What Are Harem Pants?

One of the best time trackers for history lovers is to observe fashion. Whether it is everyday fashion or the chic ramp look, fashion takes inspiration from the ongoing time and era. You can see trends surfacing again after being a hit for a long time; whereas, some trends can never make a comeback.

Currently, the world has become one large melting pot wherein diversity, individualism, creative arts, and culture all come up with the best version of fashion. Nowadays, one great thing about fashion is the ultimate liberty of adorning oneself whatever feels good. The fashion world has taken a drastic turn, incorporating personal style and preference in casual wear, athleisure, and formal.

What are Harem Pants?

You do not have to be a fashion diva or a fanatic to be a fan of harem pants. These flowy, loose-fitted, ankle-tied pants can make anyone comfortable. They are also referred to as fisherman pants as they have a straight fit with pinched-fit around the ankles and a drop-crotch style. 

Harem pants reflect nothing but the wearer, preferring to be comfortable in the most stylish casual wear. These pants are also sometimes called elephant pants and were historically tied to a modest woman’s image that conceals the shape of the legs and hips. 

Origin of the Word ‘Harem’

Since the harem pants originally have Middle Eastern roots, it is safe to assume that the term harem is related to the Arabic term that embodies a sacred place for females only. Harem was where the wives and other females of the family used to stay, and men were not allowed to enter. Thus, the word harem for such pants is the perfect embodiment of a modest style of pants.  

History of the Harem Pants

These long baggy and loose-fitted pants trace back to what was known as harem skirt, introduced to fashion in 1910 by a Parisian designer named Paul Poiret. The inspiration for bringing them into the spotlight dates back to the popular Middle Eastern style of the early 20th century. Harem pants were considered controversial women fashion.

The popular harem pants that we love wearing as casual trousers or pairing them up with a crop top date back to 2000 years. Back in those times, the harem pants were what the natives called ‘Dhoti.’ Dhoti is a traditional men’s garment popular throughout the eastern world. It is a more tunic-like rectangular unstitched piece of cloth that is about 4.5 meters long. According to historic fashion sources, men wear Dhoti without any strings or belts by wrapping it around the waist and knotting it. 

Harem pants also have historic footprints leading to Persia, where women of the tribes prioritized modesty. The pants or ‘salvars’ (Turkish word for loose pants) worn by these women were loose-fit around the hips and legs, concealing any hint of the body shape. 

Also, the loose and comfortable fit allowed women and men to carry out the chores at home more conveniently. However, these loose-fit trousers were undoubtedly a symbol of patriarchy in the culture as it was acceptable for men to wear pants at work during the day.

Some strong historical connections of harem pants also take us back to Southeast Asian countries. Like harem pants, Loose-fitted pants were also common in China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Though there might be some stark differences in style and wearing, the harem pants also have roots in this region. 

How Harem Pants Entered Europe and America?

Historians suspect that the French military recruits were the first ones who introduced harem pants to Europe. They appreciated the locals in Africa wearing loose-fitted pants and how these eased surviving in extreme heat. The loose and airy material of the pants was then gradually incorporated into the French military uniform. 

On the other hand, our beloved harem pants caused a huge stir when the suffragettes got hold of the harem pants. They had already been fighting off corsets and body-hugging skirts to raise the bar of judging femininity through body shape; thus, harem pants helped greatly with their cause. 

Meanwhile, Amelia Bloomer, one of the most popular women’s rights activists during the 1800s, jumped on the opportunity and transformed harem pants into their feminist movement’s uniform. She took responsibility for freeing women from being the slaves of their body image by promoting harem pants. 

She is the one to thank for another name of harem pants: bloomer! 

Paul Poiret’s Contribution in Bringing Harem Pants Back


As much as Amelia Bloomer would have loved to see women discarding their corsets and standing up for wearing whatever made them comfortable, it was a hard nut to crack. She failed to make the new common trend, and harem pants gradually crept into an unknown corner. 

In 1909, Paul Poiret, a French fashion designer, brought back harem pants. However, this time around, these pants came with more exclusive designs in silk and satin. The intricacy of the prints and precision of the embroidery designs played a major role in making harem pants a major hit among women.

These pants were shown to be paired up with tunics or wraps to look chicer. Nevertheless, this popularity period was also short-lived. Harem pants made a comeback again in the 1970s and 80s’ with a tad bit of difference in style. Hip hop music videos of the time showed famous rappers wearing parachute pants almost the same as harem pants. 

The modern era saw Ralph Lauren uplifting these pants again in 2009. The spring collection promoted harem pants and used hefty celebrity endorsements. 

How to Style Harem Pants

  • Harem pants look best in solid colors. The printed ones are the best for beaches and other sand-related activities. 
  • Printed harem pants go best with solid-colored tops. 
  • Since harem pants are flowy and loose, the ideal way to wear them for a casual meet-up is to pair them with high heels and a fashion makeover
  • A tucked-in shirt or tee is also one of the dapper looks for women who want to appear vogue and indifferent to the world. 
  • You can accessorize harem pants and crop top with a nice flattering belt. 
  • Get these pants in natural fabrics, such as silk or cotton, as they render a good and flattering shape. 
  • Style your favorite harem pants with drop shoulder tops for a more exotic look on your beach trip. They make an artistic combination that emanates nothing but self-confidence. 
  • The combination of a black leather jacket with a crop top and harem pants is the classic biker look.
  • You can also pair your harem pants with a casual loose t-shirt and accessorize with a long necklace. 
  • Open-toed sandals also go well with loose-fitted harem pants.

Harem Pants are staying for Good!

From the looks of celebrities promoting various versions and combinations of harem pants at the American Music Awards, these pants are here to stay. They make the perfect loungewear that is easily turned into a dazzling bottom for a formal night out. Harem pants can be styled in dozens of ways and still don’t compromise on the wearer’s comfort! 

If Rihanna and Gwen Stefani can rock harem pants on various occasions, these stylish pants can become the next most popular alternative to casual pants.