Almost a month ago I was in Supré, "just to see what they had", and I came away with three new garments: a pair of red tartan leggings, a pair of black harem pants, and a pair of what can only be described as magenta three-quarter-length MC Hammer pants.
They also had them in violet and in black. I don't know why I bought the magenta ones, because as I've mentioned, magenta is one of those colours that looks wonderful and vibrant in the shop, but that I find really difficult to match to the rest of my clothes and accessories.
The label described the magenta pants as having a 'drop crotch'. Reader, this was not true. The 'rise' of the pants (the space between the waistband and the crotch) was actually smaller than the average pair of pants, and if not worn very low on the hips, they were horribly tight and bunchy in the crotch. I actually undid the crotch seam and re-sewed it lower down to loosen up the pants.
2009 is definitely shaping up as The Year Of Drop-Crotch Pants. These have been hanging around (pardon my pun) since at least 2007, then Radar was sure they were heading mainstream in 2008, but it's only this year that mainstream fashion commentators have started talking about them and Australian designers have started including them in their collections. And, of course, they've trickled down to fast-fashion stores such as Supré.
These aren't so much your traditional harem pants that are voluminous all through the leg and then gather at the ankle. Rather, they're in cotton jersey material and are pleated or gathered at the waist or hip and voluminous to the knee, then tight or ruched to mid-calf or ankle.
Fashion Flux has an interesting 'pattern' for making your own – just get some stretch jersey fabric and use your favourite leggings as a template, but make the crotch lower and allow more material around the thighs. Livejournal user Moohoop went one better and converted an old windcheater into drop-crotch pants – an idea of such simple genius that I want to run to the op-shop right now to do the same.
Many observers seem to have a problem with drop crotch pants because they distort the body's 'natural' silhouette, making the legs look ridiculously short and the body too long – "like a penguin", was one response. Other people think they're unflattering on all but the tallest and thinnest body shapes. Others can't get over the '80s/'90s-ness of them – they are ashamed to look like MC Hammer. Some think it looks as though you've pooed your pants. And others think drop crotch pants just look badly designed or fitted, as though the wearer has borrowed someone else's clothes.
The counter-argument is "but they're so comfortable!" Especially because they're usually made from soft material that drapes nicely, drop crotch pants are kind of the fashion-forward version of tracksuit pants. They're also far more forgiving on the body than leggings – which are still being worn as pants, despite at least two bloggers' outrage. You don't need to worry about visible panty lines, cameltoe or polterwang. And the pants skim right over the wobbliest parts of your legs.
A related phenomenon is boyfriend jeans, so-called because they're so baggy and oversized they look borrowed from the man in the wearer's life. The way they're often worn with the cuffs turned up also reminds me of harem pants, because this tends to draw the jeans in at the ankles. Also, men's jeans tend to have longer rises and more room in the crotch, which, when worn by women, creates the drop-crotch effect.
These jeans, too, are about comfort – as well as the actual fit, they imply the comfortable domesticity of having a man about the house whose clothes you casually borrow. It's curious to think that in a way, boyfriend jeans are another kind of harem pants in that they suggest the wearer 'belongs' to a man, just as an odalisque or concubine belongs to the sultan. Could drop-crotch pants, with their radical de-emphasising of a woman's buttocks, crotch and thighs, be suggesting that the wearer isn't sexually available to the viewer – that she's already 'taken'?