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Denim vs. Cotton Pants (For Women)

This article delves into the history, composition, and benefits of denim and cotton pants. Learn more here to improve your fashion style!

Different color pants on brown background.

What is more classically American than denim jeans and a t-shirt? Universally recognizable, this iconic look has been a staple in a woman’s wardrobe since the sixties. James Dean, eat your heart out!

Denim and cotton pants are both broad categories. Currently, cotton pants are most recognizable as at-home comfy pants, often with an elasticated or drawstring waistband and a wide or straight leg cut. Pajama pants for the daytime are how I think of them.

On the other hand, cotton twill pants are ideal for more formal occasions and workwear.

Denim pants are most recognizable as denim jeans, and these too are made of cotton, so they are essentially a variety of cotton pants in their purest form. Denim pants have several subcategories, and these are often cotton blends.

Levi's Women's 724 High Rise Straight Jeans, (New) Slate Fixer, 20 Medium

Cotton and denim pants are available in various lengths from ankle to mid-thigh. Both are suitable for casual daytime wear, although denim jeans can be elevated to a casual evening look with the right accessories. And more importantly, both are valuable additions to your wardrobe staple collection.

What Are Denim Pants?

Rack of jeans for sale.

Denim pants are the if you can dream it, you can do it variety. You will find them in an assortment of hues, styles, and colors. Most commonly, denim pants are the original indigo blue, but different blue, black, and grey variations are widespread.

They can be skinny, wide leg, boyfriend, bootleg, with a high or low-rise waist. There is nothing more satisfying than a pair of jeans that fit beautifully. Denim pants are versatile and suitable for school runs, drinks with friends, or a fall stroll around the park.

What Are Cotton Pants?

Three folded cotton pants on white background.

Cotton pants are casual, breathable, and comfortable. They are usually in neutral colors from beige to black and breathe well in the summer heat. When cotton is combined with other fibers like elastane and lycra or is cotton twill, they can be made into pants suitable for workwear.

SCOFEEL Women's Cotton Linen Pants Drawstring Elastic Waist Side Pockets high Rise Casual Loose Trousers Pants Black

Cotton pants are made from cotton fabric, a natural cloth made from cotton plant fibers. It can be woven in many ways to create different types of cotton cloth and is one of the most versatile fabrics available. There are several different types of cotton cloth, all with other names used in various guises, from bedding to upholstery, clothing, and pajamas.

Cotton is often combined with other natural and synthetic fibers to create a cloth that can be used in numerous ways. One such type of woven cotton cloth is denim.

Checking the Label

A stack of pants on a shelf.

Denim is a strong fabric, originally from France, made from cotton using a twill weave, giving it a distinctive and durable diagonal ribbed pattern. This woven pattern makes it different from other durable fabrics like canvas which you would recognize from any camping trips you have undertaken. Those beige/brown camping tents.

Denim pants are traditionally an indigo color. This dye was selected because it adheres only to the outside of the fabric, and a few fabric fibers come away with the dye during each wash, ultimately making them soft with a lived-in look. Those in the know will tell you that the warp is indigo, and the weft of the weave is white.

Stretch denim is considered a cotton blend and contains spandex, while poly denim contains artificial fibers like polyester and nylon. Recently, there has been a trend toward using raw denim, which is untreated and unwashed and needs up to a year’s worth of wear before washing to conform to your shape.

Levi's Women's 311 Shaping Skinny Jeans, Soft Black (Waterless), 24 Short

For women, denim jeans are usually a combination of denim, spandex, and polyester to ensure a good and comfortable fit. If you want to know the composition of your denim pants, then check your label!

On the other hand, cotton appears in many guises, from batiste and broadcloth to chintz and chenille and even muslin and moleskin, to name only a few. Certain cotton cloths have niche segments of the fashion market. For example, honeycomb or waffle cotton cloth is primarily limited to robes and towels, while calico, a hardwearing undyed type of cotton cloth, is usually for test garments.

Alfred Dunner Women's All Around Elastic Waist Cotton Short Twill Pants, Black, 8

Cotton twill, specifically, is usually the first choice for women’s cotton pants. Light and medium-weight fabric garments make cotton pants easy to find for any season. You don’t realize how much it permeates the market until you unpack cotton a bit, making it an invaluable resource for the fashion industry and not just for pants.

Again, checking the label will give you an excellent idea of the composition of your pants.  

What Makes Denim Pants Unique?

