Women Painters Dealing with the Painter`s Pants Issue.

Painter's Whites & How to keep them looking White

Ladies Painters Pants or Small Painters pants? 

(This blog was written by Erin Stillaway and updated in July of 2019)
Working as a painter comes with its challenges and perks, as do almost all jobs. One of the most frustrating challenges when I started at my painting job was the mandatory painters pants. I’m not saying that as a painter you have to be fashionable, but I think you should at least be comfortable.

I’ve tried three different painters pants and none have been great. The main problem with them is that I can’t find a size that fits me. The smallest size I have found is 30′ waist, I need a 27′. That could be why my inner thighs get chafed when I wear them without shorts underneath. It could also be that I can’t find painters pants for women. Even online, there are very few sites that offer female painters pants and it always costs more to buy them online because of the shipping costs.

The Cardboard Pants

I remember the first day working for Ecopainting. We were  at a commercial space and I went out and bought some painters pants. When I bought them I didn’t know that I needed to wear shorts under them. I got to work, put them on and started working. As I was working I came up with the perfect description for them: Cardboard Pants. These pants had no give and by the time I got home from work my inner thighs were a very angry red and scaly. I thought maybe washing them would help. Nope. Washing them made them lose whatever give they had gotten by the end of the day and back to the way they were before. Except they had shrunk about three inches in the leg despite made mostly with polyester so they wouldn’t shrink. So I resigned myself to having to wear these cardboard pants, with shorts on underneath so I wouldn’t chafe.

The Sauna Pants

The second pair I bought weren’t nearly as bad as the first pair. They weren’t like cardboard. They were like thermal pants. It wasn’t so bad in the winter when I bought them, they were rather warm, perfect for our Toronto climate, right? Being warm was better than not being able to move. Then summer came. The pants were like wearing saunas on your legs. It turned out that when you sweat in them, they make it impossible to bend your knee. So I went back to the cardboard pants. They were a tiny bit less sweaty, but they were still awfully hot, even cut off at the knee.

Females vs. Painters Pants

Sometimes I wish I could wear a pair of white jeans which I could find pretty easily in a ladies size that fits me properly. I wouldn’t even mind if the paint went through the jeans. All the other ladies I work with, hate the painters pants too. The pants aren’t comfortable, they’re hot, they don’t fit properly. And if that isn’t enough they are also very unflattering. Maybe it’s time for manufacturers to take into account the rising number of career women painters and cater to their needs too. If everything else fails and fit and comfort are a problem, maybe the solution is plain white cargo pants.

female painter in painter whites

Why painters wear white

You will never get painters to agree whether they should wear whites or not. Regardless of preferences, there are many opinions why painters wear whites. Let’s go through the most common explanations.

  • The most common colour painters was white. Wearing white keeps clothing cleaner for longer periods of time.
  • Working outside during the summer. Light colours attract less heat and keeps the painter cooler.
  • Tradition. White is associated with our trade, and like with any tradition, it’s hard to change.
  • White fabric was always more economical than dyed fabric.
  • White symbolizes purity and cleanliness.
  • Painters look more professional when wearing whites.
  • Painters whites have pockets and compartments for hand tools.
  • Painters wore whites so that site supervisors could tell them apart from other trades.
  • Whites with a company t-shirt make easy uniforms.

Where can women find painters pants specifically for them

Dickies is a major supplier of workwear and it’s the brand that most paint stores carry. Dickies makes women’s sizes but most stores don’t have them in stock. Most will special order it for you if you ask them. Here is their description. “The flattering relaxed fit sits just below a woman’s waist with a straight leg that won’t bind. Sturdy 65% polyester/35% cotton drill fabric stretches with you, resists wrinkles, and has an easy-care stain-release finish”

Note: a few years ago, Dickies was available in light pink to appeal to tradeswomen but it was discontinued.

From a company called Safety Girl. They have their own brand but we don’t know who makes them for them. They seem inexpensive, have different sizes so maybe they are worth a try.  

From their website: “The solid, but comfortable Safety Girl Painters Pants are excellent for work environments, DIY, or home remodeling. The thick, 100% cotton material keeps paint from soaking through to the skin”.

Eve Workwear from Down Under. This company has a good selection of work clothing for women but is in Australia. The exchange rate and cost is a problem but If money is not an object they deliver internationally. From their website: “.. we’re passionate about creating clothing that is practical, fashionable and looks good for active, working women. The collection has been developed combining the season colours, unique design and an attention to detail to create clothing for women..”

Woman painter working in painter whites

We received this interesting Letter from a female painter in California

“I have been a painting my whole life! When I joined the International Painters and tapers Union, I was forced to painters pants! I used to use overalls. I’m 5 ft and about 120 lbs. I’m also now 50 years old. When I joined the Union, I was the only female painter in the Union in California Bay area!! The work force, whether Union or not, was only catering to men! It’s not different now, when buying Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). When I go to the paint store to buy painter pants, they are way too big! I don’t sit at home drinking a 32 pack of beer and eating fast food, but the men’s work clothing is meant for that! For decades I have been complaining about it to co workers! 

