The Sophisticate: Who wears the baggy pants?

By Michal McKay

When you reach a certain age, warns Michal McKay, the cut of your pants is all important.

Baggy pants at Karen Walker, Dior and Stella McCartney.
Baggy pants at Karen Walker, Dior and Stella McCartney.

One of my great friends has just returned from London, and though more of a gallery and museum hound, her observations on street trends are also pretty acute.

"Baggy pants!" she said emphatically. "Everywhere." Even more emphatically.

Certainly, none of us can have failed to notice there is an effortless ease sweeping through fashion. Big coats, full skirts, diaphanous fabrics announcing a spring breeze is blowing some fresh thinking into our wardrobes.

Baggy pants, however, may not strike the right chord with many who are bound at the hip to stretch fabrics that hug the lower half of the body with an almost vice-like grip.

I, on the other hand, sent out a prayer of thanks that what had been seen strutting down the catwalks was actually hiking into high street boutiques then marching out to the footpaths. In fact, it was a hallelujah!

Don't misunderstand me - I have more than my fair share of stretch pants in my cupboard, which I wear regularly - but they are the long, ruffled up at the ankle kind meant to stretch my shape lengthwise. And lately I have been observing a rather unkind movement in the pants department that does anything but: cropped.

Back in their first incarnation, the look was bad enough, but, now, to make it worse, something new has emerged, cropped and slightly flared. Save me. Even 6ft models with perfect ankles and thighs would have to find that combination somewhat daunting.

And one of the basic facts known by any fashionista when it comes to figure flattering is not to cut yourself off mid-stream. The eye has to travel (to use a well-known editor's phrase), and she meant top to bottom with no interruptions.

Anyhow, I have always loved baggy pants. Some time back, when fashion was a daily - no - hourly event, in my life, creating new images for glossy pages required ingenuity and exhaustive imagination. So getting dressed tended to take a low priority.

Of course, I knew I had to look right - and in any case I wanted to. But having the easy option of items I could grab blindfolded from the rack and put on knowing I met the mark to face the day became paramount.

Kate Hepburn was my idol - and she dressed a lot in, guess what - baggy pants and turtleneck sweaters. And didn't she look good?

Fortunately, I have a few pairs of trousers that measure up still waiting for a rebirth.

Having been a great believer in designer investment (Jil Sander, Yamamoto), their original shaping is exactly right for now. And, of course, Mr Armani is the ultimate when it comes to the perfectly cut baggy pants. Take a look at his current collection with those stunning silvery silhouettes.

A masterful cut gained him his reputation right from the get-go and he never looked back.

And check out the spring looks of Helmut Lang, Celine or Stella McCartney.

But there are any number of local sources that have hooked on to the new trend. Scotties is a guarantee. Liz Mitchell knows how to cut baggy pants perfectly and actually always has done - fitting over the hips with nipped-in pleats that let the fabric billow out beautifully; the shape that forgives any kind of God-created leg contour that has until now had to stand the scrutiny provided by very unforgiving stretch. Without any chance of disguise.

"Okay," I can hear, "What about those of us who don't have a waist?"

Well, believe me the right cut of baggy pants can be a lot kinder than dragging on all-revealing tight pants that hold no prisoners.

Try wearing a neat cropped top that falls just below the hip bone if that's your concern.
"I'm pear shaped," bleated another colleague when confronted with the news.

Well, fortunately, baggy anything is also a trend - so try a lovely, soft, diaphanous top with a loose, rolled-up sleeve, or there is always the big white shirt - guaranteed to look a million dollars.

Otherwise - baggy pants with a neat white T-shirt is summer's answer. Whether in the softest chiffon, sea island cotton, fine linen and gathered on a drawstring, or cut in any amount of crisp-finish fabrics and pleated man-style.

A little flat sandal to finish is fine or a sky-high stiletto for pure sex appeal.

The great thing about baggy pants is their masculine undercurrent. After all, pleated trousers were originally a man's domain. Which takes us to another topic entirely.

I can still remember when women in one company I worked for were not allowed on a certain floor if wearing trousers that day.

Skirts were de rigueur - no "ifs" or "buts" about it!

Interestingly, I have always thought this silhouette had a certain power to it. Definitely, the ladies who don baggy pants are the ones who wear the trousers.

- VIVA


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