the conference pants study: interim results

Yesterday, as I headed off to a conference wearing my black pants, I presented to you the Black Pants Hypothesis, a nascent theory of lower-body-garment-wearing behavior of women attending professional conferences. My expectation was that black pants would be the most frequently observed category of leg-and-bottom-covering clothing at the conference I attended.

Interim results
After two days of conducting research on the garments worn by women at the conference I attended, I have been able to make the following observations:

  1. It is very tricky to try to actually tally rates of black pants wearing while attending and working at a conference, at least without actually making efforts to record such observations and potentially appearing creepy. Methodology was therefore not systematic.
  2. Informal pants counts supported the expectation of high rates of black pants, however an exact measure was not determined. In spotting clusters of women conference attendees, it was not uncommon to see a rate between 1 in 3 and 2 in 5 black pants wearers. Counterexamples were observed, whereby a group of 3 or 4 women were observed of whom none were wearing black pants. However, all observations of groups of 5 or more women included at least 1 wearer of black pants.
  3. Rates of black-pants-wearing were particularly high among women giving oral presentations at the conference. In a sample size of 8 talks presented by women attended by the experimenter, at least 5 of the presenters wore black pants.
  4. Other highly frequently observed bottom-half-covering garments among female conference attendees included jeans and black skirts, with rates of jeans-wearing appearing to be similarly high to rates of black-pants-wearing.
  5. Gray, brown and tan and other neutral-colored pants were fairly frequently observed, with 2 outliers sighted wearing red pants.
  6. There were occasional sightings of non-black skirts or dresses.
  7. There were no observations of shorts, swimwear or nudity.

The current study could neither confirm nor disconfirm the hypothesis that black pants are the most frequent bottom-half-covering garment worn by women at professional conferences. While large numbers of black pants were observed, the methodology was flawed such that it was not possible to determine actual rates. Further, the pants wearing behavior of women at professional conferences may be quite variable by both field and geographic region, such that the population of the currently studied conference may not be a representative sample of professional conference attending women as a whole. Pilot survey data were inconclusive, with some women affirming the essentialness of black pants, and others stating the lack of ownership of any black pants. However, correlations of these responses with professional-conference-attending behavior was not determined. Additional data will need to be collected.

I was glad I was wearing my black pants yesterday when I spilled coffee all over them shortly before getting up on stage to introduce presenters.

4 thoughts on “the conference pants study: interim results

  1. Your conclusions definitely support the desirableness of black pants as conference-wear, at least for klutzes. Further research is needed to determine which groups of professional conference attendees would benefit from this sartorial choice.


  2. Heee. This is perfect in tone. In my bookstore, wrap and faux-wrap dresses are tied with black pants and denim skirts for favorite bookseller attire. I should really count out the numbers…

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