I have only been consciously dressing ethically for five years now (since 2012) but in that time I have picked up a few tips. Making the decision to start dressing ethically can be both exciting- as well as completely overwhelming when you start to look around you and see only fast fashion, or sustainable fashion brands that you cannot afford to buy from! The first step to dressing ethically (yay!) is not in completely overhauling your entire wardrobe, but in taking small steps starting from this point on. So, continuing in the spirit of Fashion Revolution Week, today I am sharing both a completely ethical outfit, as well as my tips on how to start dressing ethically yourself.
My purse was from a vintage store, and the scarf and shoes were thrifted.
Secondhand clothes make up a large portion of my wardrobe, because they are a really great and affordable way to dress ethically. Because used clothes are already in existence, whatever history and supply chain they may have had previously is given a second chance at life when you add it to your wardrobe. There are so many textiles already in existence, and unfortunately many of them are sent to the landfills. (11 million tonnes each year in the USA alone!!!) This is obviously unsustainable, and one of the best ways to combat this is to wear secondhand clothing. For my fellow vintage lovers, we’ve already seen the value in wearing “old” things 🙂
While shopping second hand may be time consuming- and might not be the best option when you need something very specific, if you treat it like a treasure hunt, you might be surprised at what you can find. Some of my favourite pieces in my closet are thrifting finds: one man’s trash is certainly another’s treasure.
My shirt was “thirdhand” as it originally belonged to my aunt, who then passed it on to my sister, who finally passed it on to me!
Some easy ways to start wearing secondhand clothing would be by thrifting and shopping at vintage and consignment stores. If you don’t have a thrift store in your area, consider having a clothing swap with friends, accepting hand me downs from others, or buying online through places like Etsy or ThredUp. (ThredUp is an online thrift store. I’ve never purchased from them before- but I know plenty of other people who have had great success shopping there.)
I upcycled my skirt from a thrifted extra large wrap skirt.
Another great way to way to dress ethically is by making your own clothing or accessories. Learning to sew, if you don’t know how to already, is a great life skill and can really help you to appreciate the value of clothing (and the hard work that goes into making it!) By making your own clothing, you are escaping the “fast fashion” trend and instead creating thoughtful, slow-fashion pieces.
Although, one of the downsides of sewing your own clothing can be in not knowing where your fabric is sourced from, one of the best ways I have found to sew sustainably is in refashioning and upcyling. This is second hand and handmade combined in one: the best of both worlds 🙂 Some of the projects I have upcycled (including this dutch wax print skirt) are featured in these posts here, here and here. Even if you don’t want to get involved in time consuming refashions, second hand textiles such as linens or extra large maxi skirts give you a lot of fabric to work with to cut new things out of, and some thrift stores even sell yard goods! That being said, I do still purchase new fabric from time to time, if I have a specific project in mind. I would love to one day be able to source all of my fabric from sustainable textile mills, but in the meantime I am glad to be able to hand make slow-fashion pieces for my wardrobe.
And, even if you don’t want to sew for yourself, have you considered the handmade pieces other people are making (both clothing as well as accessories)? Check out your local craft fairs and farmer’s markets, or search on Etsy. There are so many talented people out there who are selling lots of beautiful handmade items. Some of them even take custom orders- so you can get exactly what you want!
My belt is from the Canadian company Brave Leather, and as well as being fair trade, it is also made of vegetable-tanned leather byproducts sourced from the food industry.
Another way to dress ethically is in buying from (and supporting) companies that are producing sustainable and ethically made goods. When it comes to finding ethical fashion brands, keep in mind that it’s like getting a grade in school- if you get a good grade you tell everyone, and if you get a bad grade, you tend to keep it to yourself. Ethical fashion companies usually have easy-to-find information about their practices and supply chains. If a company doesn’t have that information for you, they probably aren’t an ethical company (although that’s not always the case.)
