FASHION FADES BUT STYLE IS ETERNAL ! Today, these “drop-crotch” pants can be seen anywhere from the runway to the workplace. Trying to appeal the “high culture” aspect of American civilization, the pants are designed with a business-like, chic, and formal style. The term “harem pant” has now been generalized to describe any pant with a generally low dropping crotch seam ranging from MC Hammer’s overly-baggy “parachute pants” to a slimmer fit more accustomed to today’s skinny jean youth.
Surprisingly, this fashion statement has widely unknown, yet interesting origins. Lets take you through the tour.
First seen in Persia 2,000 years ago, the pants were worn by women among different middle-eastern tribes to represent modesty and innocence . This can be seen through the style and design of the pants: they are loose around the hips and legs, diminishing any trace of a feminine body shape. The trousers were a symbol of the Muslim women’s role as a “patriarchal property and ‘underdeveloped’ personality”, also seen in the loose fit of the pants . Men and other family members wore the pants when doing chores at home, as their baggy fit allowed them to comfortably complete these tasks. Salvars and Shalwar are a few of the commonly used names for the pants during this time period. An essential part of everyday life, the Persian word “Salvar” actually means “pants” (Henderson). Obviously, the pants meant much more than a stylistic choice during this time period.
In Western culture, the stylish trouser made its debut in the mid 1800’s with the help of the infamous woman’s rights activist Amelia Bloomer – hence the name “bloomers”—and gained popularity throughout many feminine groups including suffragists and Strangite Mormons . The pants served as a uniform for the persevering women, illustrating the gender boundaries they intended to break: pants had not been worn by women in public before this time period. The women wore the pants with purpose, not with style. Post-suffragist days, however, the pants seemed to fall under the radar when the women earned the right to vote.
Another rebirth of the harem pant fad took place in American and Western European culture when French designer Paul Poiret included oriental and Persian influences in his 1909 collection. Women began dressing in the pants as they were expanding their traditional apparel boundaries and wearing what was considered “provocative” clothing. Trousers, traditionally worn in western culture by men, were a bold new statement in gender identity for these turn-of-the-century women.
By wearing these pants, women were intentionally dressing like men, and therefore associating themselves with male power and privilege. Much like their suffragist relatives, the pants served as a voice to the female population.
Harem pants came back into fashion in the 1980s, when they were remembered for being ‘costumey.’ Harem pants are commonly worn with a pleated skirt—a short skirt that covers the top portion of the harem pants. Both harem pants and pleated skirts are commonly used in belly dancing popularized in the late 1980s by M. C. Hammer became known as Hammer pants.
HAREM and Its Indian Connection
2,000 years back Harem Pants are believed to originate from the dress-like tunic called Dhoti, worn as a traditional men’s garment in the eastern world. Over many years this garment went through design variations and eventually became the first versions of the tulip shaped trousers that can be seen today. The design however, was not the only change but the main change was the change in gender reversal.
Nowadays the harem pants are widely worn mostly by women.
The Feminine View
“The pants served as a uniform for the persevering women, illustrating the gender boundaries they intended to break: pants had not been worn by women in public before this time period. The women wore the pants with purpose, not with style. Post-suffragist days, however, the pants seemed to fall under the radar when the women earned the right to vote.”
– Megan Wright
In 2008 designer Andreas Melbosted aired his spring 2009 Phi collection during fashion week which again journeyed back to the time to embrace the western style and rejuvenate the harem pants. Then the trend grew rapidly with women fashion until it broke trend in men fashion in 2011.
Both men and women celebrities are wearing harems in different style, type and sizes. A prime example of celebrity Harem endorsement is Justin Bieber’s now infamous shiny red Harem Pants. The young pop sensation Justin Bieber came out on stage in 2012 wearing a red pair of Harem Pants, which seemed to receive more publicity and coverage then Justin himself. They’ve now become a part of the singer’s image, just like with MC Hammer previously. If you ask someone what they know about Justin Bieber you’ll probably get the same answers, the hair, the attitude, the inability to sing, and of course his Harem Pants. This is the power of using the celeb media to catwalk modern fashion.
Life is too short to wear mundane clothes, Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.