If I haven’t clarified by now, let me drill down into my point one last time: no fashion trend exists within a vacuum. That’s true, even for the more “trivial” trends like the pants optional trend that took off this past year. Characterized by the usage of underpinnings like tights, hotpants, underwear, and stirrup leggings to create the visual illusion of… you guessed it, wearing no pants. While one might initially write off the “pants optional” trend as a frivolous movement championed by a few famous people (ahem, Rihanna and Hailey Baldwin Bieber), it’s more than that. Like all trends, this movement reflects what’s happening in the fashion world.
We first saw tights styled underneath hotpants with a sweater and pumps in Matthieu Blazy’s second collection for Bottega Venetta in S/S 23. Since then, variations of the no-pants look have been spotted everywhere—e.g., tailored separates were styled with matching hot pants layered over tights at Ferragamo and Helen Anthony’s F/W 23 collections. While at Puppets and Puppets, a model strutted down the runway wearing a tailored corset top with lace stirrup leggings featuring a built-in overlay feature to give the illusion of exposed underwear. And then, there was Miu Miu’s collection, in which actual briefs (some bedazzled) were layered over tights and paired with layered knitwear—which was the peak expression of the trend! Each iteration of this trend on the runways was not only reflective of all the exciting things happening in the industry, but changes in the wider world.
The adoption of the no-pants look speaks to the longer history of more skin-barring forms of dressing being adopted after events of mass destabilization and death—e.g., after the Spanish Flu in 1918, the roaring ’20s were filled with more “risqué” hemlines including the mini dress. With this in mind, it’s only natural we’d see some form of a new way to bare skin emerge as we’ve collectively grappled with massive upheavals in the past few years. And while some still might think that choosing not to wear pants isn’t a big deal, I’d be to differ. At the end of the day, even with the free will to choose what we put on our bodies, we can never make the choice to be separated from the influence clothing has on society. Fashion has always reflected the era in which it exists—acting as a guide to who is deemed important, what is happening in the world, and what everyone is wearing. It will continue to do so, even if you choose to go pantless or not post-2023.