Pants (and Other Bifurcations) Go Mainstream, 1971

International Vogue Pattern Book, August/September 1971. Vogue 8113. Sizes 10 to 18. Click to enlarge

When did pants become acceptable garb for almost any occasion?  Of course that answer depends on where you look.  However, judging by the International edition of Vogue Pattern Book for August/September 1971, pants had really taken off.

Vogue 2561, Guy Laroche. Sizes 6-16. Click to enlarge

I counted nineteen different bifurcated patterns in the magazine, from pants, to shorts, knickers, culottes, and evening palazzos.  Several were by top name designers, including a pair by Pucci trimmed with long fringe. While a few had both shorts and pants in the same offering, one pattern set by Guy Laroche offered a top, a skirt, a vest, and a very skimpy looking pair of hot pants.

Vogue 8081, in sizes 12 ½ to 22 ½, 38 to 42. Click to enlarge

As an indication of just who was supposed to be wearing pants in 1971, almost all of the patterns came in a size range of 6/8 to 16, with only two exceptions (one to 18, the other to 20).  Larger women and half size women had only one bifurcated choice, Vogue 8081, described as both a “pant jumper,” and a “snappy jump-culotte.” This jumpsuit style dress might have pleased neither those who wanted pants nor those who wanted dresses.

And someone please tell me, were knickers (American usage for loose pants gathered below the knee) really a thing in 1971? I don’t remember them at all. Did women actually wear them or were they an invention of fashion magazines?


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8 Responses to Pants (and Other Bifurcations) Go Mainstream, 1971

  1. Maarianne says:

    OK, I totally remember Debbie Fox wearing knickers with cool jacquard knit socks in c. 1966. May have been ski wear, but I never went skiing with her so pretty sure she wore them to school. Believe it set a mini-trend at Rim. And I had several culotte style outfits in ’66/’67 that I flattered myself were quite comme il fait. I do remember that when the fam went to Italy in ’67 we didn’t even pack any pants, as at the time Italian women only ever wore pants in the home or for long car trips. I absolutely would have worn that knickers suit in ’71 — I even had almost the same boots!

  2. I don’t know about 1971 – but knickerbockers were definitely ‘in’ when I was a teen in 81/82….. as they were also a take on ‘plus fours’ so they seem to naturally work well in plaid and tweed – your first photo seems to be a pair of them and they do look well with the knee high boots…(I only wore a velvet pair a few times in the 80s – they were my mothers, and suited the trend for ‘new romantic’ and ‘adam and the ants’ trend)

  3. Cherry Robinson says:

    I was a teenager in the 60s, and well remember a dress made by a fashion-forward friend in 1968, I believe from a Simplicity pattern. It was a standard summer dress of the time, A-line, round neck, short sleeves, but bifurcated. One of the boys in our group was totally bemused by it, saying “but dresses don’t DO that”.
    1971 was the year of Hot Pants – the first time short shorts became fashion, rather than athletic gear. I certainly wore culotte pants as an alternative to skirts before then. And in my first year of college, 1969, jeans were out and “loons” were in – exaggerated bell-bottom denim and twill pants. Now I think of it, I guess the name came from pantaloons.
    (I grew up in the UK, where Mary Quant was the fashion leader for young people. Thanks for the memories!)

  4. Lizzie says:

    Knickers were a thing in 1971, but at my school they were not yet allowed. After a lawsuit that abolished the dress code, we started wearing pants of all types. I can remember trying on a pair of knickers, but due to my shortness, decided they were not for me. Many of the taller girls wore them and looked great!

  5. I suppose one marker for the acceptance of pants everywhere would be when they became acceptable garb in school dress codes. I was a freshman the fall of 1970 when my small-town high school in Ohio allowed girls to wear pants. That was a big deal. I remember wearing bell bottoms handed down from one of my college-age sisters.

  6. Norah says:

    I remember knickers in the fall of 1971, when I’d just started high school in Michigan. Several girls whom I thought very stylish and cool had them, and I wanted a pair. I tried to make a pair out of an old pair of pants, but by the time I finished them no one was wearing knickers and they’d have looked weird, so I never wore them.

  7. Alyssa says:

    My mom said she had a pair of knickers in the 70s and adored them (she would have been in her late childhood/early teens).

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