Style Icons: Pants Perfection 

January 30, 2018

These days, the choice to wear pants is just that—a choice. But it wasn’t long ago that pants were a statement. When Marlene Dietrich stepped out on the red carpet in 1932 wearing “scandalous” tuxedo trousers, she made a statement about femininity. When women entered the WWII workforce in dungarees, they made a statement about resilience. When, in 1993, female senators wore pantsuits in violation of the dress code, they made a statement about workplace equality.

Decade after decade, pair after pair, women proved they could do more than just wear the pants—they could wear them in style.  From capris to wide-legs, from the Hollywood Hills to the streets of New York City, these icons showed us the way to pant perfection.

“I’m not twenty, and I don’t want to be twenty” is how Lyn Slater, 64, sums up her popular fashion blog, Accidental Icon. The Fordham University professor was already a grandmother when she began the project as a hobby, and nearly 300K Instagram followers later, she’s showing no signs of slowing down. With a penchant for Japanese designers—and flawless Yohji Yamamoto suiting in particular—Slater’s a certified master of the clean-lined, legs-for-days wide-leg trouser. “Accidental”? We’re not so sure, Lyn.

Grace Kelly wasn’t simply glamorous—in the 1950s, she was glamour. With a closet full of twinsets and circle skirts, the Academy Award-winning actress charmed her way into the hearts of audiences around the world. But the Philadelphia-born beauty wasn’t afraid to hang up her pearls and take fashion risks. She wore these chic high-waist capris to the 1955 Cannes Film Festival where, incidentally, she first met Prince Rainier. The two married shortly thereafter, and Kelly would go on to prove, time and time again, that pants were fit for a princess.

You can’t fake fun, even with the fanciest of filters. This is precisely why we love fashion writer and podcast host Pandora Sykes, whose witty, irreverent musings on everything from maternity wear to eBay shopping sprees have us smiling along. Her pants perspective is similarly free-spirited—think pattern-on-pattern, heaps of color, and playful proportions. Not even chinos can resist her charms, as evidenced by this utility-meets-Wonderland ensemble.

Pantsuits are notoriously tough to pull off. But the white pantsuit? Nearly impossible—unless, of course, you’re Bianca Jagger. The actress and human rights advocate made the tricky ensemble her signature ‘70s look, parading across the Studio 54 dancefloor in perfectly tailored suiting. Although she wore a skirt to her 1971 wedding to Mick Jagger, she topped it off with a plunging white YSL Le Smoking jacket, cementing her place in the bridal hall-of-fame.

Olivia Palermo regularly lands on best-dressed lists, and it’s no wonder why. The designer and street style darling can truly pull off any look, from beachy boho to classic prep to runway couture. One thing that’s consistent for this fashion chameleon? Her pitch-perfect pants game. Palermo has a natural knack for outfitting that can turn even the plainest pair into a red carpet moment. And while some of this can be attributed to her undeniable je n’ais se quoi, Palermo has let a secret slip over the years: she buys pants off the rack, then invests in quality tailoring.

“If you obey the rules, you miss all the fun,” said the late, great Katharine Hepburn. Suffice it to say, the screen legend didn’t miss out. During a time when actresses where expected to report to set with perfectly straight stocking seams, Hepburn sashayed around Old Hollywood in menswear-inspired blazers, penny loafers, and her style signature: roomy, beautifully tailored wide-leg trousers. Legend has it that studio executives once stole Hepburn’s pants from her dressing room, hoping to coax the star into a more ladylike dress. Their efforts were in vain—Hepburn walked around in her underwear until her pants were returned.

Perfect pairs: shop pants here.