The best way to find ethical fashion companies I’ve found, is simply by searching the internet with keywords like “ethical fashion brands”, “fair trade fashion companies”, “ethical leather purse”, “fair trade jewellery” “sustainable fashion” etc. This will bring up tons of companies for you to choose from, as well as sites dedicated to sharing ethical brands, such as this one. I shared a post a few weeks ago listing some ethical jewellery brands, here.
My fair trade bracelets are engraved brass, copper and mother of pearl from India, which I purchased from Ten Thousand Villages. The Pearly Bracelets and Etched Bangles are currently still available.
I find buying ethically made clothing to be out of my reach at the moment. I don’t feel confident in purchasing clothing online, because I am never sure if it is going to fit how I like it (and since I don’t live in the USA, where many of the companies are from, I don’t qualify for things like free shipping and returns). And unfortunately I don’t have any local ethical clothing shops to buy from. However, once thing that I do like to purchase from ethical companies is accessories. Things like jewellery, belts, and purses are a great first step to buying ethically. You don’t have to “try on” a necklace, so it is easy to purchase things like that online. I also do have a Ten Thousand Villages store a couple of hours away from where I live, so I’ve bought plenty from them over the years. Investing in ethical companies is a good option, because it sends the message to the fashion industry that this is something that is important to you- and by helping fair trade companies to succeed, you are helping to shape the future of the fashion industry too.
My necklace was from Ten Thousand Villages. The Engraved Choker is currently still available for sale. My earrings are vintage and second-hand from my mom.
Well, those are my tips for some ways to start dressing ethically. It can seem overwhelming at first, but small changes make big differences over time! I hope that wherever you are on the ethical fashion scale, that these few tips can help you, and, if you have any other tips, please do share!
What are your favourite ways of shopping and dressing ethically?
Headbands and hair accessories are a great way to dress up any outfit with a festive flair which is perfect for the Christmas season.(But, really, who am I kidding? These are great to wear any time of the year! See Tuesday’s outfit for proof. Or this one.) Anyways, at this festive season of the year, we do tend to like making things at bit more fancy, and hair accessories are such a quick and easy way to do so. Put on a dress and you look nice, but add a hair accessory and you have an ensemble, right?
Here is a dress, but not an ensemble. What hair accessories to add?
Here are five headbands to wear for any and every occasion you might find yourself at this holiday season.
1. Occasion: Holiday Baking Day.
A bow is a super sweet addition for a day spent baking sweets and decking the halls with Christmas cheer. And it isn’t too fancy for daytime wear either. Pair with a cozy sweater, some plaid, and an appropriately festooned Christmas apron, and your ready to bake up enough sweets to last you until. . . the end of the week.
2. Occasion: A Christmas Luncheon
A large pom-pom flower made out of chiffon with a centre of pearls is perfect for daytime. (Pearls for daytime, diamonds for evening, remember?) The shape of the flower is reminiscent of a small hat, and is the perfect stand-in for a real hat, when out with the “ladies who lunch”. Add some luscious red velvet for a look that Mrs. Claus will most definitely be jealous of.
3. Occasion: Christmas Day
Christmas calls for a very simple, yet elegant style. On the most wonderful day of the year, you certainly don’t want to be fussing with your outfit, because you will be too busy eating Christmas dinner, all manner of sweets, and spending time with those whom you love. A simple strand of pearls is classic and sweet, but goes with everything (including your favourite cozy pajamas if need be). Pair with a cozy sweater and any and all Christmas themed garments you own.
4. Occasion: Christmas Cocktail Party
Christmas can be the most dressed down time of year, but also the most dressed up, when the occasion calls for it. For a work party, or any other Christmas cocktail party, a feathered headband is the perfect accessory. Reminiscent of a fascinator, feathers and gems create an elegant evening ensemble. Wear your loveliest Little Black Dress and let the feathers take centre stage.
5. Occasion: New Years Eve Party
Of course, the holidays are not finished without a New Years Eve celebration. Whether you are taking part in a dressed-up New Year’s Countdown party at midnight, or spending the evening in, a crown of stars is the perfect addition. Gold stars of all shapes and sizes will look festive and go with the any ensemble, regardless of whether it is an evening dress, or simply jeans and a shirt. Add all the sparkly jewelry you can find, and you are all set to ring in the New Year with style.
