Palazzos, Gauchos, Culottes: Murky world of Pant Names

I am NOT a fashion terminology expert or a historian; if you are one, please chime in. Please! 

Palazzo pants are currently living in my brain. I’m obsessed.  That’s good, because after elastic-waisted, stretchy, close fitted, straight-leg, boot-leg or skinny-width pants, I’m ready for looseness in my wardrobe. As you can see below (and this previous post) I am well into the palazzo dream.

All Fabric from Sew Much Fabric. Camimade Patterns – the Mirage Pants. Disclosure: I tested this pattern for Threads magazine, who let all testers keep the pattern they tested.
Pinterest images: 1950s (left) and 1960s (right). Note: on the right, is a Pauline Trigere ensemble.

First up, a little bit of historical context from Vogue magazine about the naming of these flowy pants. (This info Courtesy of Vogue article of February, 2, 2020) Fashion designer Irene Galitzine (a Russian princess) is credited with popularizing the wide, flowing pants in the 1960s. It was Diana Vreeland, then Vogue editor, who dubbed them palazzo pants, after seeing the show in a real palazzo (an ornate palatial building in Italy. Like a palace).  Note: I hear there are sewing patterns designed by Irene Galitzine available from vintage pattern sellers online, but not necessarily palazzos.

Princess Irene Galitzine in 1952, photographed by Clifford Coffin. ( Palazzo pants were a few years away)

Can we regress about 30 years before the 1960s palazzo explosion?  In the 1930s western hemisphere, there was the “pyjama”; fashionably forward women began to wear really, really wide pants in public, trying to emulate Jean Harlow, no doubt.  These were the pre-cursor to the palazzo.

These pyjamas are supposed to be an Irene Galitzine design but I cannot verify. This MAY be Carol Lombard wearing pyjamas in the 1930s. Readers, do your thing and identify this person.

See? I told you there’s nothing new in fashion, just how we look at old style with new eyes.  

Moving forward to 2020 brings on the confusion, and it’s making me ill.  People refer to minimally loose pants as “palazzos”, or full length loose pants as gauchos (gauchos are knee or calf length).  But I’m not a fashion-terminology police and don’t have that authority.  So — let’s look up the terminology in Dictionary of Fashion by Fairchild publications: 

Close up of palazzo illustration

Palazzo Pants: Women’s long, wide pajamas or culottes with voluminous flared legs and gathered waist. Worn for lounging or evening dress in the late 1960s and early 1970s

Gaucho Pants: Wide, calf length women’s pants, frequently made of leather, copied from pants worn by Spanish as part of Andalusian riding suit and adapted by South American cowboys; a fashion in the late 1960s. Der. Spanish, “cowboy” of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

Culottes: Pants of any length cut to look like a skirt which hangs similar to a divided skirt. Worn from 1930s to 1940s and again in 1960s, and very popular in the 1980s. I n1986 some culottes were worn knee length in a pleated style sometimes with a matching jacket. Der. French, culotte, “pants”.

Elephant-leg pants: Trousers with extremely wide legs similar to Harlow Pants. Introduced in the late 1960s.

Harlow Pants: Trousers wide from hips to hem, introduced in the late 1960s, Der. Copied from slacks worn in the 1930s by Jean Harlow. 

To get out of the confusion, I am designating my wide, wrap-around pants as Palazzos. Plus, here is some interesting reading for you: I know, too many links but this stuff is interesting.

ClarindaLauren , The Fascinating Pajama by Witness to Fashion ,

The Vintage Traveler’s Beach Pyjama post,

It me again! Is this too much of a lemon and lime look? That scarf started it all….

There you have it. More palazzos will be moving into my closet this Fall and Winter, and into 2021. I will keep you apprised….

Be safe, be good and be kind.

Love, Samina

6 thoughts on “Palazzos, Gauchos, Culottes: Murky world of Pant Names

  1. I LOVE those green pants, no matter what you end up calling them! I always think of Palazzo pants as being very wide, flowy, made of silk, chiffon, or some such “evening” fabrics. These are just cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Anne! I intend to add some drapey fabric palazzos to my wardrobe. There are no parties these days so daytime fabrics will have to emulate the evening look.

      Liked by 1 person

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