A staple in nearly every woman’s wardrobe, the trouser is a garment with a wide variety of styles, cuts, and types. In our previous article, we covered the different trouser lengths available over the years; in this three-parter, we will discuss trouser types with reference to the history of each, hopefully providing you with some vintage styling inspiration along the way!
Moving alphabetically through the various unique styles of trouser, part two of this three-part series focuses on: the resurgence of preppy chino trousers; the incredibly chic and Parisian-esque cigarette trousers; dungarees, once the symbol of cowboy America; and loose, floaty harem trousers.
This is most likely because the trousers were made in China or, alternatively, because they were made by Chinese tailors in a Spanish colony.
By the end of World War II, the surplus of military clothing made chinos available for mass consumption and became the new signature attire for the younger generations, along with jeans. More than 100 years later, chino trousers maintain the same simple appeal, whilst remaining a stylish wardrobe essential for both men and women. These days, however, there’s a diverse range of colours for chinos, ranging from neutrals to pastels to bold colours.
The cigarette trouser is a slim-fit, straight legged trouser that ends at the ankles or just above. A versatile garment that can be styled up or down according to the occasion, cigarette trousers can be considered both formal and casual wear. During the 1950s and 1960s, the cigarette trouser developed into an icon of femininity when they became a staple garment in women’s wardrobe, signalling their rejection of the limited dress options available to women imposed upon them. In a period of apparent liberty and equality between the sexes, the most popular trouser styles between the 1950s and 1960s were the cigarette trousers and the capris.
Levi’s dungarees were made of denim (the name dungaree itself comes from a type of denim originally made in Dungri, a city in India) and this is still the main fabric used for dungarees until today, even though a wide variety of fabrics and colours are available. Dungarees were not originally made for women, instead designed as a male garment that became synonymous with cowboys and the migration of workers to California in the 1930s. Even though dungarees were created for the male market, they were considered unisex by the end of World War I, when women had to dress in male attire as they started to replace men in the fields and factories. But women did not stop wearing dungarees after the war, with them becoming everyday attire during the 1960s.
An evolution of the culotte trousers, harem trousers are baggy, full-length trousers that are cuffed at the ankle. Harem trousers are inspired by the Middle East – the Turkish trouser in particular – and they were was brought to the West by Paul Poiret during the 1910s. His 1911 collection was strongly orientalist and, along with kimono-like jackets and scarves around the head, presented what was at the time called jupe-culottes or jupe-pantalon: a pleated trouser that met the adversity of western society of the time. In a time when women’s figures were constrained by corsets daily, Poiret’s model to reinvent female liberty by means of fashion was deemed too controversial, but nonetheless paved the way for innovation and emancipation in women’s wardrobes. The creation of harem trousers is considered the moment in which fashion began to challenge traditional cultural styles.