Are you planning on attending any Christmas or New Year’s Festivities? Do you like to wear headbands? Would you wear any of the these looks?
By the way, I used to hate wearing headbands because they always pressed behind my ears and gave me headaches after a while. Have you had that problem before? I recently discovered that if the band is narrow enough, or it is elastic (like so many you can find nowadays), you can push the headband farther back so it doesn’t sit right behind your ears, but it is still hidden by your hair. I wear headbands in this way all day and it usually doesn’t bother me anymore. That being said, for some reason, some days my head just doesn’t like them, and I can’t wear a headband that day. Anyways, I just thought I’d pass on the info, in case it can be of any use to you 🙂
Today I have a guest post to share with you all, and it is by none other than my very own sister, Sarah, who also blogs over at Just a Little Prayer. I have mentioned on the blog before, how she is a marvel at makeup, so we thought that it would be fun to create a vintage inspired makeup tutorial for you. This is a modern 1920’s makeup look that we have done before, and I love this look because it is so sparkly and dramatic in the style of the 1920’s, without giving the “racoon eye” look of the era, which usually only looks best in vintage photographs. (Although some people can definitely do that look successfully, it is not one that looks good on me!) So, without further ado, here is Sarah.
Hi Everyone! My name is Sarah, and I am Nicole’s sister. I have loved makeup for as long as I can remember, and have been experimenting with different looks for years. Today I am going to show you how simple it is to achieve a modern 1920’s makeup look with products that are probably in your makeup drawer already. I hope you enjoy it!
I have done this look on Nicole a few times, most recently in “Ready for Poiret’s ‘One Thousand and a Second Night’”, and for a 1920’s look in a recent guest post. It’s a super easy look that with practice could be done relatively quickly. (I’m naturally slow at such things, so I took a lot longer than the average person would. Maybe that was because we were having too much fun to concentrate on the task at hand.)
Left: Foundation and concealer applied. Right: The eyeshadow palette.
First I applied foundation and set it with powder, giving her skin a nice matte finish. I didn’t use blush for this look, but it’s up to you whether you want to. I next applied concealer where needed and also used it as an eye primer on the eyelids. This is a trick Pure Anada shared in one of their makeup tutorials: using concealer in place of a primer if you don’t have one.
Apply a light peachy eyeshadow to the entire lid.
After priming her eyelids I used a soft peachy eyeshadow with a fluffy blending brush to set the primer and to create a good base for building colour on. I applied the eyeshadow to the entire lid, but not to the browbone. You can use any neutral sort of colour for this.
Apply a soft, shimmery, beige shadow across the inner half of the lid up to the crease.
Next I applied a soft shimmer beige to the inner half of her eyelid up to the crease. I used a smaller brush for this so I could get better precision. The best part about this look is that it doesn’t have to be too perfect. Don’t worry if the colour goes a bit too dark or high, just take a clean brush and blend it out.
Apply a dark, shimmery brown in the crease and to the outer edge. (In a “c” shape.)
I then put a dark shimmery brown in the crease and outer edge of the eye. After blending the colour into the crease, I used a large eyeshadow brush to soften the edge of the brown.
The next step is to stop and have a tea break. Tea is an important part of any makeup look 🙂
Pot o’ Gold
Left: Use a tissue to catch any powder fall out. Right: The left eye does not have the gold glitter yet, and the right eye has the gold glitter applied. (And a strange brown mark?)
Having finished the base layer of colour, and adding some depth to the eye, it was time to add the gold. I used a loose powder eyeshadow for this part. Make sure you place a tissue across the bottom of your eye to catch any fallout from the shadow. I find it best to dip the brush in the loose shadow and then pat, not blend, the colour onto the eyelid. I patted the gold all across the lid, up to the crease of the eye, softly blending the edge with the brown eyeshadow. You can also add some gold eyeshadow along the bottom of your eye, if you would like. I didn’t do that with Nicole, but it could add a little more drama. If you don’t have gold glitter eyeshadow, use any other dramatic or sultry coloured eyeshadow colour you have. The 1920’s was all about drama, so pick anything that will give you the same moody effect.
