Fashion Through The Ages: The Wide Leg Pant

Lauren recently wrote about the wide leg pant as a trend to try (once again) this season. She does not want to go back to the 90s (no wonder horrified by the Palazzo pants of that era) but because I am older than her, I immediately thought of the mid-70s and the first Charles Angels. (I’m sorry, I still think the look is cute!) I also pictured glamorous Hollywood looks and Ginger Rogers in the 30s dancing in flowy pants. Then I thought, could wide leg pants be right on a 17 year fashion cycle?


I did a little research and it is not exactly every 17 years, but wide leg pants actually turned up more frequently than that. The pants showed up closer to every 12 to 15 years, with a bit of a lapse in the 50s when pants became slimmer (think Audrey Hepburn in her classic capri pants).


There are a few records of women wearing wide leg pants in the 1910s, but it was mostly for horse back riding and  function, not really what I consider a fashion statement. So I give credit to Coco Chanel who sported the look on the beach wearing her own design (made of her infamous knitwear and complete with her signature pearls) in the late 20s. This is also when she started another trend, suntanning!

My best source for fashion history is from the movies, and I found many glamorous wide pant pajama looks in the mid-30s like the slinky silk pants on Ginger Rogers. Viviene Lee and Katherine Hepburn wore menswear inspired trouser style pants in the 40s, which happened to be wide legged for men, too.


Moving on the the 60s came the wild print palazzo pants, like those by Emelio Pucci. Some were so wide legged they were basically a maxi skirt with 2 legs! I still like the high-waisted cut of the mid to late 70s wide leg pants because of how flattering they were. They accentuated the waist and hips but hid all sorts of leg and knee flaws, on both slim or heavy women. So when the pants came back again in the 90s the look was much too “super-sized” and cumbersome, to say the least. No wonder Lauren doesn’t want to go back there.

When it comes to wide leg pants today we can take the best and most flattering looks from the past and wear them, this time around, with pride!

Pictured above:

1020s: Coco Chanel On The Beach

1930s:  Ginger Rogers and Fred Astair dancing to Let Yourself Go in 1936

1040s:  Vivien Leigh in Wide Leg Trousers

1960s: Emilo Pucci Psychedelic Print Palazzo Pants

1970s: Charlie’s Angels Kate Jackson, Jacqueline Smith and Farrah Fawcett-Majors, 1976

1990s: Elephant Pants on a McCalls Pattern

— Carol Calacci

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