To wear, not to wear (and how to wear): harem pants

To wear, not to wear (and how to wear): harem pants

By Mary Catherine

I think we all happen upon trends that we’re just not sure about. I fought the comeback of leggings and I lost that one–happily, it turns out. But I also wasn’t sure about dresses over pants and I stand by that one…which brings me to my current conundrum: harem pants. Amber and I were talking about if they’re actually Hammer pants or maybe gypsy pants? I think all the names apply, with maybe the dropped-crotch aspect being a definitive characteristic of the Hammer variety. For the sake of this post, I’m going to refer to them all as harem pants and say upfront that I don’t think the extreme dropped crotch helps anybody and all the crotches here are just–looser, let’s say.

What I’m talking about is a silhouette that is different from the skinny pipe-leg jean silhouette that we’ve all been seeing for a while now. I have a couple pairs of pleat-front shorts and I love them. It’s different, feels a little more retro-modern and has a casual, less body-conscious look overall which can be interesting.

My question is -are they one of those items that only works on the tall-skinnies or is there a way for the rest of us to pull them off? I remember seeing Sienna Miller in a pair a few years ago and I thought she looked great. She’s not incredibly tall or emaciated, and though she got a lot of flack for them, I thought it was a really interesting choice and she looked cute. And I’ve been seeing more versions of them popping up here and there and they have me feeling curious…So I trolled around on the interwebbies today looking for more examples and found a few that were terrifying, but some that I thought really worked.


Both of these are from the ebay store Funkin Junkie. And though their model is clearly thin and probably not 5’2″, I think she looks great because she got the surrounding elements and proportions right. When you have some voluminous fabric, it’s best to keep everything around it fairly simple and on the fitted side. I would think a snug little tank top is key if you’re going to go blousy below. And I was thinking, too, that proportionally, the high, fitted waist could do a lot of favors in terms of making one’s waist appear smaller and maybe disguising some of things some of us might want disguised in the bottom area. And for my money, seeing a bit of the ankles seems to be very helpful in giving the look room to breathe. I also think you need the highest possible heel in your closet.

Urban Outfitters had a couple of them as well:

Again, a high, chunky heel and a little bit of ankle. The first ones I can see as a great springtime-throw-them-on-with-a-tank no-nonsense outfits. I know the second ones aren’t technically harem pants, but I thought they were super-cute and the silhouette is similar and I think the same rules apply.

I was also thinking the thrifting possibilities for these–especially the pleated pants– would be pretty good for a bit…I found a bunch (about 20 different pairs) on etsy that I am considering…Even though I am 5’2″, I think I can pull them off by keeping the blouson effect fairly tamed (perhaps a simple alteration here and there), and following the rules above.

What do we think? Is it a do or a don’t??

64 comments to To wear, not to wear (and how to wear): harem pants

  • Beth

    I’ve seen a few comments that have said that they do not suit pear shapes in particular.

    I think that’s wrong and almost the opposite of the truth!

    If anything, the fact that they skim over large hips is a bonus? They might not be the ULTIMATE things for pear shapes to wear but it’s certainly better than anything skinny – skinnies or tight leggings define the hips more but harem pants at least provide a straight line from the hips to the ankles. What you’d want to steer clear of is too many pleats though, that’s where the effect counteracts itself.

    Equally for the bum area, if you have a small bum then harem pants will just provide an unnecessary amount of material but if the bum is slightly larger than more material without being tight will surely provide for that? I find my harem pants skim nicely over my larger bottom half.

    I also found a similar thing when i tried a top on once. You’d think with having small boobs you would want more material around them. Wrong again! I tried it on anyway and found that unexpectedly, the fact that it was a bit tighter around the boob area and skimmed over my stomach actually made my boobs look bigger – the v-neck certainly helped with that too. After all, you don’t want something ill-fitting.

    Ultimately, everyone should have a pair of these to mope around the house in on a lazy day if nothing else. They are too comfortable!

  • The leopard print harem pants, I covet. <3
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  • cj8711

    I have been wearing the more “Drop Crotch” style for the past year or so, and as a male i find it hard to find this style on the high street. It was a very short lived experiment for the high street fashion industry to supply these for men, and on thinking about it i can see why. I haven’t really come accross many guys who do wear them, guys that don’t tend to think they look a bit stupid and don’t get why i do wear them. For a guy that is larger than the average 32-34 skinny boys, and can not find jeans or trousers that sit right, thse were the perfect choice for me. I think with the right balance of the skinny jean (to the knee) the Drop Crotch/Harem style can add a new dynamic to any wardrobe. A fantastic example would be to wear them with a shirt, waitcoat and the old favourite Espedrilles.

    It’s just a shame it didn’t catch on a bit more with men. But i don’t mind hunting around online to find a really good deal with good quality clothes being the end result.

  • Gemma

    This has helped me a bit…but still unsure if someone my size and shape can pull them off-I’m only 5ft 1″ and a size 6-8 depending what the clothing is (always been tiny-it’s actually a pain most of the time finding stuff to fit me while following trends!!)

    I’ll admit I don’t always follow though, if I like-I wear…if not-I’m not going to wear something just cos it’s IN!! I bought a Miss Selfridge black jumpsuit, didn’t know it was harem style til it arrived (damn eBay seller had crap description!) but it really nice-strapless with diamond sequin pattern to the top which is all fitted to the waist, then u got the baggy harem trouser part.

    Got plenty of high heels, and will keep it simple (thanks for all the tips!) but will it still work on someone so petite as me?? Stuck!!! (plus I’m 28 but look 18-19 so I keep being told !) a

    Any help?? xx

  • harem pants are my love. I always look good in them and they hide an imperfections you may have, very comfortable to wear and easy to dress up or down.

  • I dont know. An ex gf of mine wore genuine ones from turkey with high heels. She was very thin but not tall. However i didnot think ofthem as being so nice. They looked sort of ugly to me and slutty. I dont like slutty clothes or women. Thus the reason why i left her. Also she was bullemic.

  • What about the harem pants like the real indian style?
    Personally I like the harem pants a lot. comfy and very roomy.

  • I love harem pants they are so comfortable i have like 10 pairs. I like the leopard ones a lot.

  • Meredith Morgan

    Its a definite do! The only reason Sienna Miller got flack for it is that they were only just coming back into style when she wore them. Good for her! Those goons just didn’t know what’s up. These days those who were poking fun wouldn’t say a peep because the style has gone mainstream. Now that harem pants are on every hipster and in every boutique, you don’t have to have bulletproof confidence like Sienna to enjoy a pair. Personally, it took me a bit to warm up to the idea, as they do have a proportional aesthetic all their own. But now that my impossibly cool sister has been looking awesome in them for a couple years, I’m making my own today out of some too-big thrift store patterned pants. The other cool thing about harem pants is that they are derived from literally the first form of pant ever invented. Here’s a synopsis of their history:

    Once you learn a bit about their history, all of a sudden they are freaking awesome, and don’t remind you so much of MC Hammer, but a time-tested specimen of fashion evolution from 2,000 years ago. Pretty cool.

    Personally, I’m gonna rock my black and white patterned pair with brown motorcycle boots, a white tank top, and maybe a few bangles or a hat. And if I get tired of them, at least they only cost me $3 and a little time!

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