Adding highlights to the lid. Apply to the inner corner and brow bone.
Next I added some shimmery cream eyeshadow to highlight the brow bone and inner corner of the eye. Use any light coloured shadow. Apply the shadow in the inner corner of the eye and across the brow bone.
This time we used the Master Kajal liner, but in the past have used a gel liner for the same results. This technique works well with both kinds of liner.
Left: Apply a messy line. Right: Smudge and blend the liner with a brush to get a smoky look.
Next, I used a pencil eyeliner to line the upper lids; don’t worry about making it perfect, I lined it rather messily. After lining her eyes I used a small flat brush to smudge it out. I made sure to blend it well, softening the colour into the gold eyeshadow. At this point you can also smudge some eyeliner along the bottom of your eye, concentrating most of the colour at the outer edge. This would help achieve the dramatic eye of the 1920’s.
Almost done! After I was done the bulk of the eye makeup, Nicole applied mascara. (I didn’t trust her to not poke me in the eye, in other words.)
Left: Choose a darker colour of lipstick for the 1920’s. Right: The finished makeup look!
To complete the 1920’s inspired look, I chose a dark lip colour. First I lined the lips, following the natural shape of her mouth. You can also draw the classic bow shape, if you prefer, and then apply lipstick.
The Modern 1920’s Makeup Look
And you are done! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial (my first ever!) and that you can have some fun with this look.
Pure Anada Black mascara (Ps. Honestly I was not happy with this mascara, and have since moved onto another Maybelline product I found that, happily, doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals!)
Lipstick: Mary Kay, True Dimensions (I was not happy with this product either, and have since returned the lipstick.)
One other note: I was not sponsored in any way for the making of this post (although that would have been nice!) These are all products I have purchased myself, and use daily 🙂 Except for the ones that I didn’t like. 🙁 -Nicole
I honestly love each and every one of the clothes in my closet. I routinely evaluate what I have, and if there is anything that I don’t like anymore, out it goes. Life is really too short to wear clothes you don’t love! I’ve been wearing vintage style for several years now, (as I have mentioned before- sorry for being a broken record) and I would say that most of the clothes I have are vintage inspired, though I do have some “hold overs” from my pre-vintage days, which are still hanging in my closet because I like them.
Sometimes I just really love certain things, even if they are not “vintage” in style. I absolutely love fashion, and am inspired by so many different things. I love to watch the runway shows of designers like Valentino and Zac Posen (although both of those designers do tend to have more romantic styles anyways). I read the blogs of several non-vintage fashion and sewing bloggers, because I am interested in fashion as a whole, not just the vintage niche. I am always inspired by cultural and ethnic fashions around the globe. I read Vogue occasionally, and find their editorials to be so interesting and beautiful, even if I wouldn’t wear the clothes they choose. And in all of these fashion interests, I love to seek out the vintage details and inspirations in those things, whether they are a silhouette, a fabric choice or a special little detail.
You can often pick out the details inspired by past eras in the fashions we see on the runways and the stores today. Even the 1950’s styles, if you look closely, drew a lot of inspiration from the 1800’s with the corseted/waist cinched silhouettes, full skirts, and sometimes even floor length skirts that give more of a historical look. The 1930’s was another era that took inspiration from previous eras, with the rise of the “southern belle” style that gained popularity with the release of the movie “Gone with the Wind”.
However, when it comes right down to it- a lot of the fashions we see around us, just don’t fit into the 21st century idea of “vintage” which generally encompasses the years of the early 1900’s to the 1970’s (although technically the 1980’s and 1990’s are now vintage, though I wouldn’t class them as such in my mind, but I leave that up to you to debate over!) Fashion is constantly evolving though, so it just makes sense that we would be inspired by a wide variety of fashion styles, not only vintage styles.
