Road Test: Harem Pants and Swishing


The bedroom floor’s a bombsite, the housemates are bored of the fashion show, and the key to wearing harem pants is definitely to keep it simple. Fitted also works best to balance the pouffy ‘I’m wearing a nappy’ look. I decide on a plain white t-shirt, to brighten the grey colour of the pants, and some copious amounts of gold jewellery with some flats. I’m aware I look like I just raided Aladdin’s cave, but somehow it works. Underwear’s an issue though, as harem pants have all the VPL capabilities of its figure hugging counterpart, the legging, and yet whilst they’re baggier, you have to wear them on a flat stomach day; that top band stretches right across your stomach and is not forgiving. Shoes also created a dilemma – these pants definitely lend themselves better to heels, a ludicrous option for the typically hoodie-clad Hallward-goer. Flats were my only option, with Tod’s being preferable in this colder climate as they have grips and lack the absorption rates of ballet shoes.

I brave the Hallward café. Walking in, I feel like I’ve just had an accident, or my pants are falling down, having my crotch situated halfway between my thighs and my kneecaps will definitely take some getting used to. However, the response from people is surprisingly positive, many people citing them as a part of their gap year wardrobe, while other Vogueans note the key trend with praise. Others (mostly boys) think that they just look plain comfy. I am surprised by the positive response and begin to feel more kitsch as opposed to kid.


Night is definitely where harem pants come into their own; they were designed for heels, making the outfit much easier to piece together. I opt for some towering black gladiator heels, which give a tougher edge to these puffball pants, and team it with the staple American Apparel black leotard. Location is Market Bar, I feel the likes of Isis and Ocean are yet to be able to handle the fashion forward harem. The bizarre feeling that I’ve had a quelle surprise in my trousers is wearing off and, contrary to the initial nappy sensation, I feel chic and kind of glamorous. Again the response is positive, yet more difficult to decipher through the drunken slurs outside the black hole of Market Bar. I received a lot of “Your pants are f**king cool.” I chose to take that as sincere and not sarcastic.

So overall harem pants are for me a winner. Once you get over the initial obstacles of underwear and what-to-wear, they make you feel effortlessly cool. I predict that they will make a splash on campus in Spring ‘09 when the weather’s warmer, and hopefully drier, and you can team them with an array of sandals, loafers, ballet shoes and pumps. In the meantime, fashion-forward folk I daresay could team them with some army boots, in order to brave the wintry days, but for night there are endless heeled options, and immediately give the standard clubbing trouser-top combo a style update.


As a toddler, many a little girl dressed in Cinderella Princess gowns, with the sparkly tiara and jewel encrusted ‘high heels’, donned with lustrous bangles. She’d then look around at her gaggle of friends – a crowd of Snow Whites, Ariels, Jasmines and Sleeping Beauties, and wish she had the outfit of the person next to her. This continues when we get to our teens, and we look into our best friend’s wardrobes and feel the twinge of the green-eyed monster as we wish we had something (sometimes everything!) that hangs so luxuriously from the rail. It’s human nature! Or more specifically “woman” nature: we always want the clothes we don’t have!

For some girls it isn’t about wanting what our best friend has, but is solely about wanting… everything. It’s hard times at the moment in the thick of recession; nobody has any money! Especially us students who face the words overdraft, loan and minus numbers everyday. This isn’t easy for shopping-obsessives like myself (formally known as shopsessives), who find themselves looking around campus at young fashionistas and wishing to own some part of their outfit (bag, shoes, cute hair accessory, that gorgeous top you so couldn’t afford from All Saints – sound familiar?), which then leads to an almost drug-obsessive frenzy towards the nearest computer where a much needed fix of occurs (Remaining balance: -£500 ?). Or, similarly, when walking around the streets of Nottingham (trying so SO hard to turn a blind eye) find that somehow they have the ability to zone in on Zara, All Saints, Jack Wills! Oh My! (Skills even James Bond would envy!) So what to do? The option which is usually put forward towards us shopsessives is STOP! Which I think we would all agree is a formidable concept and not something we have the ability to do.
So where to go now?

I would now like to welcome you all to the art of ‘swishing’. I do agree it does sound like some sort of ‘shape’ one would make on the dance floor after a few too many, but bear with me, this could change the way we shop FOREVER!

The definition of the word ‘swishing’ is to rustle. Now it can involve both these things…so prepare to be amazed. Basically everybody turns up at the event (usually in a big hall) with their unwanted clothes (in good condition of course) and lays them out for everybody’s beady eyes to feast on before the hour of ‘browsing’ commences (which yes does mean no grabbing…another concept foreign to us shopessesives…but stick with me) THEN…the swishing begins! This basically means everybody grabs the items which they have seen and the items that they want! The amazing part being…it is all FREE!
Swishing relies on the ideology that one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure. For instance an extremely tight 80’s style I’m-not-going-to-be-able-to-breathe-all-night-let-alone-move body-con dress with a huge metallic bow may hold a feast of embarrassing tales and memories of bad music for someone who wore it in the 80’s. However for the Topshop shopsessives like myself, we find this the biggest treasure ever found as we know it would cost us £50 at least (something our overdraft sees far too often!) Therefore the art of swishing is possibly genius!!

So a note to finish on: If you were that cutey-pie Cinderella Princess who never quite got over the fact you didn’t have the pretty tiara, and then grew to become a manic shopsessive who now finds it difficult to feed the addiction in these tight times…do not fear! Grab your old clothes, a couple your best mates, make a social occasion out of it and start… Swishing!!

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Laura Morrison


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