I Straight Up LOVE My Elephant Pants

I’m not really up on trends. There. I admitted it. Most of them come and go and are barely a blip on my radar. I have my classic style, my go-to cuts and colors, and I basically shop at the same four stores all year round. Every now and then, though, something new catches my eye. Maybe I love it, maybe I hate it, but either way, it gets my attention. Sometimes, I both love it AND hate it. And that’s the story with elephant pants. When I first saw a photo of an otherwise glamorous-looking woman rocking these pants in a photoshoot, I was horrified. Compared to my usual choice of a sleek skinny jeans and boots combo, these balloon-ish, Princess Jasmine pants seemed like a crazy choice. But I kept seeing them, and I started to come around. I’d been wondering if there was a better option for lounging or running errands than yoga pants, and even my date night options were feeling a little tired. Maybe a fun pant could be… fun? What I didn’t expect when I tried them was how thoroughly my initial hatred would turn into pure, unadulterated love. These pants are amazing.

What are elephant pants?

Elephant pants (also called harem pants or Bohemian pants) are the pants it seems like everyone in your Facebook and Instagram feeds are wearing lately. They are long, baggy pants with a stretchy elastic waistband that are loose through the whole leg but gathered at the ankle. They are staples in Southeast Asian street markets, and every backpacking tourist seems to come home with at least one pair. But they’ve crossed oceans in a major way, and they’ve grown in popularity throughout the West in these past few years. Some of them are a little slimmer through the leg, and you can tell right away that they’re pants. Other versions look like big, billowy closed-bottom skirts with ankle holes. All of them are super comfortable. Traditionally, elephant pants are patterned with exactly what you’d guess — elephants. But one of the most fun things about these pants is the wide variety of styles and patterns they now come in. You can stick with the traditional patterns or choose a basic solid-colored pair. There are tie-dyed versions, starburst and mandala patterns — the options are endless.

So where do harem pants come from?

The traditional name for them is “shalwar,” and they are loose-fitting trouser pants worn by both men and women in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. There have been many iterations of this style of pant, even in Western dress, all inspired by the original. (MC Hammer pants, anyone?) They’ve been around for nearly 2,000 years, and they’re still popular today. That should tell you something about how comfortable they are. It doesn’t hurt that you really DO feel like Princess Jasmine when you wear them. Potential suitors be forewarned — you’ll need an entourage of very special creatures to impress any woman wearing these pants.

You really can wear these pants anywhere.

I have now worn my harem pants basically everywhere I go with any regularity. They are perfect for lounging around the house. They are flowy and awesome for yoga. I can run to the grocery store or pharmacy and not feel like I rolled straight out of bed and everyone knows it. (Even if I DID roll straight out of bed.) I have dressed them up with a pair of strappy, high-heeled sandals. I have worn them with a cute denim jacket. I have actually slept in them. Because they are great for leaving the house, but they are also perfect pajamas. I even have a plain black pair that I’ve worn to work. At my office. Around my coworkers who are professional people. My boss didn’t bat an eye, and I was comfortable all day. They aren’t for everyone, and I understand that. It’s not like I haven’t gotten a few Looks from passersby. But I love my harem pants so much that I genuinely don’t care. You can’t please everyone, after all.

Don’t be afraid to style them!

I think a lot of people are initially hesitant about elephant pants in part because they aren’t sure how to style them. But these pants are so easy-breezy, in more ways than one — you can absolutely let them take center stage where your look is concerned.

Simple tee shirts or tank tops work great with harem pants, especially when they have a slim profile to counter the pants’ wider legs. Crop tops work beautifully with these pants, as well, and the high waistband of the pants make them a really not-daring choice that can work for anyone in all kinds of settings. Sports bras, bathing suit tops, bralettes all pair well with harem pants! Top these with a cropped jacket or a long kimono cover-up to complete your look, as necessary.

Shoes can range from flat sandals or flip flops to strappy, fancier and more complicated numbers. I haven’t quite figured out how to style these with my riding boots (those are still reserved for my dresses and skinny jeans), but I’ve definitely had success with a bootie.

And accessories can really run the gamut, too! Bangles, long necklaces, toe rings, feathery earrings… It can all work, ladies, so let your personality show through.

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