Sometimes I think that, because I like vintage styles, I have to wear them all the time. I have to “vintageify” every outfit I wear, and always ensure that the period details are correct. But lately, I have come to realize the obvious: there is no need to feel that because you love vintage style you can’t branch out and wear other styles too. The fashion police aren’t holding you to a specific style 24/7!
In fact, I believe that if you love each and every garment you own, even if it doesn’t fit into a specific “style niche”, it will be an expression of your own unique style.
For me, the majority of my wardrobe takes cues from eras past, but sometimes, along comes something that just doesn’t fit in with the rest of my wardrobe. This African Dutch wax dress is one such garment.
This dress is not really vintage in style. Well, it does have a bit of a “prairie” style (hence the wheat field background for these photos!) but the African fabric print totally turns the “prairie” look on its head. It doesn’t look very vintage to me at all- and yet, it is still feminine in it’s shape and pattern. I like it because it is fun, bold, ethnic and colourful. I picked it up at the thrift store a few years ago, and when I got it, the entire bodice was smocked with elastic, including the sleeves. Some of the elastic had broken over time, and it got to a point where it was too unraveled to wear, so I unpicked the entire thing to redo it. I pressed the pieces, and discovered that it had not been cut from a pattern originally, but was actually draped and cut in place, which left some very wonky and crooked pieces! There was a lot of fabric, though, so I was able to recut a new peasant style bodice, smock the waist, and gather the top edge and sleeves with elastic.
Every time I wear this dress, I think to myself, “I could really use a whole bunch more of these” (though I haven’t sewn them yet!!), as this dress is now my go-to for days when I want to be comfortable, or just run around in fields getting my hem “6 inches deep in mud”. I love the long length of this dress, and it is so fun to wear a casual long dress, rather than saving long dresses only for fancy occasions. Because seriously most of us just don’t have enough occasions to wear a dressy chiffon and satin floor length dress, but we definitely do have enough occasions to wear a cotton floor length dress!
The colour choice of this dress is so vastly different from everything else I own. I don’t actually like orange. As in, it is actually the last colour I would ever choose for anything (unless it is a mustard hued orange). I don’t think I own anything else that is truly orange. (Ok, I just went and checked- and the only other thing is a vintage granny square scarf with a touch of 70’s hued orange in it!) So, it is really strange to me that I have this dress, and yet- I love it! It is one of my favourite dresses, and it is in constant rotation in my wardrobe. This kind of dress is one that speaks for itself. I just add some easy flats, and some jewellery and really that is all it needs. It doesn’t need a hat or a scarf, though of course I could add that if I wanted to. So, does this outfit look very vintage? No, not really. But is it still “me”? Yes, definitely.
Contrasts are OK in fashion. Fashion is always changing, and we ourselves are always changing. What we love one moment, might not be what is inspiring us in the next. That is the nature of fashion, as it always has been. Today, we have the choice and the ability to decide what our own personal style will be! My hope for you is that you won’t ever feel “boxed in” by fashion, but will feel the freedom to dress in a way that makes you feel most like “you”- whatever that may be, and even if it changes day to day. 🙂
So, what garments in your closet don’t really ‘fit” with the rest of your wardrobe? Do you struggle to dress in one style all the time, or do you branch out and try new things? Do you tend to lean towards more true vintage looks, or more modern. . . or neither?
Dutch Wax Dress: Thrifted
Necklace: A gift from a friend years ago
ps. I would like to assure everyone that no wheat fields were harmed in the making of this post 🙂 This is our neighbours field, and I did not tramp down an area to stand in- it was already squashed flat from the day before when he was out in the field in his sprayer. Also, I wore this long dress, and boots, to make sure that I wouldn’t get any potential chemicals on myself 🙁 And, in case you have ever wondered what it would be like to run through a field of wheat in a long prairie styled dress, let me assure you that it looks a lot more romantic than the reality actually is. In reality, it is nearly impossible as the wheat is planted so close together, that you actually just end up tripping and stumbling around. Oh, well. The pictures turned out nice! 😉
Harem pants have got to be one of the most interesting and comfortable garments ever invented, and honestly I don’t know why they are not more popular in Western fashion. Most commonly known as “harem pants” in the West, they can also go by the names “genie pants”, “elephant pants”, “Aladdin pants”, “parachute pants”, “Sarouel pants”, “Thai pants”, “pantaloons”, and “bloomers” (And I am sure the list goes on. . . ) The true name for these pants, which are “extremely full, puffed Turkish-style pants, very full at the waist and gathered at the ankle”*, is “Salvar” or “Shalwar”. These are simply the Turkish and Persian words for “pants”. (Other languages also use the word “shalwar” for this style of garment, with variations on spelling.)
