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What are Trousers?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 21, 2024
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"Trousers" is the British word for what Americans commonly refer to as "pants." These are garments worn on the lower body with fabric that circles around each leg. Whereas skirts and kilts feature material that wraps around the body without sectioning the legs, pants or trousers feature seams that create two distinct leg pieces. The garments fasten at the waist or hips with items such as buttons, snaps and/or a zipper.

There are many different trouser styles for both men and women; these range from casual to dressy. In the United States, "trousers" tend to specify dressier pants, such as those made of wool and worn as part of a business suit. In the United Kingdom, "pants" is never used to describe trouser types, but rather refers only to underpants or underwear.

A good quality pair of wool trousers is an ideal addition to most wardrobes. Men can wear a trouser with a dress shirt, while women have many different blouse options. For example, a white blouse gives a wool trouser a classic office look for daytime, but when paired with a satin or silk blouse, the look is suitable for evening, such as to wear to a dinner party. Wearing a trouser with a sweater is a popular fall and winter option for both men and women.

Trousers are available in different fabrics, colors, textures and patterns. Wool, solid, smooth trouser styles in neutral colors are the most classic examples. Black as well as darker shades of brown and gray are typically worn in the winter, while lighter trouser colors suit spring weather. Lightweight wools and cottons can be worn in summer, such as in warm weather trouser suits.

Men's trousers were the norm until the latter part of the 20th century when it started becoming fashionable for women to wear them. Trouser styles originated from those worn as part of military uniforms. An officer's trousers were likely to be wool and quite dressy, while a field soldier's style was often made of more rugged material such as khaki.

Khaki casual military trouser styles evolved into what is known as cargo pants. These informal trousers in olive greens and tans are also available as shorts; they feature many different pockets. Whereas most trouser types have only upper pockets, cargo styles contain storage pouches on the lower legs or sides of the pants. Whether casual or dressy, trouser types for men and women may have a baggy fit or be more body skimming.

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Discussion Comments
By stolaf23 — On Jul 21, 2011

@widget2010- I like those sorts of trousers as well. They can even be worn in offices or to semi-casual or semi-formal events if you wear them with the right tops or accessories, making them a sort of trendier, more fun alternative to slacks.

By widget2010 — On Jul 20, 2011

I really love the denim trousers that have become popular in recent years. I like jeans a lot, but it is hard for me to find ordinary jeans that fit me, because I have big hips and a small waist, and most jeans for younger women seem designed for people with almost no curve at all.

Trouser jeans, though, have more give and are usually styled better and made with nicer materials. They also cost more, but for a good pair, I'm willing to pay it, usually.

By MrSmirnov — On Jul 20, 2011

Do most trousers for men need to be dry cleaned like traditional suit pants, or does it more depend on what fabric you choose to buy?

I really want to start to make my wardrobe more versatile and less of a hassle so I was thinking some light trousers would be a great addition to my closet since it is getting so hot here.

My wife already has a lot to do, so I want to avoid buying clothes that are going to require her to make any additional trips out of the house. Dry cleaning also gets pretty expensive so if we can avoid that it would be best.

By manykitties2 — On Jul 19, 2011

If you are looking for a great business look nothing is better than a pair of ladies trousers. What I love about them is that they come in so many colors and fabrics. You can buy thin cotton trousers in the summer and get some nice wool ones for the winter.

When I first started looking for a job I didn't really like the look of a straight suit, as I found the look too boring and a bit too masculine. I ended up buying a great selection of blouses and pairing them with sharp looking trousers. I mostly went towards lighter colors as I love pants in heather gray and power blue.

By mabeT — On Jul 19, 2011

I’ve got the strangest fetish in the whole wide world. I guess it’s a fetish, anyway; I’ve never heard of anyone else who has this same particular compulsion.

There is nothing that affects me quite the same way as when my honey’s good-fitting trousers are pressed and creased to a tee. I absolutely love the way that he looks when he’s got that little preppy look going.

Maybe it’s because he’s not preppy in the least, but I find that particular look to be incredibly appealing.

Of course, if paired with a slim line button up, perhaps with the cuffs rolled up just a little of the way to show off some shapely forearms, it makes the whole package even better.

By tlcJPC — On Jul 18, 2011

I personally think trousers are just the best. They are nicer looking than jeans, but they are also often quite comfortable.

Plus, for a lady who needs to look nice on a regular basis for work, but who also has to chase two kids every day, they are great.

I even took to wearing these kinds of pants to church after the Sunday that my two year old decided he should play a very extravagant game of peek-a-boo with my skirt. I don’t think he was the only one who got a peek, to say the least.

And, on top of that, I think my daughter likes them as much as I do! So we can still wear matching outfits from time to time, which we both adore doing occasionally. She’s so cute in her little dressy trousers.

By shell4life — On Jul 17, 2011

I have a collection of fashion trousers for springtime. I love lightweight cotton trousers with a small amount of embroidery or pattern on them.

My collection started with a pair of spring green trousers. They have a drawstring waist for maximum comfort. An optional snap lies under the drawstring for added security, but I like the looseness of wearing it unsnapped.

These green trousers have cutout flowers on the bottom five inches of the legs. In addition to looking good, this design lets air circulate and keep me cool.

I also have a pair of peach trousers with daffodil embroidery along the leg bottoms and diagonally sewn onto the pockets in a loose design. I love wearing these while walking down the street past houses where daffodils are in bloom.

By Perdido — On Jul 17, 2011

I love wearing wide leg trousers. Most of the tops I own are tight-fitting, so the width of the legs really balances out my look. For this style, black looks the best.

Wide leg khaki or beige trousers can show up too much and overwhelm a small frame or take over an outfit. Dark colors fade into themselves well, placing the focus on the top.

Another great thing about this style of trousers is that they resemble a long skirt. If you are attending an event where you need to look dressy, wide leg trousers can help you accomplish that better than straight or narrow leg pants.

By cloudel — On Jul 17, 2011

Stretchy waist, side-zip trousers are a comfortable alternative to pants that zip up in the front and then button on top of that. They are way less constricting, and if your top is long enough, you can get away with unzipping somewhat after a meal.

Every winter, I put on about 5 pounds. This is a great season for side-zip trousers. Most of my sweaters cover the entire zipper area, and I have been able to unzip my trousers as much as halfway while still concealing the fact that they are partially open.

In the spring when I start to shed the weight, I simply ease the zipper back up a bit at a time as needed. Trousers are great at hiding little secrets!

By wavy58 — On Jul 16, 2011

When I accepted a position at a company with a dress code of “dressy casual,” I knew I should go shopping for something other than jeans. I set out on a mission to find stylish trousers that I could mix and match tops with for a variety of outfits.

For winter, I found some wool gray and black blend trousers. The slight difference in the color of the threads provides enough visual interest to require pairing the trousers with a solid top to prevent clashing. I found a silky, ruffly fuchsia top that goes perfectly with them, as well as a satin, deep purple blouse that complements the dark fabric wonderfully.

I also added pairs of black, brown, and khaki trousers to my winter wardrobe. Though they are not wool, the fabric is thick enough to keep me warm. Since the material has a smooth appearance, I can wear them with virtually any sweater.

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