The Associated Press

NEW YORK — Menswear details, including blazers, vests and button-downs, have been invading women’s fashion trends for a while. Now comes the most obvious of all for fall: pants.

Dresses had been dominant for several seasons – there is appeal in an effortless uniform, after all – but pants are powerful, utilitarian and versatile, and that seems to be what women are craving this style cycle.

“I don’t need to tell the girls in the room how practical pants are. A great black pant goes desk to dinner, morning to evening. It’s easy and you don’t have to think about it too much,” says Simon Kneen, creative director at Banana Republic.

“We see pants as the next ‘it’ item,” agrees Colin Dyne, CEO of William Rast. “The categories we’re focused on for fall and going into spring are chinos, cargos, pants that utilize silk blends and other fabrications.”

And that’s what’s new about pants this go-around: Pretty much anything goes. There’s not a specific skinny silhouette that’s the must-have, nor a tailored trouser. The runways – and now the racks – have wide legs and narrow ones, high waists and low. They are all, however, relatable, not kooky concoctions meant only for the catwalk.

“There’s a return to the idea of a flattering pant,” says Mark Holgate, Vogue’s fashion news director. “We were knee deep, no pun intended, in the world of crazy pants … and then what happened was women wore leggings. But now the trend is coming back like the 1990s – a wonderful Helmut Lang pant that’s boyish and womanly, that could be worn with a jacket shirt, evening top, heel, flat or boot.”

He also sees a nod to the ‘70s, which Holgate calls “the great years of pants.”

Susan Cernek, Glamour’s senior online fashion and beauty editor, says she recently was flipping through a book of Yves Saint Laurent’s archival work and had to do a triple take at the date. “There was a 1974 runway look but it looks like so many looks from the runway this year. It was worn with a bow blouse, loose jacket and tailored trousers.”

Pants create an image of strength, Cernek says, “not because they are borrowed from the boys but because you have to be committed to this look. You literally suit up from head to toe.”

The top you choose, the shoes you wear and the scarf wrapped around the neck all become more important when your outfit is built around pants, Kneen explains.

It’s almost ironic, but wearing pants can be dressier than a dress.

Dyne sees movement toward a more refined look, even for William Rast’s cool, casual customer. Even cargo pants are getting cleaned up, and you’ll see people wearing them with blazers out at night, he says.

Gap’s new black-pant collection is a reaction to consumer demand, says Lexi Tawes, vice president of women’s merchandising. People want a pair of pants that can be worn seven days a week, and, for many women, that’s their black pants. “The challenge for us was, ‘How do you make black pants cool and sexy again?’”

Fit might be the key. You’d be surprised what flattering pockets and tailored waistband can do, Tawes says.