Believe it or not, you can broaden your pant horizons
Story by Renee Schmiedeberg Assistant Managing Editor, Photos taken from Pinterest
Fashion is a barometer for culture. On a deeper level, this pant guide demonstrates how fashion measures cultural changes. As many know, fashion changes quickly, every change an indication of a change in culture in that geographic area during that time. Here, we’ll see how women’s pants act as a barometer for women’s changing gender roles starting from the 20th century, a century which saw radical trouser changes for women (and thus cultural changes). Though generally known that women have gained significant socio-political rights since the 20th century, gender equality has not been a constantly rising trajectory. Over the course of history, especially in recent decades, women’s rights have risen and fallen and risen again, and are still constantly in flux—women’s clothing, specifically pants, reflect that.
So your skinny jean-wrapped limbs have forgotten to dance—because you’ve forgotten pants could be something other than skinny jeans. Say goodbye to monotony, because starting right now, everything is going to get better. I’ll show you how to bring exuberance back into those pedal pushers. I’ll show you pants that aren’t skinny jeans. I’ll show you something good.
The “OG” palazzo pants by legendary designer Oscar De La Renta
Like many wonderful things in fashion, the explosive popularity of these pants can be traced back to Coco Chanel in the 1920s, a decade of prosperity and modernity as women gained more rights and started entering the workforce.
Though not always, these thin, breezy pants oftentimes sit high on the waist, above the hip bone, and flare out from there, either to the ankles or the floor. I recommend these for the taller folk out there, as they usually come long.
Due to their billowing nature, they’re great for warm days spent under the sun or in the shade. What many people don’t realize about super flowy pants is that they’re better at keeping you cool than tight pants do—every time you move, you get a little breeze, perfect for counteracting the heat.
These pants were made for waist accents. Pair them with sandals, a cropped shirt, and a wide belt, even just a piece of fabric tied in a bow around the waist will do.
A Fun Reminder: these pants are two great swaths of joy, meaning that they’re a hell of a lot of fun to walk in, since the cloth careens around your legs, echoing the ebb and flow of the sea.
Actress and style icon Audrey Hepburn donning cigarette pants
War acts as a catalyst for many things, and you as probably know there were two Really Big Ones in the 20th century.
During WWII, women were encouraged to help with the war effort, which meant more women were working by the 1940s. That’s when we start to see more cropped trousers flared out at the bottom with fitted hips and higher waists (this way, you can bend over without everyone knowing what color your underwear is). They were much better suited for working, which eventually led to our modern, professional pant: the cigarette pant.
The 1950s saw a “masculinity crisis” as many men returned home from the war to wives who were no longer complacent with being stay-at-home moms. Gender roles were being redefined and many women were made to feel like they’d ovestepped their boundaries and pressured into becoming more traditionally feminine again.
Thus, the work-friendly trousers became more feminine, as exemplified through style icons like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.
Though similar on the outset, the biggest and most important difference between these pants and skinny jeans is that cigarette pants are sleek.
Skinny jean legs taper from the knee down while the cigarette stays the same from knee to ankle.
The effect and feel are completely different.
Actress portraying Marilyn Monroe is able to read comfortably in her flexible plaid cigarette pants
Nothing says vintage funk like a well-ironed bell bottom
Whereas skinny jeans are often made of thicker, heavier, more denim-like material, cigarette pants are made from thinner, more flexible and more breathable material.
And that crisp, ironed crease sliding down the middle of each leg? God, do I love it.
When we really get down to it, this pant is a miracle pant because of this: cigarette pants mean sleek which means elegant which means effortless sexiness. They instantly make a lady look like she knows what she’s doing. It’s instant respect.
These pants range from the more figure-hugging, spandex-infused type to the slightly roomier, still figure-flattering type to the loose, modern fit.
If you thought this pant couldn’t get any better, sit back down because you can use accessories, shoes, tops, and hair to easily either dress down or dress up.
Other names our cigarette pants go by: stovepipe pants, pencil pants, slim-fit pants.
I can’t write about these pants without showing you the hard visuals. For flawless cigarette pant insurance, visit Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn, Sandra Dee or even Elvis Presley.
Types of Cigarette Pants:
Straight leg (straight line from the knees down)
Wide leg (straight line from the hip down)
This woman may be bored, but her bell bottoms are poppin’
Some people read the words “bell bottoms” and are completely horrified, but please, bear with me. It takes a particular kind of individual to make those bells ring and that individual could be you.
Though generally associated with the hippie revolution in the ‘60s and ‘70s, bell-bottoms were originally worn by American sailors in the War of 1812 and in the 1850s by British sailors. Flash forward to Europe in the ‘60s, the trend was then picked up in America and embraced by hippie counterculture.
These pants exemplified rebellion and anti-establishment, rising to popularity during the Civil Rights Era, when many women of color became visible in mainstream media for the first time.
Many bell bottom wearers shunned the western infatuation with materialism and sought fabrics from India and Africa, such as colorful tie-dies and paisleys.
Bell bottoms were further popularized by the Charlie’s Angels girls, who were among some of the first women taking active roles in television at the time. Towards the end of the ‘70s, disco had fully adopted this look and when that ephemeral era of music died, so did bell bottoms.
Now bell bottoms are making frequent reappearances with the recent surge of music festival fashion, where they are often worn in denim or printed, thin material.
Like the palazzo, these pants allow for more flexibility, freedom and fun. If you want to have a really good time, go for the velvet bell bottoms. For warm weather, spotlight your bell bottoms with a wide brim hat, wedges, and a cropped shirt, or for colder air, a leather belt and a nice sweater will do.
The bell bottom is a pant that I just don’t see enough. They’re youthful, carefree, and always make the wearer look like they’re having a better time than the rest of us.
Two modern young ladies bond over their fashion-foward culottes
The most contemporary of the pants I’ve explored here are culottes, pants which oftentimes look like a combination of a calf-length skirt and pants, perhaps signifying an androgynous approach in contemporary fashion.
They originate from men’s breeches (see George Washington for example) and the split down the middle allowed women in the Victorian era to ride horses naturally rather than ride side-saddle.
Culottes flare from the hip, offering more ventilation and differ from similar pants, like the palazzo, through their shorter hemline ending mid-calf or just below the knee.
A crisp, ironed crease can often be seen running down the middle of a culotte pant leg, as they are often made of thicker material. Because of this, they tend to look more professional and can be a looser alternative to the cigarette pant.
If you want to get a little funky, go for the pastel or leather options, which look great in black or army green.
Culottes are often styled in a minimalist, modern way, with few accessories, heeled sandals, and a coat. On a warmer day, pair it with a mock neck tee, then get on your bike and go, because these pants were made to move.