Fashion, Retailer Reviews

Review: Lululemon pants for petites

Lululemon has never been a brand that I’ve paid much attention to. I don’t do yoga, I’m not too concerned with buying a trendy brand just for the name.

But with a trip coming up that will involve some long plane and bus rides, I figured it would be a good time to pick up a loose, lightweight, comfy pair of pants that I could take with me. Bloggers and travellers have long been raving about Lululemon’s On The Fly pants, talking them up as some of the best travel-friendly pants for women. So when I found myself downtown on a Friday with some time to kill, I took the opportunity to pop into their Montreal flagship store to try on some of their much-touted styles.

Lululemon for petites

So how does Lululemon work on a petite pear body?

First, the good: Lululemon has a fair amount of pants in a 7/8 length or in crop lengths. And if you can’t find something that fits, they claim that they offer free hemming in all stores for all products — both pants and tops. I’ve had no occasion to test this service, mind you. And I’m not sure whether this is in the US only or also applies to Canada. But at least they recognize that not every woman is model-height.

Now, the not so good: There are no actual petite sizes at Lululemon. At all. While some of its pants may be cropped or have shorter inseams, the proportions, rise, and other dimensions are not designed for a petite frame. And don’t get me started on the tanks, tops and jackets — they’re totally hopeless on anyone with a short torso. I didn’t even bother trying on tops.

Also, Lululemon has a very specific target audience, and it’s reflected in their size chart:

The sizing is made really small. With a 27″ waist and 36″ hips, I’m almost always a US size 4. But in Lululemon I had to size up to a 6 on virtually every style I tried.

They make standard and tall inseam pants. But nothing is specifically offered in a short inseam. Some of the 7/8 pants and joggers have shorter inseams that can work for petites, sure. But they don’t fit the way they’re meant to. For instance, a 7/8 pant on the model is a full-length pant on me. A crop on the model is a slightly-too-long crop or 7/8 pant on me. And so on.

I also note that almost every style of jogger or track pant has slash pockets, which are the worst possible detail on pear shaped bodies because they gape open when you sit down or move, and call the wrong kind of attention to the hips. Lululemon, in other words, is not designing their pants for curves.

Anyway, onto the reviews…

On The Fly Pants

First, I decided to try the much-talked up On The Fly pants. Lululemon makes these pants, which they claim are “ideal for travel and leisure”, in 2 different fabrics — something they call “Luxtreme” and a woven variety. They describe the differences between the two fabrics as follows:

In person, the Luxtreme fabric looked shinier, while the woven was a more muted matte. Both are made primarily from polyester, so I’m a bit skeptical about the claims of them being breathable or quick-drying.

They also come in 4 different styles and lengths: Crops, 7/8 pants, full length pants, and joggers. Oh yeah, and they also have shorts and wide-leg crops, though I didn’t try any of these. So there are quite a few options to choose from.

On the Fly 7/8 Pants (Luxtreme)

First, I tried the 7/8 pants in Luxtreme. These are a loose, flowy pair of pants with a drawstring waist and slash pockets. Here they are on the model:

Lululemon On The Fly 7/8 Pant, $108

And here they are on me:

Honestly, I was underwhelmed by these pants. After all the hype, I was expecting magic. But they were kind of meh.

As mentioned before, I sized up to a size 6 in all the Lululemon pants I’ve reviewed here, and they fit fine at the waist. The 7/8 length fit like a full length pant on me, which is what I expected. But the knee was too low. The gathered waistband was unflattering. And the slash pockets were just awful. I wasn’t a big fan of the Luxtreme fabric either; it was a bit shiny and reflected the light in a way that made the pants look not so great.

Also, these do nothing whatsoever for me from the back. Amirite, ladies?

On The Fly 7/8 Pants (Woven)

Anyhoo. For comparison, I tried the exact same pants in the Travel Woven fabric. Here they are once again on the 5’9″ model:

Lululemon On The Fly 7/8 Pant Woven, $128

And here they are on 5’1″ me:

Well, these were better in the woven fabric than in the Luxtreme, for sure. While the same awkward fit issues exist in both styles, the woven fabric is just more flattering overall. I still don’t like the slash pockets, the back, or the way they seem to gather awkwardly around the hips, mind you. But the fabric is a big improvement.

Still, at $128 for essentially a pair of polyester pants, I wasn’t sold. I feel like, far from being the ideal travel pants, these will end up being hot, sweaty, and retain sweat and moisture. And I can’t imagine they will be very long wearing in this fabric. A slight improvement, but still underwhelmed.

On The Fly Crops (Woven)

For comparison, I tried the same woven pants in the cropped length. Here they are on the 5’7″ model:

Lululemon On The Fly Crop Woven, $108

And on me:

Cropped length pants are tricky for most petites to pull off even under the best of circumstances, when all the proportions are just right. Here, they are even trickier. The cropped length looks more like a 7/8 pant on me, with the hem falling at a strange place on my lower calf. All of the fit problems of the 7/8 pant also exist on the crop. And the length makes my legs look even shorter.

