The harem, the cigarette and the dhoti are among this year's key looks in trousers, and while they may work on the catwalk, when it comes to carrying them off in real life, it's all too easy to look, well, pants. Tracy Nesdoly explains a few basic rules on 'tricky trousers' - what to wear, how to wear them and what you should avoid like snow-washed jeans.
We speak only for ourselves here, but we were scarred for life when our mean little brothers called us "thunder thighs". To this day, despite Atkins' and Pilates and reassurances from friends and family, we still harbour the belief that, yes, our bum really does look big in this, and purchasing even a simple pair of jeans involves the same psychological stamina required when trying on a bikini under the harsh fluorescent lights of a department store changing room. Puppy fat may have melted but with fashion magazines promising "thin thighs in 30 days" every 30 days and a daily deluge of e-mail spam selling wonder diets, is it any wonder that many a woman does not have fond feelings for her lower half? Even the gorgeous Gwyneth Paltrow has "issues" with some kind of phantom cellulite only she can see. Back in the days when life was simpler, the biggest challenge was finding a perfect pair of straight, well-cut black trousers - the kind that advertising creative directors seem to have secret access to, and which made Joseph, Prada and Helmut Lang famous and beloved. But alas, nowadays there is no such thing as a simple pair of trousers. In these difficult times just when we need the reassurance of a nice wool crepe and a clean, lean line, we get Tricky Trousers. "What are these?" you ask. Oh, what indeed. Trousers that would be skirts, shorts, trousers that are actually boots to the crotch, trousers that have their roots in the harem or the fishing boat; plus jumpsuits, something we really cannot quite forgive Stella McCartney and Stefano Pilati for resurrecting from their Eighties graveyard. But if you must, here's how to wear them.
Super-skinny and often cropped at the ankle, these have been around for years, but this time you need to go super-skinny and to ensure the fabric at least looks like leather. PVC
is also good, if "good" can be the term for something shiny and skin-tight.
DO: Wear with a tunic, or boxy jacket-cum-dresses.
DON'T: Wear this if "skinny" is not how you best describe your legs.
Truthfully, we love these. We loved them in the Seventies when they were called palazzo pants. The only issue you face is the risk of your spike heels catching in the fabric and tripping you up. Dries van Noten did a slouchy silk pyjama style, and Haider Ackermann's fluid satin jammies are stunning.
DO: Wear with heels - you want length to go with the width.
DON'T: Wear if you are short - this is a tall girl's look.
We are inclined to think that leopard print looks best on a leopard's legs and too often is seen on a WAG, but we are willing to believe we're just being stuck-up. If animal isn't your fancy, there are also trousers patterned with grommets out there, and Alexander McQueen saw fit to offer op-art prints.
DO: Wear with bold accessories and strong shapes.
DON'T: While all-over prints look fine on the catwalk, consider the fact you are probably not 6ft tall and a size zero. One print at a time, please.
Closely related to the harem, the dhoti is reminiscent of Asian fishermen, or rappers. The difference between this and the harem is the yards of fabric in a dropped crotch - mad old Rick Owens dropped his crotch as far as the ankle. Preen did a wearable job of these with a slouchy cropped pant. For the daring, McQ has a smashing version.
DO: Offset the volume with a slim, body-con top or very fitted jacket. Super high heels are also recommended.
DON'T: Not for those with bigger thighs - or bosoms.
Really two balloons of fabric connected at the waist, these look fantastic as a beach cover-up. Or on belly dancers. However, designers are not happy to leave it at that - Yves Saint Laurent's Stefano Pilati showed a daytime, serious version last year, and Balenciaga showed harem pants in satin. Easily confused with the dhoti, and the same rules apply for both