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What Are Wide Leg Pants?

By G. Melanson
Updated May 21, 2024
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Unlike bell bottoms and flares, wide leg pants are as wide at the hem as they are throughout the rest of the leg, including the calves, knees and thighs. Wide leg pants can be baggy or maintain straight, tailored lines down the length of the leg. This style of pant has gone in and out of fashion over the years, and has been associated with different lifestyles and genres of music.

During the 1960s and 70s, flares, bell bottoms, and wide leg pants became a popular item in both women’s and men’s fashion. Whether they were denim, corduroy, or polyester, trousers featuring a pant leg that covered the majority of the shoe, and in some cases even reached the floor were common. Wide legged pants went out of style during the early-mid 1980s, as baggy shirts and workout wear became popular and were often paired with tapered “skinny jeans” and stirrup pants.

Wide leg pants began making a fashion comeback by the early 1990s, when hip hop artists such as TLC popularized oversized pants paired with tight tops -- a reversal of the tight pant/baggy top look previously popular in the 1980s. Wide leg jeans in particular became popular in such colors as purple, red, and white, and often featured a “button fly” front. Another 1990s variation on the wide leg look were “palazzo pants,” which were fashioned from fluttery rayon material. By the end of the decade, these pants were often worn by women as a contrast to tight-fitting “baby doll” crop tops, a combination made popular by such female musicians as No Doubt front woman Gwen Stefani and various members of the Spice Girls.

Also during the 1990s, these pants were adopted by skateboarders as their signature style, sometimes paired with wallet chains and skate shoes. At the beginning of the 2000s, wide leg trousers received a resurgence in popularity thanks to punk-pop singer Avril Lavigne, who often wore them with tank tops, men’s ties, and skate sneakers. By the end of the new millennium, tailored, crisp wide leg pants became a popular item in women’s work wear, fashioned from such fabrics as tweed and wool. This style of wide legged pants sometimes also features a pleat at the front of the leg or a wide cuff at the bottom, and is often worn with stilettos to create a feminine contrast.

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Discussion Comments
By recapitulate — On Jul 18, 2011

@mitchell14- I like the current types of ladies' wide leg pants too, and think it's funny that they're popular at the same time as leggings, which seem to be totally the opposite in terms of style. But I guess these days almost anything goes, if it looks good on you. People are less into cookie-cutter styles these days, or so it seems to me, anyway.

By mitchell14 — On Jul 17, 2011

Wide legs are still sort of popular, but now they have thankfully been plolished up a bit. Now there are women's styles with more fitting around the hips, then the wide legs. I knew lots of girls who wore the boys' versions in middle school and high school, but they never fit my butt and hips right. Now I can actually sometimes find wide legs that fit me nicely, too.

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