Harem pants are one of those distinctly “exotic” garments we encounter very little in the Western world. Even the name “Harem Pants” conjures up images of foreign, glamorous and outrageous fashions. Yet in much of the world- the Middle East, African, and Asian cultures- these pants are still worn daily by both men and women as a practical and comfortable everyday garment. When my brother was traveling in Nepal, he saw many people wearing this style of pant, and even purchased a pair like the ones I have, only in red. This style of pant is alive and well, yet despite the fact that this fashion has been around for ages, much like the Turban, which I shared about in my post here, it has only been sporadically and minimally popular in the West.
Originating in ancient Persia about 2,000 years ago (as we don’t have any records to substantiate the fashion before then) these trousers were everyday clothes for both men and women. They are thought to have developed from the man’s dhoti, which was a skirt/tunic tied and wrapped into a trouser shape, eventually evolving into a true trouser like garment. There is very little evidence of what women wore in ancient Persian/Middle Eastern cultures, as there are no records depicting women in artwork of the time. While we do have some record of what men were wearing, one of the earliest records of women’s fashions is from 5th century BC, in which a Queen is depicted wearing trousers and a long tunic. Interestingly enough, women are also shown wearing more fitted and “modern” styled trousers underneath long tunics at home. However, whenever women left their homes, they did not wear the more revealing trousers, instead wearing baggy ankle length trousers, long tunics and shawls over their upper body and head. The combination of these trousers, and the large mantle effectively concealed the body, and maintained modesty. Up until the last century, this remained the standard outfit of Middle Eastern women.
However, the Western fashion world went in a completely different direction from the East- both literally and figuratively 🙂 Although Europe had much the same ideology of feminine “modesty”, this manifested itself in a different way. Rather than baggy pants, women instead wore skirts and dresses. Although they varied in length, style and shape, the one thing they had in common was that they never showed or revealed the shape of the leg, rather concealing it, lest it be revealed (heaven forbid!) that women had these two appendages on the lower half of their bodies! Although some fashions could hardly be called modest (the low cut bodices of the 18th century, or the tightly laced Victorian silhouette, for example), by not revealing the leg, they were considered “proper” and modest by society. Trousers, Breeches, Pants, all generally the same garment, by different names, were firmly a man’s garment throughout the next centuries of Western fashion.
18th Century Costume from “The Orphan of China”, Source
Although there are several examples of blowsy pants depicted in fashion plates of the late 1700’s, pants for women do not seem to have burst onto the scene until the mid 19th century. However, I can’t seem to find much out about the pants of the 1700’s, and it appears that they were “fancy dress” costumes, or stage costumes, rather than actual garments women of the day were wearing. (If you know more about harem pants in this era, please do let me know, as I’d love to find out more about this era!) Of course, throughout the centuries, women have dressed as men, whenever circumstances behooved them too, but the key was that it was done incognito.. If women dressed as men, they were disguising themselves as men, and this remained the norm up until the 19th century, when things were suddenly going to change in women’s fashion.
