The warning signs were all there. We knew they were returning. There were the paparazzi shots of Bella Hadid. The occasional runway show. The Cut warned that the countdown to their comeback had begun; Glamour said that they were here, and that it was ok. And then this week, so many shows at New York Fashion Week confirmed it.
Low-rise pants are back. And not just jeans. It's low-rise everything.
On February 11th, Helmut Lang held a show for the first time in a year and a half. Designers Mark Thomas and Thomas Cawson delivered a crisp, clean collection, a precise and sleek return to Lang's famed minimalism. It was lovely. And both the trousers and skirts — in everything from wool to leather to workwear twill — were low enough that you could spot an iliac crest.
Dion Lee showed at least eight variations on low-rise pants, pairing them with structured corsets to emphasize slim hips. Brandon Maxwell opened his show with a pair of black low-rise track pants; Eckhaus Latta opened their (awesome) show with low-slung trousers with gaps at the knees. A sharp collection from Proenza Schouler included wide-legged slacks with waistlines far below the waist and maxi skirts in similar proportion, smartly styled over leather pants. Opening Ceremony's fall lookbook includes two versions of low-waisted pants, and Priscavera's take on the silhouette came in the form of transparent vinyl jeans. Both Area and LRS showed miniskirts that fastened far below belly buttons.
The low-rise return was, of course, predictable. Everyone knows that trends are cyclical! The 2000s are back! All of our eyeballs need a refresh! Fashion's nostalgia loop keeps speeding up! They're fun, a winking reference to the days of outré VMAs style and mugshots for DUIs, of paparazzi stalking starlets outside of LA clubs. They seem to smell of fake tan. They fulfill a heady appetite for irony. They are even, for some, reasonably comfortable — as Linder designer Kirk Millar, who was early to the trend, told The Cut, "The idea that someone is comfortable in a pair of high-waisted jeans, rather than jeans that kind of sit at the hip, is always too uptight for me. Most people aren't comfortable with a band of non stretch material across their waist."
The word "flattering" has become an outmoded term in fashion, which is maybe for the best; it is now much cooler to embrace styles just because you like them rather than worrying about molding oneself in accordance with beauty ideals. But I can't think about low-rise pants without stating the obvious: unless you have washboard abs or a concave stomach, they are so, so unflattering, if not impossible to wear at all. Mid and high-rise styles work for people of all sizes! This burgeoning trend feels very nearly cruel. It is also very hard to wear anything low-slung with comfortable underwear–perhaps this return will help Victoria's Secret mount a comeback.
Low-rise pants look fresh, they look cool. But remember 2004? I do. And you could always see the tops of everybody's underpants.
Lead photo by Andrew Boyle / Additional imagery courtesy of Imaxtree