Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

September 10, 2009

Harem Pants pt I

Filed under: Advanced Fashion,Fashion,How To Wear It — Miss Plumcake @ 12:00 pm

Lord help me. I kind of want these:

Harem Pants

These are harem pants.

They’re not the dropped crotch billowy monsters I’ve seen elsewhere and sadly they’re not these either:

Stefano Pilati for Yves Saint Laurent fall 2008 ready to wear

(My favorite look from an INCREDIBLE show)

they’re sort of moderate harem pants –harem pants for the concubine hobbyist if you will– but I’m pretty darn sure they would work.

Okay okay okay, I know what you’re thinking but let me say a few things in my defense:

A) I am tall and have a lot of “presence”which means I can make a lot of things work just by force of personality.

B) These particular harem pants are made in Malawi. I’ve got a special relationship with Malawi as I am pals with the Bishop of Southern Malawi, the Rt. Reverend James Tengatenga (a hell of a guy) and I’m deeply committed to helping build clean water wells in the poorest area of one of the poorest countries in the world.  I can’t imagine the work conditions are glorious, but I’d rather my money go there than to China.

C) I have seen them work both in theory (YSL above) and in practice (below)

at the Austin Fashion awards

a detail of the ankle treatment

This is a lovely designer I met at the Austin Fashion Awards.

I believe she designed these pants herself out of what looks like shot silk. I particularly loved her ankle straps tied over and above the cuff. To my shame I cannot remember her name –although I believe she won an award– but I DO remember that necklace is vintage YSL. Edit: it’s Corey Lynn Calter. Loved her!

Anyway, I’m kind of fascinated with the whole idea of the harem pant.

Yes, they are “a lot of look” but big girls –especially tall ones–  can carry off a lot of look as well –if not better– as our slender sisters as long as we have the confidence.

What do you think? Would you ever wear harem or harem-esque pants as serious, modern fashion?


  1. I like these harem pants, too, actually. They work.

    It’s kind of cute how you felt like you needed to explain you have a lot of presence, though. Really????? You think? From turbans to eyelash extensions to yellow eyeshadow…I’m kind of thinking that cat might be out of the bag already. :) But it’s good to get newcomers on board.

    I had a dream about red eyeshadow last night, and now I”m kind of wondering how that would work out. I have big brown eyes. Maybe I could do red and yellow. And could you explain what you do with yellow eyeshadow since I’m not seeing it.

    You could wear your harem parents with a silver sequined blazer.

    Comment by Lisa — September 10, 2009 @ 12:31 pm

  2. Corey Lynn Calter. That really was a great look on her.

    Comment by Style Spy — September 10, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

  3. Oh! And I was in the Peace Corps in Malawi–I always get excited when I meet Americans who actually a) know the country exists and b) can point to its location on a map.

    Comment by Lisa — September 10, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

  4. Oh Lisa HUSH, I’m totally a delicate petal of womanhood. That’s so amazing you were in Malawi. I’m hoping to go there next year.

    I think the key to red eyeshadow is making sure you’ve got a good liner so you don’t look like a Verdi heroine in the last act.

    Comment by Plumcake — September 10, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

  5. Hello, drop crotches are where it’s at! Fun, funky, totally comfortable, and if you get a nice drapey fabric, all kinds of nice movement and not too billowy. I’m wearing mine with tailored tops and as it cools, tailored jackets, to offset the fullness. The fabric on mine is thin enough I’m starting to wonder if I should wear a slip.

    Comment by slownews — September 10, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

  6. Ohhh Plumcake…

    I would never deny your “presence”, but think harem pants-as-non-costume are just yucky. I don’t think they look good on that designer, either (although she is fabulous).

    I think you have been reading too many fashion magazines, and it has blunted your good sense. I feel the same way about all the PLEATED TAPERED ANKLE PANTS that are all over the fashionistas right now. Just when Stacy and Clinton were finally breaking Americans of that bad habit…

    Harem pants as COSTUME (or loungewear), however: Fabulous.

    Comment by Ruby — September 10, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

  7. I am short legged and dumpy, so I know they’re not a great look for me, and yet I have worn them in the past because they are incredibly comfortable. I think the traditional Pakistani cami and shalwar combines the best in terms of modesty, femininity and freedom of movement and would be happy to adopt it as a national uniform here as well.

    Comment by Constance — September 10, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

  8. Slownews, I’m not convinced re: dropped crotches. Are you talking a gently dropped crotch or straight out baggies a la American Apparel?

