Skinny Pants: A Brief History

Photo: Clockwise from top left, Paramount/The Kobal Collection, Burt Glinn/Magnum, Warner Bros./Photofest, Courtesy of Donna Karan, Firstview, Davies + Starr

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Skinny Pants: A Brief History