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Skinny Pants: A Brief History

Skintight women’s pants have squeezed in and out of fashion for decades. Now, with the reappearance of stirrup leggings, the look is back.

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1956
Gamine Bohemian

Adapted from a bohemian demimonde of dancers and artists, leotards signify a lean, artistic minimalism when worn by doe-eyed ingenues like Audrey Hepburn.

1965
The Emaciated Crowd

From English mods to Factory regulars, skinny trousers are the uniform of the hard-edged and underfed. Edie Sedgwick’s famous legs regularly appear in nothing but black tights.

1981
The Spandex Revolution

The leg-hugging look returns in full force in the late seventies and eighties, when three seemingly disparate subcultures (aerobics, hair bands, punk rock) simultaneously choose Lycra spandex as a wardrobe mainstay.

1985
Going Mainstream

Donna Karan outfits a generation of toned, take-charge female executives in boxy black jackets, big gold jewelry, and leg-hugging black pants; for the rest of the decade, closets are filled with stretch stirrups and jodhpurs.

2003
The Vacuum-Packed Look

Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquière sucks the excess out of fashion, exiling the bootleg cut with a collection that fits like, and looks like, scuba gear.

2006
Stirrups Live!

Jeans get progressively tighter, the ankle zipper returns, and sales for Daryl K’s stretch-silk stirrup pants ($275) have increased by a third this season.


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