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8 Different Types of High Waisted Pants

Row of pants hanging in front of graphic wall

High waisted pants have been a practical piece of fashion, a style statement, even a joke. They’ve been associated with old men, moms, the hopelessly unfashionable. But there are a lot of types of high waisted pants that are fashionable, look great and flatter your body just the right way.

Learn a little more about the styles you can wear, how to wear them well and why you should start looking at high waisted pants in a whole new way.

Where Did High Waisted Pants Come From?

Wearing high waist jeans close up

High waisted pants haven’t been around for ever. They were first designed and first worn for a very specific reason: World War II. Like many different items from fashion history, high waisted jeans were invented during this turbulent, changing time.

Many pieces of clothing were inspired by fashions from WWII, an era that for ever changed human history and the entire world. But unlike lots of fashion from this era, high waisted pants weren’t inspired by what the soldiers were wearing. These pants caught on because of what the civilians were wearing.

High waisted pants were originally made for women who were going to work in factories and on farms. The high waist was designed to fit the woman’s shape, keeping her comfortable while she was working. Women needed something to wear while at work and the dresses and skirts that were popular in fashion at the time just weren’t going to do the trick. High waist pants, on the other hand, made it easy to move naturally and still stay covered up.

Levi Strauss cemented the style’s popularity in 1940 by introducing a high-waisted blue jean for women. By then, Strauss was a well-established name in blue jeans and a leader in the workwear market. High waisted jeans kept women covered even as they bent down, squatted and did what they needed to do while working.

The style quickly caught on, especially as women began wearing pants more and more often even during their off-work hours.

In the 1950s, high waisted jeans became a little more streamlined and flattering for the female shape as jeans caught on in pop culture.

High waisted pant styles have never really left the fashion scene since, though they’ve gotten a bad rap at times and at other times, they’ve been the trendy look to have. There are many ways to wear high waisted pants and lots of different styles to try. Experiment with all the different styles and try a bunch of different looks.

Types of High Waisted Paints

High waisted pants are a time-tested fashion tradition and over the years, many different styles of these pants have developed and entered the fashion world.

In fact, you’ve probably worn a couple styles of high waisted pants at one time or another. Try them all and see how high waisted fashion looks on you. Who knows? You might find that you love the high waisted look, after all.

Capri

LEXISLOVE Capris for Women Casual Summer Wide Leg Crop Pants Loose Comfy Drawstring Yoga Jogger Capri Pants with Pockets Black XL

Designer Sonja de Lennart created a pair of high-waisted, cropped pants in 1945 and named them after her favorite vacation spot: Capri, Italy. Hollywood’s most glamorous actresses, including Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, wore capri pants in the 1950s and the style very quickly caught on.

Movies and TV shows from the era frequently feature Capri pants, which became extremely popular. The pants are close-fitting throughout, hugging the body through the hips, bottom and legs. The pants end around mid-calf.

Capri pants are great as casual wear and they can be styled with many other items. These pants are flattering because of the way they hug your curves.

Dickies

Dickies Men's 874F Flex Work Pant, BLACK, 34 32

Dickies has been making work pants for decades and many of their styles are made to sit at the natural waist or a little higher. Pants that sit at or above the natural waist are high-rise by definition, which means that many different Dickies styles fall into this category, too.

The Dickies original 874 work pant design sits above the belly button, which makes this a high-waisted style. This is also one of the most well-known Dickies styles, though they make many types of work pants that have a high waist design.

Work pants are meant to be worn for work but they can be worn as casual wear and even slightly dressier events, too. In fact, Dickies work pants are pretty famous for looking “nice.” They can go just about anywhere and be worn to just about anything because of their all-around style.

Jeans

KUNMI Womens Curvy High Waist Stretch Butt Lifting Skinny Colombian Jeans Dark Blue

High waisted jeans are a tradition that goes back for decades. Jeans were really centuries in the making. Levi Strauss, retailer, and Jacob Davis, tailor, famously took out the patent on the first pair of jeans in the 1870s. They changed fashion for ever and absolutely shaped the work clothing for later decades.