Now I have a crew of all women working at Disney. One has been working at Disney for almost 30 yrs. She 6’2″… and looks like she has high waters! And the color always has to be white. And they had to wear a tie. It’s a union rule and whites is the law here! It’s from our painters from almost 100 years ago. The only color they painted with was white! Now I’m a scenic painter and I use many different colors! Sometimes in one night! 

Painters pants are think because of safety reasons. It protects you from getting injury from sharp metal items especially on industrial and commercial work. I will have to admit, my pet peeve is about women on the job wearing designer white jeans being too damn tight (nobody needs to see what’s going on underneath those jeans your jeans are supposed to be loose!)
We do need a woman’s work line for all trades not just for the painters but also the ironworkers the carpenters, electricians and so on. I’ve been wanting to start my own women’s line of clothing for quite sometime. I do see more more women in the trades than ever before and this is giving me the initiative to do so. I would have to make sure that it’s affordable. The prices they’re selling them for are ridiculous for something you will get paint on and only look good for the first 2 days”

Holly Bates – Hollywood Bates Painting.

Note: this blog was most recently updated on October 6th 2019. The original blog was written in 2013 by Erin Stillaway, a painter with Ecopainting.

9 thoughts on “Women And Painters Pants”

  1. i feel your pain. i’ve been painting for 10 years and am finding it harder now than ever to find painter pants that fit. i was buying dickies men’s pants in size 28, online, but they have either run out of stock or discontinued them. i believe the latter.
    so i tried buying women’s pants but the smallest size they had was size 8. they were about three sizes too big. dickies does make a size 2 ( i can only imagine how short they are!) but dickies canada doesn’t carry them. to order them online from a store that ships to canada i would have to pay over $50 each. unfortunately i may have no choice. i always buy five pair at a time (twice a year) and the current crop are pretty much done in. i have to find something fast!

    • It’s looking like our women painters are settling for just smaller men’s whites. Not for everyone, but it’s working out with the current female painters. Also as a company, we are now okay with comfortable white jeans or cargo pants. Comfort matters!

  2. I was so happy to see other women are finding it hard to find painter whites. My struggle is very real. Im just under 5feet tall and weight 98 – 100lbs. I can’t find whites anywhere. I’ve even settled for looking in little boys and girls. Still no luck for anything similar. Please help….

    • Miranda, we often have small women working for us and you are right, this is a problem. Without a solution to the problem, small cargo pants is the only “solution” I can think of. The industry has to do something about it, especially after encouraging women to go into the painting trade.

  3. I joined a paint crew – rather abruptly – and they don’t have women’s pants in stock at like any store… except Diamond Vogel I’ve heard recently… anyway. I had to make due with men’s pants and a belt, but OMG the fit was so bad.
    For one, men tend to have less of a butt than women, and our hips on top of that… which meant the pants were ridiculously tight across the hips and butt. But that didn’t account for a woman’s waist either, so they were horribly loose in the waist and I had to cinch the hell out of them with a belt.
    Currently I’m still wearing men’s pants, but I’ve decided that… this being my third summer as a painter… it might really be worth it to find some pants with a chance of actually fitting me in some way.
    So thanks, for these options, and if they don’t work…. I will literally find or make myself a sewing pattern and custom make my own gosh-darn pants. Because comfort while working is worth it.

  4. Thanks for all the helpful comments. I hear you! =] As a woman painter, finding pants that fit is an adventure. I do like 100% cotton and natural white best. If you’re looking for work jeans that are designed specifically for women of all shapes and sizes, check out Red Ants Pants. They are durable and have an amazing fit. Sarah Calhoun, founder, is a down-to-earth mover and a shaker. Maybe it will become a tradition that women painters wear “brown” pants. I keep asking for a white painter pant. =] https://redantspants.com/

    • Thank you for stopping by Janie. Red Ants Pants looks like a good company for women worker’s pants. Unfortunately they don’t seem to carry any painters’s whites. In my opinion if tradition calls for whites, then the manufacturers need to make white pants for women. Women don’t have to change colour because the industry will not accommodate them. The industry needs to change instead and make comfortable women’s painter pants.

  5. I have the same issue, as a woman painter for the past 17 years, pants have been a struggle. I use to wear light colored khaki cargo pants but lately I have been wearing black leggings because I need the pants to bend with me. I have a smaller waist and large butt and thighs so it’s tricky finding pants as it is, but mens just don’t work for me. Luckily I own my own business so there is no set uniform. At the same time I would love to look more professional at work and have pockets for tools. I am thinking about designing some painters pants for women myself to meet this need. It was confirming to hear this is an issue all women in the industry seem to have.

    • Hi Mandy, there aren’t enough women designing work clothes, so good luck with that idea. I remember painter’s whites were never that comfortable for men either but we came to accept them as such. I can imagine how more uncomfortable women would be.


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