In 1851, Amelia Bloomer, who was a women’s rights activist, burst onto the European world stage in a “Turkish Dress”. The was a Victorian styled Turkish outfit consisting of a short dress with baggy shalwar pants underneath. Amelia Bloomer was an advocate for this outfit, reasoning that it would provide women with ease of movement, ability to excercise, freedom from restrictive corseting, hoop skirts, petticoats etc, and would also prevent the germs, dirt and mire that collected on the trailing skirts of the time from being dragged into the home. This style, she argued, was successfully being worn by women of Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Unfortunately, the style did not pick up as she hoped, and was dismissed by many as to leading to the downfall and decay of society if it was to become mainstream. However, the style of pants were popular enough, even if dismissed at the time as extreme, to be immortalized as “bloomers” after her name. Some women did choose to wear this style of pants at the time, although it was more for practical and social reasons than for fashion. In the later Victorian years, these pants were adapted into “bicycling bloomers”, and were actually thought to be more modest an alternative than bicycling in a long skirt (which could also be dangerous!) However, despite the fact that 50 years or so had passed, they were still not thought to be fashionable, and were instead regarded as much too scandalous.
Poiret, whose designs were most popular from 1904-1924, would finally introduce the harem pant to the Western world, not for practical or social reasons, but for fashion alone. (although the timing was certainly influenced by the culture). Poiret was greatly inspired by Oriental, Persian, and Eastern styles, and these played heavily into his collections. His collections were made up of kimonos, turbans, tunics, flamboyant embroidery, eye makeup, ornate jewelry, and finally in 1911, the arrival of the long awaited “Harem Skirt”, as it was first called. Poiret’s harem pants arrived at a time of women’s rights advancements in history, (this was right around the peak of the woman’s suffrage movement) and they became popular with the more progressive ladies of the time willing to “shock” polite society. Even the name “Harem Pants” was designed to stand out as modern and exotic. Poiret’s One Thousand and Second Night Ball (inspired by the 1001 Arabian Nights stories) was a place to show off his collections, and harem pants along with hobble skirts and lampshade tunics, were the most desired styles of the time.
One of Poiret’s 1002nd Night Inspired Garments, Source
Although harem pants didn’t end up “taking off” as they were, they instead became a bit of a stepping stone to women’s wearing pants of any kind. The blowsy and full modest shape of the trousers, allowed society to get used to the idea that women actually possess legs, and by the time World War One was over, women were wearing pants for fashion, not just for practicality. Although the popularity of harem pants died out in the 1920’s, we see other styles of trousers rising to take their place in women’s fashion. Interestingly enough, the garment that was designed to conceal the body in the East, was destined to reveal it in the West.
Harem pants would fade out of style after the 1920’s. They didn’t see much success in the 1940’s or 1950’s, as the fashion sensibilities of those eras was a tightly corseted “ladylike” silhouette. The blowsy, flowy exotic pants, didn’t quite fit that image. I have, however seen one example of a harem skirt dress, designed by Jaques Fath in 1952. The “Canasta” dress was made of turquoise chiffon although, unfortunately, the pictures are in black and white. The tightly fitted bodice of this garment is very “of the era”, while the loose billowy culottes have the appearance of a skirt, rather like a puffball skirt.
Harem pants were to be resurrected in the 1960’s and 70’s, with the “global” inspired craze that again swooped through fashion at the time, bringing kaftans, turbans, peasant styles, tunics and other ethnic garments back into style. Although they never reached fashion heights, the harem pants of the 1960’s, were reinvented in the form of “harem pyjamas” which were either sewn as a one piece, like below, or paired with a short tunic, or oriental style bolero. They were often worn as loungewear.
In the 1980’s and 90’s, harem pants again became popular, this time with street culture, since the loose fit of the pants were perfect for hip-hop dance. Several rappers such as MC Hammer famously wore them while performing, thus they became known as “hammer pants”.
Harem pants today are still a controversial fashion item in the West. We hardly see them in European and American wardrobes, and yet they are such a versatile and unique garment. They have faded in and out of fashion throughout the past century, but have never really caught on. In my personal opinion, the pants that have been released in recent years have not retained that exotic and elegant air, and have instead come across as shapeless, baggy, stretched out, dropped crotch garments which are as far as possible from fashionable as can be. Sorry to be so derisive, but harem pants of the past, and harem pants, or more correctly shalwar, of the East today, are so beautiful and unique, that it seems a shame that they should be reinvented in such a bad way. However, even the more traditional style of harem pant- blowsy and drapey- is rarely seen in Western fashion. It is kind of funny when you think about it: that one of the oldest garments- predating even the “dress” as we know it- is largely considered too avant garde for Western fashion. I do appreciate the fact that the 21st century allows me, as a woman to choose what I want to wear, whether it is a skirt, a dress, fitted pants – or more unconventional styles like harem pants!
