When I first entered the “men’s world” of carpentry, I had no idea how to dress. My previous workwear style of business casual dresses, and ideally, a sandal with a medium heel, was woefully inadequate. In my first trades job, I was snarkily told my summer outfit of denim shorts, a tank top, and a flannel shirt was “unprofessional,” but I was given no other actual guidance. [Editor’s Note: Probably because there isn’t any and you’re on the cutting edge. Just my two cents].

My current carpentry job, while vastly superior in most ways to that first one, requires a bit more outdoor gallivanting, and I had to delve into the limited and highly irregular world of women’s workwear. [Editor’s Note: Anybody who gallivants while building can write for this website. Just sayin’]

This is where I will take you now.

Last fall, I made the plunge and purchased a pair of Dovetail Maven jeans. Eking in at just under $100, they were two to three times more expensive than my usual Gap purchases. The amount of stretch in these pants seems to vary with the time of day: Fresh out of the dryer, much shimmying is required just to get the pants up to mid-thigh; several hours later, a plumber’s pants-hike is a common occurrence. However, since the Mavens are made of heavy-duty stretch denim, they allow for the extreme range of motion required for carpentry, albeit tightly belted, and allow for multi-day wear between washings. Unfortunately, after six months, whilst climbing down from a tailgate, tools in hand, I heard a *riiiiiiiip* and suddenly could feel the Maine spring air on my inner thigh.

At about this same time, the side pocket also started to give up the ghost—the pocket hem essentially disintegrated where I wear my tape measure.

Being a relatively poor staff carpenter, I felt another $100 pair of pants was a bit out of my price range, so after work, I immediately headed to the Carhartt store at the mall and dropped $150 on three pairs of pants. So much for budgets and financial planning. [Editor’s Note: Buying pants for work on elite homes should not be an issue for a young tradesperson; this is why our parents want us to go to medical school.]

Thus, my foray into Carhartt. I purchased a pair of the slim-fit Crawford double front pants. These are typical duck canvas fabric with little to no stretch, in a suffocatingly tight cut. I also got the slim-fit Layton double front jeans; these had excessive amounts of stretch and a surprisingly oversized cut. Last, I snagged the Carhartt Force utility leggings--essentially double front leggings with pockets and no belt loops.

The Crawford, according to the Carhartt website, “runs small” and reviews (all seen after I purchased and wore the pants) note you should probably size up at least two sizes. I went up only one size and am physically unable to squat and breathe while wearing the pants. The advertised “hammer loop” would hold a pair of scissors at best, and if I really smash a hammer into my leg, I can eventually cram it into the loop. [Editor’s Note: I’m no garment expert and I only play a doctor on TV, but not being able to breathe seems like a problem].

The Laytons are another matter entirely. The first pair I tried on in-store had a weirdly twisty leg, which in my sewing experience, is due to poor pattern placement—always along the grainline people! Unfortunately, the pair I purchased fit at the time, but after a solid 10 minutes my first day of wearing them on the job, they stretched out to bulbous proportions at the crotch and immediately sagged in the seat.

I understand carpentry is not meant to be a fashion statement. But I don’t need things falling out of my pants pockets, nor my pants falling off my person. Most often however, is my tape measure falling off the side pocket with the Laytons followed by a pencil and whatever else I had stuffed in there.

My third purchase, the Force utility leggings, were a bit of a pipe dream, as I was reluctant to wear just leggings on a jobsite. However, I had a first-hand review from a friend who pilots a tugboat in Alaska that they are thick, don’t fall down, and hold stuff. Good mix of features.

I found this feature set to be both true and acceptable to my boss: “I used to have a guy wear sweatpants every day. I don’t give a … what you wear.”

The Carhatt Force is indeed a work-appropriate-thickness fabric, and I can wear them two days between washes without being overly stretched. The Force leggings lack a hammer loop for obvious weight reasons. The side pockets hold a pencil and knife quite well, but sag dangerously with the addition of a tape measure.

Currently, we are only doing finish work on three simultaneously occurring projects, so minimal tools are required and the Force is cool.

For future projects, I’ve purchased a tool belt with shoulder straps due to the aforementioned pants-falling-down-issues. I am curious to know how it wears over the leggings, since there would be one less belt bisecting my body. As of yet though, I may be convinced that leggings are the best option for exiting the morass of women’s workwear. They allow for range of motion, comfort, and functionality. I’ll keep looking. And maybe I’ll buy another color ...