Dresses Over Pants

Full disclosure: we were a bit skeptical of the dress over pants trend at first. Sure, Karl Lagerfeld and Dries van Noten could make it look desirable on the runways, but it begged an important question. Could this type of unconventional layering--previously popular in the '90s--actually translate into a chic ensemble in real life?The answer is a resounding yes, and, as Emma Watson's recent premiere look proves, it also happens to be the perfect combination for an evening event.

On the Runways
If the F/W 12 runways proved anything about this look, it's that it works with numerous dress silhouettes. For example, Rag & Bone's David Neville and Marcus Wainwright paired a fitted, knee-length wrap dress with ruched leggings--the Rani Printed Jersey Dress ($495) and Skinny Pajama Pants ($325)--for their fall show. Dries van Noten, on the other hand, opted for a silky frock with a relaxed fit, specifically the Ecru Durga Dress ($1130, 214.559.4510), styled with the tailored Pavos Pants ($655, 212.826.8900) for an ethnic-inspired look that pointed to the collection's Asian references.

In addition to printed dresses, we noticed that embellished frocks work quite well with this layered look too, as seen at Chanel and Louis Vuitton. At the former, an exaggerated A-Line Dress ($11,755) with cube-inspired embellishments worn over cropped fuchsia Pants ($2390) felt otherworldy. Meanwhile, Marc Jacobs played with proportions at Louis Vuitton, putting the elongated Embroidered Double Face Dress (price upon request) over the jewel-encrusted Black Buttoned Panama Tec Pants (price upon request) and chunky First Class Lace Up Pumps (price upon request, 800.VUITTON) for a high-drama effect.

On Celebs
When prints and embellishments are involved, the dress over pants look can be a bit overwhelming, which is why we appreciate Watson's minimalist take on the trend. For a London screening of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the actress chose the Knitted Cut-Off Ball Gown with Black Wool Cigarette Pants (price upon request, 800.929.DIOR) from the Christian Dior F/W 12 Couture collection. The contrast of the full skirt with slim, cropped pants makes the look about shape, rather than simply layering.

Get The Look: Flared Dress/Cigarette Pants
Lots of dress silhouettes work well with pants, but there are a handful of combinations that are essentially foolproof. For example, the strapless, voluminous party dress, as seen on Watson, is always a great option, especially if you're working with a slimmer pant on bottom. Some of our favorites include Erin Fetherston's Shirred Fit-And-Flare Dress ($395), Jack by BB Dakota's Carolina Dress ($70), and ASOS' Strapless Skater Dress ($31). When searching for the right pants, look for tailored suit trousers, like J. Crew's Stovepipe Trousers ($178) or Ann Taylor's Ponte Slim Pants ($98), or try a fitted, cropped style, like Mango's Satin Sheen Slim-Fit Trousers ($40).

Get The Look: Wrap Dress/Skinny Pajama Pants
A knee-length wrap dress, like the one shown at Rag & Bone, is another great dress silhouette for the pants over dress trend. You can start with a solid color, like MICHAEL Michael Kors' Long Sleeve Wrap Dress ($120), or if you're feeling adventurous, try one with an interesting motif, like Diane von Furstenberg's Black Chain Wrap Dress ($365) or BCBG Adele Wrap Dress ($178). As for your bottom half, you'll want to stick to a cropped pajama-like pant. Loose-fit trousers, like Joseph's Kong Cropped Super 100 Wool-Twill Skinny Pants ($375), are your best bet here.

Get The Look: Embellished Dress/Bright Pants
Finally, if you really want to standout this season, go with a bejeweled frock. Not only are they completely on trend for fall, but they're also perfect for the holidays, so go ahead and try 3.1 Phillip Lim's Embellished Chiffon Dress ($795) or Alice by Temperley's Mini Monte Bead-Embellished Crepe Dress ($306). Once you have your dress, take a page from the Chanel fall show, and add a pop of color to your look with brightly colored pants, like Vince Camuto's Angle Pocket Skinny Pants ($60) or Diane von Furstenberg's Georginne Pants ($208). You can, of course, mix and match all of these picks as you wish, the key is that you feel comfortable, confident, and stylish in your layered look!--Jessica Baker

Photo of Emma Watson, courtesy of Wenn; Dries van Noten runway image, courtesy of Dries van Noten; Chanel runway image, courtesy of Chanel; Rag & Bone runway image, courtesy of Rag & Bone; Louis Vuitton runway image, courtesy of Louis Vuitton.