Transforming the basic bottoms into art

While the history of women’s trousers is fraught with overcoming misogyny, today we have managed to transform basic bottoms into an art. Bridging the gap between high-waisted “Mom jeans” and business chic attire, paper-bag (also known as tie-waist) pants were born.

Since they first reemerged on the runway in Spring/Summer 2016 collections from designers like Phillip Lim and Public School, consumers from all walks of life have been enamored with the paper-bag look. Although countless celebrities such as Sienna Miller and Jennifer Lopez have indulged in it, Gigi Hadid is truly the one who brought tasteful tie-waist trousers to the forefront of our minds during her “summer of the statement pant” in 2017.

Paper-bag pants, which originally became a trend in the 80s, are typically more free flowing than denim and are characterized by the presence of extra fabric at the waist. When gathered together, the excess material ruffles a bit above the belt, thus giving the illusion of a paper bag.

Despite the notion that the trend died, fashion’s cyclical nature ensured that we would see it again. From their 2015 debut onward, there have been infinite variations of the trend — cinched shorts, capris, culottes, etc. After all these years, one question remains: what makes them so widely adored?

Tie-waist bottoms are versatile and come in a myriad of cuts. For a more professional look, one can opt for neutral-toned, tapered paper-bag pants from stores such as Express or GAP. They go against the inherently baggy design while still maintaining a classic look and allowing for breathability, which is something that basic slacks lack.

In a casual setting, looseness is welcome. Nothing says summer like a good wide-legged, flowy pant. For someone who walks around campus as much as I do on a daily basis, it’s imperative that the pants I wear aren’t skin tight to reduce the likelihood of sweating in unsightly places.

Speaking as 5’11” woman who has always struggled shopping for pants, the paper-bag look flatters nearly anyone and everyone. The tie-waist feature isn’t restrictive in the same way that a traditional belt with a limited number of holes is, and I can comfortably bend down without experiencing the tight pull of denim, corduroy, etc.

Whether you’re looking to flaunt your curves or elongate your legs, there is a pair of paper-bag pants for you. With retailers like H&M and Forever21 always finding new ways to appeal to their younger base with floral prints, stripes, and geometric designs, the styling possibilities are endless.

After a summer of seeing them everywhere, some could argue that tie-waist pants are becoming a tired trend. However, because of their prevalence, others say they have since been revived as a closet staple. Only time will tell what a paper bag can truly withstand…

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About Author

Ruth Samuel is a sophomore from Macon, Georgia, majoring in media and journalism and minoring in cognitive science and Hispanic studies. Born in London, England to two Nigerian parents, Ruth spent her childhood moving from one state to the next -- from New York to Tennessee to Georgia and now, North Carolina -- but what remained constant is her love for storytelling. Ruth joined Coulture because she wanted an outlet to shed light on how fashion impacts various spheres of society and explore where it lies at the intersection of culture and identity. If she’s not writing on her blog, you can find her at brunch, binge-watching "Parks and Recreation", or sounding off on Twitter about social justice, memes, and more.