The good news is that the crop pants would probably be cooler in hot weather than the longer 7/8 pants. But this also makes them less versatile as travel pants. They really only work with sandals, not with socks and hiking shoes. They aren’t practical in the evenings in a buggy tropical climate. And they’d probably be freezing on airplanes.

On The Fly Joggers (Woven)

The last style I tried of the On The Fly pants were the joggers. These have a cuffed 7/8 length inseam, and are also made in the Woven fabric. Here they are on the 5’7″ model:

Lululemon On The Fly Jogger, $128

And here they are on me:

 

They’re not good. They’re really, really not good.

The jogger style is practical in theory for petites. The cuffs keep the pants from trailing on the ground or being stepped on, and they’re comfy, casual and good for the hiking trail or the airplane.

But yeesh. They just are totally the wrong shape. There’s a reason why we petite pears try to balance our wider hips with boot cuts and shoulder pads. A gathered, tapered jogging pant — especially one that’s slightly too long on me, like these ones — create the exact opposite silhouette of what I’m going for.

Ultimately, none of the On The Fly pants made me excited enough to want to buy them. Of all of the styles I tried, the woven 7/8 pants were probably the best of the lot. But they weren’t good enough to make me want to spend $128 on a pair of polyester drawstring pants.

Best travel pants for women? I’m not convinced that the hype is real.

Dance Studio Pants

After striking out on the On The Fly pants, I decided to go in another direction. I noticed some Dance Studio joggers and crops nearby and grabbed some to try on, just for fun.

The Dance Studio collection is touted as being for dancers and others who want to throw them on over shorts or tights after a workout, to go from studio to street. These are made from a fabric Lululemon calls “Swift”, which seems to be primarily nylon with some lycra for 2-way stretch. Compared to polyester, nylon retains more moisture, so it’s likely not as good in hot or humid climates. It does tend to smell less and last longer than polyester, though.

On paper, the Dance Studio pants aren’t as ideal for travel as the On The Fly ones. But how do they fit?

Dance Studio Crops (25″)

The first style I tried in the Dance Studio were the 25″ crops. Here they are on the 5’9″ model:

Lululemon Dance Studio Crop, $88

And here they were when I tried them on my 5’1″ frame:

To my surprise, I actually found myself liking these a great deal more than the On The Fly pants. The fabric is perhaps a bit more casual, but I found the stitching and details were more flattering overall. The waistband and rise were more comfortable. And honestly, these looked a whole lot better from the back than the On The Fly pants did.

On the negative side, the length is still really awkward — more of a 7/8 pant than a crop. Since these are a 25″ inseam, if you do the math, that’s almost exactly 7/8 of my usual 29″ leg. So yup. All of what I said above about the impracticality of this length for travel applies to these too.

And, as mentioned before, nylon is probably not the best fabric to stay cool, dry and comfortable on long bus and plane rides in hot climates. So there’s that.

Dance Studio Joggers

But I was intrigued enough to try the Dance Studio pants in another style. Unfortunately they don’t come in a 7/8 length the way the On The Fly pants do. But they did come in a jogger, which had a 29″ inseam. Perfect. I grabbed a pair to try on.

Here they are on the 5’11” (!) model:

Lululemon Dance Studio Jogger, $98

Seriously, the fashion industry can’t make clothes for the 50% of women who are petite, but styles clothes for the <1% of women who are 5’11”? MAJOR RANT. But I digress.

Needless to say, these looked somewhat different on 5’1″ me:

It turns out these were actually my favourite pants of the day. Yes, really. Nylon joggers. Who knew?

Sure, they’re too long on me, and consequently sag at the ankle. Sure, the proportions are designed for a longer leg, so they also sag at the butt and on the thighs. Sure, the slash pockets are still poorly placed and call negative attention to my hip area. And sure, they could definitely look better from the back.

But honestly, they’re comfy. And the gathered ruched leg turned out to be more flattering than the flowy fabric of the On The Fly pants. I found myself even liking them well enough.

If I were tempted to buy any of the pants I tried on today, it would probably be these. Alas, the fit just isn’t good enough to justify them. Maybe if they came in a petite length, I could overlook some of their other shortcomings.

The verdict

Lululemon turned out to be somewhat disappointing. For the price they charge, I’d expect better quality fabric, and more attention to detail and fit. Instead, all the pants I tried on looked cheap, and were fairly unflattering on me.

Overall, I liked the Dance Studio joggers the best. If I were to buy any of them, it would probably be those. However, I was not a big enough fan of the fit of any of these to award them the coveted spot of “favourite travel pants”.

I wish Lululemon would make their clothes in true petite proportions, rather than merely offering to hem their regular length clothes. That would go a long way towards improving the fit on those of us who aren’t as tall as those models in their photos. But the brand has made it pretty clear that it isn’t interested in shorter, curvier customers, alas.

As a result, I opted to pass on all of these pants. You may have better luck with them, and if you do, by all means, enjoy. But Lululemon has failed to win me over with any of these offerings. I’ll have to keep hunting for the perfect petite-friendly travel pants.

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