Cargo pants or paratrooper pants (or combat trousers as they are frequently called) were inspired in the 1990s by military-inspired fatigues and continue to be a favourite utilitarian streetwear get-up. From army surplus stores to catwalk shows, combats are versatile, practical, comfortable and just smart enough to have that go-everywhere potential.
Having shot to the top of everyday ‘go-to's over the years, women of all ages now consider cargo pants to be a wardrobe essential – whether the ultra-casual or classic denim variety or posh faux-leather variations for weekend dressing. They are available in a variety of silhouettes and materials, including slouchy to slim, lightweight Tencel (widely used in sustainable fashion), wool-blend gabardine and heavier cotton drill.
This season, however, both luxury brands and mass retailers have given the basic style their own unique spin to create a casual, polished outfit. Dressed up with a pair of elegant heels, a slinky silk camisole, or a curve-hugging fitted corset or bustier top, along with a beautifully tailored jacket, these slouchy trousers have truly gone upmarket. New styles see them becoming looser rather than skinnier, with higher waists, baggy legs, long hems, and maximum pocket space with tassels and zippers.
· If your cargo pants are baggy, adding an oversized blazer that falls below your waist or a casual-chic top will help bring the look together and create structure.
· Slimmer-leg cargo trousers can look great with an oversized shirt or a feminine off-the-shoulder chiffon top and a pair of mid-heeled ankle boots.
· Tailored jackets with a high-cut bodysuit will accentuate your natural shape and help counteract the casual feel of baggy trousers.
· Cuff the ankles of your cargos to create a flattering tapered shape on the lower leg, then slip on a cotton tank top and a long sleek trench coat with a pair of platform shoes to create a fashionable slim silhouette.
· Pair cargo pants with an eye-catching statement top set off by super-chic slingbacks – footwear that shows a little skin can help balance proportions. For a more relaxed weekend vibe, go for a pair of snazzy, low-heeled ankle boots or high-top trainers.
· Curvy women can choose a classic pair of cargos and pair them with a navy or black jacket or French-tuck white shirt (the back of the shirt hangs loosely with the front tucked into the waist). Then add a pair of run-around heels. Avoid combats with huge pockets if you're concerned about adding extra bulk.
· Low-waisted cargo pants look fabulous juxtaposed with bright colourful T-shirts and a pair of stilettos that just peek out from below the hem of the trousers. For a mega-glam look, accessorise with a snazzy hat, contrasting handbag, sparkling bangles, funky sunglasses and signature earrings.
· To finish off your elegant ensemble, braid your hair or pull it into a sleek bun.
TikTok hashtag #stylingcargos has received more than six million views, illustrating not just how many people are interested in learning how to style cargo trousers, but also how difficult it can be to fashion this look. Meanwhile, the fact that designers like Nicola Brognano, Ralph Lauren, and Versace have all created their own interpretations of the classic style for their 2023 collections demonstrates that cargo pants are indeed here to stay.
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