I would rather have a root canal than shop for pants. At least in the dentist's chair, narcotics help minimize the agony of what's to come. But there are no painkillers to alleviate the suffering (what else would you call it?) we big girls endure trying to find a single, comfortable pair of pants that won't make our legs look like medieval lamb shanks. Problem is, our bodies pose a major engineering challenge: How do you provide extra room in the seat, thighs, and waistline without designing a parachute with leg holes? It's no wonder, really, that many shapely women don't even wear pants, preferring the ease of dresses and skirts.

The good news: This season's runways featured several oh-so-chic plus-size-friendly pant trends. While I may not be able to spare you from the dreaded dressing room, these suggestions should make the experience far more productive.

Wide-leg trousers. A timeless option that flatters most body types. Length is key here — when worn with heels, these floor-grazers should make you look two inches taller and 10 pounds leaner. I am obsessed with Rafaella's Modern Fit khaki trousers. Made with thick, form-fitting rayon/spandex and boasting a forgiving, stretchy waistband, these are clutch for warm-weather workwear.

Graphic prints. I dare you to put away your boring black slacks in favor of something bolder, like the superchic windowpane-patterned pant, also by Rafaella. The graphic design isn't in your face, which is key when pulling off a pant print. Cut with ample room in the thigh, these hit right at the ankle and look natty when paired with anything from a black tee to a melon-hued cardigan. Cap it off with pumps or a chunky sandal.

A cropped pant. It's true that cropped pants won't make you look like a size 6, but I'm one of those gals who doesn't necessarily dress to hide my extra pounds so much as to flaunt my style. And the cuffed editor pants in burgundy from onestopplus.com are so damn cool that I had to have them. I wear mine with a blazer and tank, accessorized to the hilt with chain necklaces and pearls, and capped off with killer heels. All eyes are on me when I enter a room in this ensemble — for all the right reasons.

A dark-wash skinny jean. I know, I know: You're convinced that they'll highlight your ample thighs. But as long as they fall just past the ankle (no bunching up at the shin) and aren't muffin-top tight, skinnies are totally wearable for the plus-size set. Opt for indigo or black — no distressing or whiskering, please. Yes, they'll shape your thighs. There's no getting around that. But you can offset the effect with a long cardi and heels.

One final tip: It's worth spending a little more for higher-quality pants. Fact is, they are subjected to much more wear and tear (chub rub, anyone?) than any other garment in your wardrobe. Be sure to check out my blog at marieclaire.com/ashley and send me questions. Until next time!

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