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What kind of top to wear with formal pants?

What kind of top to wear with formal pants?

Formal pants can be a versatile addition to any wardrobe when paired with the right top. However, choosing a top to go with formal pants takes some consideration. The level of formality, color scheme, fit, and styling details of the top must coordinate well with the pants to pull the outfit together. Here are some tips on how to style formal pants for different occasions and body types.

Consider the formality level

The formality of the event or occasion will determine how dressy or casual a top you can wear with formal pants. For very formal occasions like job interviews, important work events, weddings, etc., pair formal pants with a button-down shirt, blouse or structured top. Tuck the top in neatly to accentuate the tailored look. Opt for minimal patterns and ornate details for maximal sophistication. Silky camisoles and tailored jackets can also work for ultra-formal settings.

For semi-formal occasions like date nights, dressy parties, etc., you have more flexibility. Pair a nice blouse, wrap top or fitted sweater with formal pants. Tops with slight ruffles, subtle prints, or delicate embellishments can also work well. Leave the top loosely tucked or untucked for a more relaxed vibe. Structured tops like collared shirts and blazers still maintain formality without being too stiff.

Casual formal pants can be worn to the office, daytime events, and informal get-togethers. Loosen up the look with knit tops, tunics, cropped sweaters and relaxed button-downs. Tops with patterns like polka dots, subtle florals and stripes pair nicely. Let the top flow over the pants seam for a effortlessly chic style.

Consider color scheme

When putting together a top and formal pants outfit, consider colors that complement each other. Matching or closely coordinating colors from top to bottom creates a streamlined, elongating effect. For example, pair a royal blue button-down with matching navy pants. Accent with metallic jewelry for an elegant monochromatic look. An all-black outfit also always looks sleek and stylish.

You can also wear different but coordinating colors, like a light pink blouse with maroon pants. Choose a top and pants in the same color family for a coordinated mismatched look. Colors like shades of blue, green, gray and neutral earth tones blend seamlessly together. Just avoid clashing combinations like bright orange with forest green unless you are intentionally making a bold color statement.

Prints and patterns also impact the color scheme. Choose patterns like stripes, florals and polka dots that pick up at least one of the colors in the pants. An all-over print blouse paired with solid pants works better than mix-matching small and large prints.

Consider fit and proportions

The fit and proportions of your top and formal pants will impact how balanced your outfit looks. In most cases, you’ll want to avoid extremes. An ultra-oversized top with fitted pants or vice versa tends to look mismatched. Instead, aim for proportionate slimness or looseness on top and bottom.

Tops that hit at the hip bone or slightly lower help elongate the leg, especially if you tuck them in. Cropped tops work for casual looks, but avoid revealing the midriff with formal pants. For tucked-in tops, choose a shirt that fits closely around the waistband without pulling or bulging.

Long, narrow tops help balance the straight shape of formal pants. Billowy peasant blouses can work tucked or untucked. Drapey camisoles add feminine flair. Boxier cropped tops provide contrast. Go for tops with three-quarter or long sleeves to offset the sleek lines of formal pants.

Consider styling details

Certain styling details can make basic tops perfect complements to formal pants. For example, tops with embellishments like chains, buttons, embroidery or lace add visual interest. Similarly, small ruffles and flouncy details soften the straight lines of tailored pants.

Tops with convertible necklines allow you to adjust the styling for varying levels of modesty or sexiness. Off-the-shoulder necklines pair alluringly with formal pants. Cinched-in waists, wrap styles, and front tucks sculpt the top to mirror the tailored shape of the pants.

Sheer overlays, mesh accents and illusion panels on blouses add depth. Pairing a business-like blazer on top with formal pants instantly elevates the look. Contrasting belts or sashes layered over fitted tops break up the matchy-matchy vibe.

Top styles for common body types

Certain top silhouettes pair most flatteringly with formal pants on common body shapes:

Body type Most flattering tops
Pear shape wider at hips A-line or peplum tops, empire waist styles, wrap tops
Apple shape wider at torso Longer tops, v-necks, tops with vertical details
Athletic rectangular shape Wraps, boatnecks, off-shoulder, tailored button-downs
Hourglass curvy shape Wrap styles, scoop or v-necks, cropped fitted tops
Petite small frame fitted button-downs, cropped tops, v-necks, ruffles

Choosing necklines, lengths and silhouettes that flatter your shape helps create a polished, balanced outfit.

Top dos and don’ts

When styling formal pants, keep these top dos and don’ts in mind:


  • Tuck fitted tops neatly into high-waisted pants
  • Leave looser knits and oversized tops untucked
  • Choose tops in similar or coordinating colors
  • Pick necklines that flatter your face and collarbones
  • Add interesting details like ruffles, chains or embroidery


  • Wear very cropped tops with formal pants unless it’s a casual outfit
  • Choose oversized tops with baggy pants or vice versa
  • Wear casual t-shirts, hoodies or jerseys with dress pants
  • Mix bright, clashing colors or busy prints and patterns
  • Let tucked-in tops bulge or pull at the waist


Finding the perfect top to pair with formal pants relies on choosing the right mix of style details, color scheme and silhouettes. Consider the formality level, body type and occasion when deciding what works. From blouses to knits, button-downs to camisoles, there are many flattering options. Use fit, proportion and styling tricks to pull off a polished, coordinated outfit.