    Ruby, harem pants definitely go under Advanced Fashion and ever since my subs to Paris and London Vogue ran out, I don’t even read fashion magazines. When you’re wearing harem pants you’re wearing A Look so everything has to be just right and even then, it’s less about flattering as job #1 as it is doing something interesting and fresh.

    Comment by Plumcake — September 10, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  9. Constance, I love the salwar kameez. I had an embroidered white silk chiffon salwar which I wore over a pair of black knit pants and a cami and it was one of my favorite outfits for years, until I stained the salwar beyond repair. Wah.

    Comment by Plumcake — September 10, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

  10. I think this is one of those looks where it helps to be long-waisted (as in the YSL look), so as to avoid chopping one’s proportions into equal sized balloons.

    Also: sequins. You’re already wearing harem pants, so go big or go home.

    Comment by Evie — September 10, 2009 @ 5:07 pm

  11. Evie, I like the cut of your jib.

    Comment by Plumcake — September 10, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

  12. I’m not really convinced on the whole harem pants = Good Thing idea. They DEFINITELY wouldn’t work on me as I am under 5 feet and thusly unable to carry off such a Look.

    In any case, I’m interested in seeing them work on someone else. So far, all the harem pants I’ve seen are either too much like Hammer pants or too much like tapered leg pants. Those top ones look like they might work though. Good luck!

    Comment by ChristianeF — September 10, 2009 @ 7:03 pm

  13. I resisted the siren call of harem pants for a while, but gave in because they look so damned comfortable. They are also perfect for an Australian summer when you want to be cool but have a bit of leg covering.

    I’m a short, busty apple-shape which means they really shouldn’t work on me, but I just act like I’m fabulous in them and all’s well.

    Also my awesome government dress code (slack, meaning anything from camo shorts to ballgowns) means that I can wear them to work!

    Here’s a pic – mine are from Dorothy Perkins.

    Comment by cutselvage — September 10, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

  14. I’m with slownews. I spent part of the summer in north Africa (much, much further north than Malawi, sorry!), and I brought back two pair of drop crotches that I bought in a bazaar. They both hit at mid-calf and give sort of a “skirt or pants or what?” look that I was leery of at first, but that has really grown on me. (The crotch in question hits about at my knees.) Much cleaner and less frumpy than many of my other wardrobe options, amazingly. And to find an outfit whose look AND comfort I appreciate? Genius. I’m terrified they’ll be out of style by next year – I love them.

    Comment by Nemtynakht — September 10, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

  15. I’m kind of wondering about the long waist as well. Are the blousy harem pant something that might balance an apple shape? I am not sure–I am very tall and all of it is in my waist and I am hourglass, so I am only guessing.

    I LOVE the YSL look (the hair not so much). The actual genius there for me is the blouse. I would to take it off her and roll in it. But the angles here–the translucent sleeves hit at an angle, and then the trousers–it looks like a cascade. Very pretty.

    Comment by Lisa — September 11, 2009 @ 12:21 am

  16. Plumcake, I agree: Advanced Fashion. And if you’re going for New-And-Fresh as opposed to Flattering, I can see the appeal.

    I guess I just prefer Flattering on real people, and Conceptual on models (New-and-Fresh is good for everyone who can handle it, of course). Plumcake will do as she will. Especially with sequins.

    (I think the dropped-crotch pants look like a full diaper–of which I have changed many–so I will never be able to get on that bandwagon. I leave others to their enjoyment, though.)

    Comment by Ruby — September 11, 2009 @ 2:51 am

  17. So, I moved to Eastern Europe in May and these pants are all the range. They have long harem pants, capri harem pants, shorts harem pants. And they adore pairing them with the strappy wrappy sandals. The European women can carry it off well. Although the men wearing capris is definitely a puzzling fashion statement.

    Comment by veronica — September 11, 2009 @ 3:16 am

  18. Sweatpants are a horror but harem pants OK? Hmm, seems to be just choice of fabric in many cases. I would think the harem pant would have to be very carefully selected for proper fabric, styling/design, and construction – with great cut and drape I can see that some could carry it off. But most I have seen are cheap, trendy, crap.

    Comment by g-dog — September 11, 2009 @ 8:32 am

  19. Most EVERYTHING I see is cheap, trendy crap g-dog. It’s about picking the stuff that isn’t.

    Veronica, I love men in capris, and in suits with slim trousers with the ankles just a bit short, too.

