, you can see clear VPL (visible panty line) if worn with full-coverage underwear rather than a thong. Melissa also felt that the stretchy aspect reduced their overall formality. “They were definitely professional-ish, but I wouldn’t wear these to a job interview or anything really important,” she says. “They still gave off the aura of casualness because it was clearly stretchy material. Maybe it’s just me but I equate stretchy with lazy. It's not a bad thing, but maybe not what you want to wear when trying to get hired at a law firm.”
Can you actually do yoga in Betabrand pants?
Sure, the pants are comfortable—compared to most pants you’d wear in an office. But I wanted to see if they actually held up to the various yoga poses featured so proudly on Betabrand’s Instagram. So I put them on before the start of a virtual work day and gave them a try in a yoga class on my own—nothing fancy, just a 30-minute Yoga with Adriene video in my bedroom. And they were … just fine. They stayed in place and allowed me to move to the full extent of my flexibility, even though their heaviness meant they retained more heat and restricted some more movement than my regular yoga pants. I wouldn’t wear them to a high-intensity, high sweat workout.
But if you feel slobbish wearing sweats or leggings all the time (some people do!) and like to break up your day with some quick, gentle stretches between meetings and assignments, Betabrands are great to throw on at the start of the day. Whether you’re giving a virtual presentation or taking a breather in a down dog, they look and feel appropriate for the occasion. On that note: Like most yoga pants, Betabrand pants are machine=washable. I washed mine like I do my favorite workout leggings—on a cold, delicate cycle, followed by air-drying—and they looked impeccable afterward.
Melissa also felt good about the pants’ athletic performance. “I definitely had complete flexibility in them,” Melissa says. “Whether it’s jumping over puddles or sitting cross-legged on the couch, these pants moved right along with me. I think I could do some moderate yoga and stretching with them but not sure if they could handle the splits (I know I definitely couldn’t!).”
Valerie was a little more cautious due to the fit issues she had. “I probably won’t do yoga in them because mine don’t fit me perfectly, especially on my waist,” she says. “But if I find a more fitting pair, then why not?”
Are Betabrand pants worth it?
Once you actually get them? The pants are great. They are comfortable, virtual- and IRL-office appropriate, machine-washable and, if they aren’t the pair to pick for sweaty, vigorous exercise, they’ll do for most activities in a pinch. In fact, they seem to perform for pretty much all occasions. Melissa even wore her pair to a rehearsal dinner for a wedding (again, this was before we all started attending most events via Zoom), which, paired with a nice shirt, worked well for the occasion. “It definitely took the stress out of getting ready and made getting dressed so much easier, just being able to slip these on, and head on out,” Melissa says. “No worries about any chafing or accidental flashing in a dress or skirt.”
Valerie also complimented the versatility of the pants. “I can wear them every day for work, which saves me a lot of time from worrying about putting an outfit together,” she says. “I don’t think they’re my most stylish wardrobe choice, but they’re great for all occasions.”
All told, getting back to real pants may never be an appealing idea. But if you’re looking for a pair to bridge the gap from sweats and yoga pants to something a bit more substantial—I won’t set a timeline for returning to the rigidities of a crisp denim, although it’s something you’ll probably have to get to eventually—Betabrand is a fine way to get there.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.