Denim pants on wooden background.

Denim jeans are identified with ease. Traditionally, they have five pockets, with the fifth pocket a nod to when men used to wear pocket watches. Nowadays, it is mainly for aesthetics.

There is usually some detailing or stitching on the denim pockets on your derriere ranging from plain to embellished.

Miss Me Women's Medium Crescent Moon Dreamcatcher 32" Chloe Bootcut Jeans Blue 30W x 32L

Denim pants typically have a zipper and metallic button for fastening. What makes jeans more unique is that rivets, usually in metallic colors, are affixed to strategic places on the top half of your pants. They are to reinforce areas that are prone to tearing and improve durability.

Nowadays, denim pants will have these for aesthetics rather than strategic reasons.

A Brief History of Denim

Man wearing a denim jeans.

Denim is one of the most durable fabrics around, and it was initially brought to America from France as workmen’s wear in the 1870s. Before the 1950s, when they were popularized through the movies, denim pants were not worn as casual wear and were limited to blue-collar workers, miners, and cowboys.

Ultimately, in the 1970s, they first started appearing on the runways, and the rising star that is denim permeated all strata of society. Denim pants that fit you well are a must in any wardrobe. You cannot set your foot outside your door in America without seeing someone, if it isn’t you, wearing a pair of versatile denim pants.

Benefits of Denim

Woman wearing a denim jeans.

Denim pants are one of the easiest things to dress up or down, and when you feel down, throwing on a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt is always iconic. There are many benefits to owning a pair of denim jeans that fit well. They are durable, attractive, often mold to the shape of your body, and they are easy to accessorize.

Price Range of Denim Pants

Denim jeans displayed on a store.

According to Amazon, depending on composition, style, and embellishments, denim pants can range from $7 to $3360. A true reflection is somewhere far from either of these prices, with the average cost of jeans in America coming in at $165.44 in the US in 2018, according to Statista, but on Amazon, a basic search will net you pants ranging from $25 to $75.

What Makes Cotton Pants Unique?

Woman wearing black cotton pants.

100% cotton pants are most unique for their breathability! Additionally, they are available in almost any style of pants that you can dream of, depending on the weave of the cloth and how they are combined with other natural or artificial fibers.

PEACH PEBBLE Women's Harem Pants 100% Cotton, Soft Pure Cotton Yoga Pants, Hippie Colorful Patchwork Pants

As a bonus, organic cotton pants are as natural a cloth as you will get. Most cotton garments and linens are considered hypoallergenic if you or a family member have allergies or eczema.

Cotton so permeates the market that it is almost impossible to find pants that don’t contain cotton.

A Brief History of Cotton

Sweat pants on wooden background.

Cotton is ancient, dating back as far as 3000 BC in Pakistan, making it older than old. It spread throughout the world from 800 AD upwards and was known worldwide by 1500 AD. In America specifically, it was a valuable crop.

This is overshadowed by the fact that historically many of the hands that brought in the harvest were slaves.

Benefits of Cotton Pants

Chino pants on white background.

Cotton pants are breathable, durable, and soft, depending on the type of cotton. Cotton pants are made from natural fibers meaning they are hypoallergenic, and the benefit of the cotton cloth itself is that it can be combined with many other fibers to create unique garments. Furthermore, cotton twill doesn’t wrinkle much or easily for those of us who abhor irons.

ladyline Plain Cotton Salwar Pants with Drawstring Indian Baggy Pants for Women Yoga (Beige, Size-XS)

Price Range of Cotton Pants

Alfred Dunner womens Women's Soft Twill Mid-rise Regular Fit Straight Leg Regular Length Casual Pants, Black, 8 US

The price range of cotton pants is almost impossible to estimate because of the wide variety. Cotton twill pants for women on Amazon seem to range from about $20 to $30 per unbranded, unembellished pair.

The Takeaway!

Man holding a stack of denim jeans.

After all that research, I am pleased to report that your takeaway should be. Denim pants and cotton pants both have their place in your wardrobe. Denim is, in fact, a type of cotton cloth, but these days it is generally combined with synthetic fibers to promote a better fit and look for your body.

Cotton pants, on the other hand, permeate every area of the market. I still imagine them as soft, comfy lounge pants, but they are so much more. Unfortunately, cotton pants are sometimes hard to identify unless you know your stuff.

For composition, check out the label if you have allergy concerns, but 100% cotton is your best friend when it comes to clothes.