    Cutselvage, I wouldn’t have believed it until I saw it. I still think the drop waist isn’t for me because anything that tapers THAT severely is going to turn me into a weeble wobble, but I love them on you. Have you tried wearing them with a big statement shoe?

    ChristianeF, I’m with you. I want my harem pants to be full all the way through the leg, tapering only slightly –but still blousy– until the ankle, were I’d be happy with snaps or ties. Anything that grips my lower legs for more than 2 inches is too much.

    Comment by Plumcake — September 11, 2009 @ 9:55 am

  20. I’m torn, personally. I see pictures like those above and they look good. But then someone says “MC Hammer pants”, and I’m immediately thrown into traumatic flashbacks of 5th and 6th grade where I owned, like, 5 of them. The only way to pull myself out of it is to remind myself that the shapes are fairly different. The dropped-crotch monstrosities are closer to Hammer pants than the blue ones above.

    And capri-length harem pants aren’t that unusual to me. Add a riding boot and they look like a pair of plus-fours. Then, the knee length ones look like pantaloons or the pants that men wore during the Elizabethan era. (That section of costume history gets fuzzy for me.)

    P.S.– I saw the high-waisted, pleated mom jeans in Nylon last week. My only response was to grumble in disgust about hipsters as I put the mag back on the rack.

    Comment by ChloeMireille — September 11, 2009 @ 10:31 am

  21. Too much like Hammer Pants for me … and I remember them the first time around, so …

    Comment by sarahbyrdd — September 11, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

  22. I have no problem with Hammer pants, actually; I’ve spent too many years looking at ethnic clothing to find them odd-looking.

    I LOVE harem pants, many different varieties … and sparkly is best of all. I’m all about the sparkly: sequins, brocades, embroideries … LET IT SHINE! Ahem. I’m also good about the quieter, more day-to-day kind. And for the vertically-challenged ladies who would like to wear them but feel too short – goodness me, how tall do you think the ORIGINAL wearers of those pants are?? Have you SEEN the Indian ladies in their salwar kameez – many of them aren’t as TALL as five feet! Same goes for ladies of other Asian and Middle Eastern extraction – THEY’RE not model-tall, and the clothes were originally DESIGNED for them. Ditto for the apple shapes – do you think the ladies stopped wearing their various types of harem trousers when they were pregnant? What is more apple-shaped than that? It’s all a matter of proportion, cut, fit, and drape.

    I have never understood why so many people think that a trouser which gathers at the ankle should induce hysterics or inspire revulsion. That’s just silly. (And there’s an added plus to a harem pant that’s tightly gathered at the ankle: no little creatures running up that pant leg, yikes!)

    Quite often a harem pant is FAR more comfortable and flattering to the female shape than man-tailored trousers are, possibly because many women are not man-tailored.

    And they are EXCELLENT to wear under skirts that are sheerish, or wrap dresses that may blow open! I have a fabulous pair of black-on-black sheer sparkling trousers that I wear under a tiered black lace skirt; it looks wonderful.

    Now is the time to try some new and different layerings! And if you’re afraid you can’t find a pair large enough to fit, check out the sites that cater to belly dancers (especially the American Tribal style) – they frequently carry quite large sizes.

    I’m delighted that harem pants are available!

    Comment by La BellaDonna — September 11, 2009 @ 8:10 pm

  23. Oh, honey, yes.. if you’ve got the attitude to wear them with confidence. Personally, I prefer a wider band cuff to a drawstring or snaps but either style works.

    There are so many options — wide, flowy legs; narrower, drapy legs; tapering legs; gathered waist; band waist; dropped waist; no ankle cuffs; narrow ankle band; wide ankle bands; Cossack style with tall boots; harem style with pretty sandals; salwar style with dainty flats.

    But like anything else that is off the dead-center mainstream, timidity is a look-killer.

    Comment by Rabrab — September 12, 2009 @ 11:16 pm

  24. I think it really depends if they have a gather at the waist as well as the ankles. Waist gather = NO (especially for an apple like me), no waist gather = maybe. You have to look really carefully though and evaluate your bodytype.

    I also think they look better with a ballet flat, rather than a trend shoe. Just one full-on trend at a time please.

    Comment by Icy @ Individual Chic — September 13, 2009 @ 7:39 pm

  25. I think harem pants looks better if they have more volym and have a much lower crotch,
    like these for instance:

    Comment by ANO NYMOUS — September 22, 2009 @ 5:25 pm

  26. Love your posts! But I was trying to add your RSS feed and your posts were coming up cut off. Know how I can fix that?


    Comment by bruno mars — May 17, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

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