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??


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