In pursuit of the perfect stretchy pants

Comfy, stretchy black pants to live in all weekend

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It did not take long for me to start regretting this project. What seemed pretty simple turned out to be anything but. All I wanted was to find the perfect pair of black stretchy pants.

My talks with women young and old had shown me that this is a goal a lot of us share. So I committed to doing the legwork for all of you. Soon after, I was kicking myself.

For starters, trying on these things is a lot like the misery of searching for a flattering swimsuit or great jeans. You've really got to suck it up (and in) before setting out on this mission.

The first thing I did is try to define what I was looking for. My criteria didn't seem that demanding. I wanted pants with lots of give. Not leggings, not skin-tight running tights or traditional yoga pants. Not too clingy but not baggy either. Pants that you could wear for exercise but could also wear out and about without being humiliated. In short, something to live in all weekend and, maybe in a pinch, even wear to the office.

Years ago I had found the perfect full-service black stretch pants online at Nike. Like most of my favorite everythings (swimsuit, perfume, earplugs, towels, comfortable shoes, underwear) they've been discontinued. We all know that story.

And so began the hunt to replace those old black pants. After talking to a lot of women about this topic, it became immediately clear that many of you had tried and failed. You wished me luck.

Thank you for all the suggestions on where to look. I found myself visiting a lot of stores and websites that I'd never thought about or heard of.

Am I the last woman on the planet to set foot in a Lululemon store? I hadn't even heard of Athleta. And I had no idea that there's a whole line of Gap "active wear" called GapFit.

Weeks later, I've tried on more pants that I can count from all of those places — and more, many more!

But it was worth it. I found a real standout and a couple other good options. (Click "Captions" in the photo gallery above to see the information related to each image, or read it below.)

Athleta Bettona Classic Pant

The clear winner. The jeans-style pockets with rivets give them a streetwear feel, but these pull-ons are stretchy enough for exercise. Love the fit. True to size. I'm tempted to buy another pair — if they ever go on sale.

Rating: 4½ stars (out of 5)

Details: $79,

Gap gDance Pants

These are a little too fitted in the thigh, but the best of the Gap styles. They run small; go up a size for a better fit. All of the GapFit pants were more flattering than the more expensive Nike selections. These were the least expensive of the tested pants.

Rating: 2½ stars (out of 5)

Details: $54.95,

Nike Legend 2.0 Regular Poly Training Pants

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