2020 has meant a lot of things to a lot of people, most of them bad, but there’s one thing I will always appreciate about this swirling diaper pail of a year once it’s finally over: 2020 gave me elastic-waist pants.

See, when it comes to certain style-related rules and hangups, I am a little bit (okay, a lot) old-school. White jeans after Labor Day? Mmmm, nah. Open-toed sandals (or heaven forfend, flip-flops) in the office? My mother raised me better than that. (Thanks, mom.) And leggings as pants? Until this year, that was a firm no for me. Leggings are not pants. By definition, they are not pants. We’re just talking facts here. That athleisure bandwagon everybody else happily snuggled up to did not stop for this lady.

But for me as for so many other women, 2020 has been a year of adjusting expectations—about everything. Including, as it turns out, basic closet staples. I’m far from the only person seeing elastic-waist pants in a new light these days. In 2020, button-up pants just seem like an unnecessary flex, especially for a workday full of Zooms. Even stretch jeans feel like a step too far. Why are we still zipping ourselves into things in a pandemic? Which dumpster-fire dominatrix are we trying to impress, exactly?

My daughter, of course, was way ahead of me on embracing the soft-pants lifestyle. Ever since she was a toddler, you couldn’t get a pair of cords or jeans on that kid—and now that she’s in elementary school, it’s joggers or nothing at all on those skinny pins of hers. All I needed to do was follow her lead: Velour lounge pants, soft stretchy knit pants, wide-legged chambray pull-ons. We even have a little song we sing about them: “Soooooooffffft paaaaaaaaahnts…” (We’re those kind of weirdos.)

Yes, it took the rock bottom year of our Lord 2020 for me to be able to admit it, but elastic-waisted soft pants are, um, awesome. Because of course they are. And there’s no need to confine ourselves to leggings. Let’s be inclusive. There’s a whole elastic-waist family! Bring me your joggers, your stretch pants, your drapey wide-leg pull-ons longing to be free!

Ready to embrace the soft pants lifestyle with elastic-waist pants that are stylish and comfortable? Of course you are. Step right this way…

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Land’s End


1. Land’s End Starfish Slim-Leg Elastic Waist Pull-On Pants

You’re squinting at the picture thinking, “Are these just yoga pants? Or just like extra-thick leggings? Do I need these?” Yes, you need these. The fabric is high-quality, both substantial and soft—an appreciable upgrade from thin clingy leggings or worn-out yoga pants. And you can do anything in these pants: Work out, clean house, chase children, close deals, get vaccinated. Seriously, they are the pants 2020 needs but doesn’t deserve.

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Old Navy


2. Old Navy Mid-Rise Tapered Leg Joggers

What’s great about these joggers is that they’re affordable and well-cut, and they look good on everybody—the taper and the leg width are just <chef’s kiss>. Do they hold their shape or their color wash after wash? I’m afraid to say that 2020 has given me, personally, a less-than-positive answer to this question. But these are still a good buy, in my opinion, for the versatility and the price.


Sunday Citizen


3. Sunday Citizen Cosset Lazy Jogger

Hi, nice to meet you, I’m a grown woman who likes to wear matching lounge sets around the house like I’m still in college. What. Get the matching top with the bottoms, throw on your smooshiest socks, and settle on the couch with your arms around your little ones, and you’ll almost forget the entire world is collapsing and on fire.


4. M.M. LaFleur Colby Jogger

I’m painfully aware that some women have been called upon to really show up to client-facing work obligations throughout 2020, looking pulled-together and confident and on top of their A-game, even if their toddler is running through the house naked on the other side of the door to their carefully-staged home office. My hat is off to these women. Also, these women deserve really nice pants.


5. Marine Layer Alison Pant

Just look at that pretty dolphin hem on the tapered leg—if you can even stand to behold such chic cuteness, which, okay, it’s been a long year of sweatpants, maybe work your way up to it by watching some Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The pretty green color and the polished cut make these seriously great work pants, but the absurdly soft fabric is what makes them such killer work-from-home pants.

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