Oftentimes true harem pants, whether in a Thai Pant style, or gathered harem style, are associated with a more hippy culture, but I think that they can easily be styled for a more vintage look as well. When I wore my pants a week ago, to church, I paired them with a pin tucked blouse so that I would get the 1910’s silhouette, and some sparkly jewelry and headband and black Mary Jane’s. I feel like this conveyed the style, without being too over the top. I did feel a bit out of my element, and yet, it is so fun wearing harem pants. I was serious when I said I don’t know why they haven’t caught on in Western fashion. They are the best combination of skirt and pants: the comfort, looseness and coolness on a hot day, that a skirt gives you, with the ease of pants for working, running, exercising and leaping (even on windy days when you don’t want to accidentally flash the whole world!) I can see why women around the globe wear these daily! So, do you want to give harem pants a try? Here are some tips to keeping you look fabulous as you do!
To wear harem pants in a vintage style, look for inspiration from Poiret’s collections of the 1910’s.
Tucking your shirt in, will create a more vintage silhouette, rather than wearing an untucked t-shirt, which will give you more of a modern, causal, “earth mother” silhouette. (you know what I mean!)
A blousy shirt, either a peasant style top, or any kind of soft drapey shirt, will tuck in nicely, and pair well with the softness of the pants. Make sure that the top is not too bulky or stiff, as the pants will be “big”, and you will end up looking big all over. It’s like the opposite of wearing a pencil skirt, where a large top is OK because it is balanced out by the slim bottom, here you want a softer or slimmer top to balance out the larger bottom. Details like pin tucking, pleats, buttons, lace, chiffon etc. will evoke a 1910’s style.
A button-up or structured blouse or shirt will play off the drapey pants well, and keep you looking vintage. For a casual look, wear a tie front shirt. This will keep the look structured enough, while also looking a bit “dressed down” without being a t-shirt, which will read as modern.
A structured jacket or blazer will work nicely too. I have seen a more modern style of cropped blazer paired with harem pants and it looks fabulous!
I also really love the look of the crossover top the model is wearing in the 1960’s image above. It is fitted and elegant, and suits the style of the pants nicely.
Pairing these pants with high heels, will elevate the look (literally- haha) as well as making you look dressed up, rather than dressed down. If you aren’t careful, harem pants can easily look like “I didn’t even try” instead of “I am fabulous”.
Pairing the pants with sparkly jewelry, bracelets, earrings, headbands, feathers, cloches, etc. will give you a Poiret 1002nd Night’s look. Be careful of going overboard, as it could look very “costumey” very quickly. But, then again, if you love that more embellished look- I say “go for it!”
If you want to try a 1960’s look- pair your pants with a vest or tunic. This would be a really fun look.
And most importantly: Be confident! If you are anything like me, you are most likely in the minority with this style of pants, you are out of your comfort zone, and people are probably staring at you, so just walk with confidence knowing you look great- and are in league with many other stylish women both past and present!
So, what do you think- will you try Harem Pants? What do you think of Poiret’s 1002nd Nights style? Do you think we will see a resurgence of this fashion in Western culture?
Also, PS: While doing research for this post, I came across this company, Hippie Pants, that sells Thai Pants, which are fair trade too! While I have not personally purchased anything from them, they have some beautiful styles, (this is the style of pants I have, in rayon) and I thought you might like to see where you can get some for yourself – or just simply be inspired 🙂
Want to read more about Harem Pants? Here are the sources I used:
“The Mode in Costume” (book) by R. Turner Wilcox is an invaluable resource for of fashion history.
* This definition is from “Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion” (book), which has definitions of all fashion related terms, and is also quite interesting to read.