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Pants In The Past

We’re all about pants with stories to tell, and here’s some more of them (with some wiki help), about the pants in the past.

1. The Wide Leg

In the 1700s, Lord Vu Vuong of the Nguyen Dynasty in Vietnam decreed that all men and women were to wear trousers – a revolutionary move for the time. Thus was born the ao dai, translated as ‘long dress’, and which consists of a long shirt over trousers. Wide leg pants or palazzo trousers became popular in the 1930s in the West when Coco Chanel wore them in Venice, no less. Often made in light, loose flowing fabric for the summer, they then became a fashion staple for Hollywood stars like Katherine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich, who would lounge in them between takes on film sets.

2. The Dhoti

The first dhoti can be traced back to 5th century BC where men of the Indus civilization wrapped this loose cotton garment around their waists. Its name is derived from the word dhauta, and is also called by the Sanskrit word pancha which means five, a nod to the fact that it was originally made from a five yard long strip of cloth. Usually seen on men in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, the comfortable dhoti is also considered a formal wear - Gandhi wore it on public occasions. The colour matters too – red Dhotis are worn by priests at temples, and gold or rich coloured ones are worn by King and poets!

3. The Harem

Evolved from the Dhoti, the Harem Pants were born. They were first seen in Persia 20 centuries ago, and were worn by women among different middle-eastern tribes to represent innocence and modesty as their bagginess around the hips and low rise concealed feminine curves. Contrary to the name, these pants first represented morality! In 1909 Monsieur Poiret popularized this East Asian look in the West, and in the 1990s MC Hammer took it even further. Literally. Today, modern cultures of western Asia have another purpose for this style – families have the Harem pants ready on hand as comfortable house clothing, which their guests may change into when lounging. 

4. The Bloomers

Also known as ‘the reform dress’, the bloomers (the inspiration for our hikers) represented the desire for greater freedom both metaphorical and literal. In the mid 1800s, women’s rights activist Amelia Bloomer in the United States of America adopted the Bloomers (hence the name!) and used them as symbolic uniforms for the feminists who were advocating for womens’ rights. In the summer of 1851, this loose and short demi-skirt short took over the nation in a ‘bloomer craze’ for its liberating form. Bloomer balls and bloomer picnics were held, and its reach extended even to Japan in 1903, where it was known as buruma.

5. The Overalls

Inspired by the one-piece work outfit, the overalls were first seen in the USA during the 1700s, and were known as “slops”. They were worn over normal trousers and hence were larger than usual so they could be slipped on over anything. Built for durability and hard work, they were made of tough cotton or linen and had two front facing pockets on the thighs as an easy place to keep handy tools. Women wore the first overalls in 1916 during WWI, and in the sixties the garment moved out of the factory and onto the streets as fashion and athletic wear in a myriad of customizable styles.