The wide-legged trouser: ‘Bellbottoms,’ ‘Gauchos,’ or ‘Palazzo pants’ (whatever they may be called) has become a recurring style trend through out the numerous decades of the fashion world. This past year, the international runways of Fashion week were dominated by the ‘boho-chic’ style of the 1970’s. Designers, such as, Ralph Lauren, Proenza Schoeler and Christian Dior incorporated this classic, wide-legged pants style into their Spring/Summer 2015 collections. High-end stores, like Zara, have continued to stock a ‘more affordable’ version of this ‘bell-bottom’ style. In Chioma Nnadi’s article Why Vogue Girls Are Ditching Their Skinny Jeans, Vogue Market editor, Kelly Connor stated: “There’s something far cooler and effortless about a white shirt and baggy trousers […] Whereas a skinny pant with a pump can look like you spent to much time getting ready.” Indeed, it is true that ‘the wide-legged pant’ trend has established itself as a revolutionary concept for the majority of contemporary fashion designers. The ‘androgynous,’ yet casual, stylistic appearance of this garment has allowed designers to blur the conventional line between both ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ fashion modes. Consequently, the frequent reinvention of this particular style has established ‘the wide-legged trouser,’ as a timeless piece within the ‘fabric’ of ‘fashion’s timeline’ (a little style humor for all you out there).
In the 19th century, the ‘wide-legged pant’ was incorporated originally into British Naval uniforms, in order to assure easy clothing maintenance and safety (i.e. make-shift parachutes). Subsequently, in 1920, with the rise of Prohibition, the suffragette movement, ‘zootsuits,’ and ‘flappers,’ women began to assume more active roles within both the social and fashion realms. The female designer, Coco Chanel rebelled against the ‘ultra-feminine’ ensembles of former, rival female designers, such as Elsa Schiaparelli, in order to create looks, which imitated a more “masculine” style of dress. At the forefront of this trend, the infamous American actress Katherine Hepburn adopted the ‘wide-legged pant’ style, as she introduced the world to her iconic highwaisted trouser-look. Thus, the original concept of the ‘female trouser’ liberated women from the former, obsolete world of constricting ‘corsets,’ ‘hoop skirts,’ and ‘billowing’ gowns.
From this point on, the notion of rebellion became a key thematic element within the evolution of the fashion world. In the Sixties and Seventies, the new bohemian ‘hippie’ trend cemented ‘the wide-legged trouser’ as a permanent symbol within the fashion timeline. During this period of ‘free love’ and ‘sticking it to the man,’ this ‘Hippie’ generation utilized their clothing as a liberating stylistic form of self-expression against any high forms of power. In contrast, mega, international pop-stars such as Cher from The Sonny and Cher Show commercialized this specific trend and made it a staple fashion item within popular culture. The American jean company, Levi created a new line of wide, boot-cut jeans which dominated the teenage demographic during this era. On the other side of the spectrum, Punk musicians such as Patti Smith, who desired to emulate the careers of male musicians, like Bob Dylan, incorporated this rebellious look into her own wardrobe and became an important style-icon for the artistic set. Finally, like Hepburn, the actress Diane Keaton popularized this ‘masculine-look’ in the Woody Allen film Annie Hall (1977), as she played the ditzy, yet artistic companion to Allen’s neurotic protagonist. Thus, through her personal stylization of ‘the wide-legged pant,’ she introduced a new, quirky type of female heroine to both the cultural, cinematic, and fashion realms of the period.
In this new millennium, ‘the wide-legged trouser’ has assumed its rightful place within the ranks of iconic fashion styles. In 2010, Blake Lively was at the forefront of the reappearance of this trend when she graced the screen in the Parisian episode of Gossip Girl. This year, high-profile celebrities such as Victoria Beckham and Rihanna, who both experimented with ‘masculine’ fashion trends in the past, have established the “trouser” style permanently within current popular culture. In 2015, designers have successfully reinvented and redefined the conventional notion of ‘femininity’ through the effortless, ‘androgynous’ look of wide-legged trousers. In this new progressive age of gender equality, the stylistic reinterpretation of women’s fashion has managed to obscure the unnecessary segregation between male and female dress. Furthermore, in regards to the styling options for this particular trend, the possibilities remain endless. By pairing a structured tee, tank, or crop top with a bralet, jacket, and a pair of ‘high shoes,’ (to give an example), this garment provides numerous, iconic, versatile looks which will blend in with any summer event. Therefore, for this summer, take a bold fashion risk! Reinvent your look, loosen up your style and (finally!) toss out those old, wearied, skin-tight jeans!