“Pants People—All of Us,” 1971

This 1971 booklet from Vogue Patterns was a lucky eBay find.  “The ‘70s see them [pants] as a mainstay of feminine wardrobes,” reads the peppy opening paragraph, “totally fashion-right everywhere, any time, for any occasion.” (4) This bold statement was made just a few years after women in pants were barred from fancy restaurants.

In previous decades, many fashion writers stressed that pants were only for the young, tall, and slim.  While age isn’t mentioned, the authors find no weight or height restrictions. “Happily there’s hardly a woman among us who can’t wear pants, in one style or another…and look just great in them.”  Of course, “the tall, ramrod thin figure wears pants especially well.”  Those not so lucky have to follow certain fashion rules.  The short, thin woman should wear bright colors and textured fabrics. The “tall, amply endowed woman” should reach for slimming styles and subdued colors. “Fluff or ruffles, too-tiny print, snug fitting belts…all no-nos for you!” Even the short, curvaceous woman could look good in pants, especially if she chose straight-legged styles to add height.

Included is a full glossary of pant styles and lengths.  It’s interesting to see how some of the terminology has changed.  What they term “elephant pants” I think would just be wide legged pants today.  The “gangster pants” are now often called a “Hollywood” or “Hepburn” style.  I wasn’t aware of the category of “deck pants,” and apparently the authors were not ready to give “shortpants” their racier name, “hot pants.”

The rest of the booklet is filled with practical fitting advice, including how to draw position lines at various points like the high hip and knee for fine tuning. And the following simple method is presented for those with a flat rear: “Simply pin the unwanted back fullness into a seam that extends from waist to hemline, straight down the center back of each leg.”

So this little book is a double treasure–historical artifact and sewing guide. I’m going to put it in my sewing room.

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5 Responses to “Pants People—All of Us,” 1971

  1. Susan says:

    What a great find! I only wish I could read all the print — but just seeing all those style was a treat.

    • Susan says:

      Typo: I meant styles, not style. My husband is always saying that “everything goes/ there is no definitive style” in women’s wear for the past decade, but there was obviously quite a variety in 1971. The fact that some people found trousers on women more objectionable/”immodest” than mini-skirts always amazed me, but then, I’m not a “who wears the pants in this family?” patriarch. (In Greece and Italy in 1978, the loose-fitting, straight-legged slacks I wore while teaching high school in the U.S. got disapproving whistles from men — once when the Greek woman ten feet ahead of me was wearing a semi-sheer voile mini dress! (And, no, there were no whistles as she passed that construction crew.)

  2. Katrina B says:

    Love those 70s fashions! I knew they’d be back!

    Pants were definitely “fashion-right everywhere” in the 70s when I was in high school and college, but I was in for quite a shock when I entered the workplace and learned that dress codes required skirts, hose, and heels for women. This was in San Francisco, generally known for liberal thinking, but some institutions are slow to change I guess. The no-pants rule lasted until the mid-90s!

  3. Robert Moeller says:

    And how about those plaids!

  4. Lizzie says:

    In 1971 I was 16 and was already making most of my own clothes. I didn’t live in the most fashion-forward place, but I would not have even considered the idea of Bermuda shorts, or Capris, or pedal pushers. Those were “old fashioned” to my teenaged eyes!

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