The invention of jeans was thanks to a few good ideas that came together in one truly epic design. Jacob Davis needed to create tough work pants that would stand up to the rigors of the mining jobs in Nevada, where his customers were located.

He came up with the idea to add copper rivets to the stress points of the work pants he was planning to design. This made them more durable, which is what his customers needed. Levi Strauss had just the right material in his store to make the design a reality: denim. This was a material from France that had become extremely popular, particularly with hard-working types who needed durable clothing.

The design Davis came up with and the denim fabric was a perfect marriage. Blue jeans swept through the U.S. and Europe, becoming popular not just with miners but railroad workers, farmers and others who worked tough jobs. In the 1940s, jeans were made in high waisted designs.

Today, many styles of jeans are made in high waisted designs. That includes skinny jeans, straight jeans, flared bottom jeans, baggy jeans and work jeans. A good pair of jeans is perfect as casual wear. In some styles and dark washes, jeans can even pass as slightly dressier fashion, too.

Leggings

ODODOS Women's Cross Waist 7/8 Yoga Leggings with Inner Pocket, Gym Workout Running Tight Yoga Pants -Inseam 25", Black, Medium

Snug-fitting leggings are often made in high waisted designs because they offer a little bit of stomach control in this styling. These pants sort of smooth out and hug the lower body to hold everything in place, which has a great slimming effect and looks very sexy, too.

Leggings are made in a wide variety of hem styles, from skinny to flared fits. Yoga pants are a popular type of leggings that are often seen outside the yoga studio.

Leggings are perfect casual wear and can even be worn as semi-formal wear, depending on how they’re styled. They’re versatile enough to be worn as workout clothing and they can be worn under a dress or long blouse to look dressier. This is a common high waist pants style that you’ve probably already flirted with wearing in the past.

Mom Jeans

Levi's Women's Premium Wedgie Icon Fit Jeans, Tango Light, 28

There are lots of high waisted jeans styles out there but mom jeans unquestionably stand alone as a very distinct style all their own. The mom jeans style really began back in the 1990s. Back then, slightly baggy, high waist jeans were the trendy look of the day. They weren’t known as mom jeans then. They were just jeans…and everyone was wearing them.

These jeans were loose and comfortable and they were worn high and usually belted. They looked great with crop tops and tucked in shirts and all the hottest celebrities and sex symbols made them look super stylish.

But jeans fashion took an abrupt about-face in the 2000s and suddenly, the styles of the 1990s were absolutely laughable. Absolutely everything changed about popular jeans style and there was a huge style shift.

Figure-hugging, extremely low-cut jeans were the look to have in the 2000s. This made the looks of the 1990s outdated and noticeably very different from the trendy look. Women wearing high waisted jeans, women who were still hanging onto their favorite pairs of jeans from the 1990s, were labeled as having “mom jeans.” The baggy, high waist look was so over, it was funny.

Jokes were made and moms were shamed for their figure-flatting and sin-hiding, slightly baggy jeans. But by the 2010s, mom jeans surged in fashion again as a style that works well with the female shape. All female shapes. After all, they still hide the things you might not love about your hips, your thighs and your rear end while emphasizing your waist and giving you the look of an hourglass shape.

Women everywhere realized there’s nothing wrong with flattering your own natural shape and mom jeans are still on the style scene as a popular look. The hottest celebs still put on mom jeans and make them look sexy.

Palazzo

Vansha Women Summer High Waisted Cotton Linen Palazzo Pants Wide Leg Long Lounge Pant Trousers with Pocket Dark Gray M

Wide leg palazzo pants are usually made in a high waisted style that sits at the natural waist or just above it. The legs of these pants are made with a lot of fabric to create a voluminous look. The pants come out from the hips and flare outward all the way down the legs to end in very large leg openings.

Palazzo pants are a stylish design that looks great in semi-formal and business outfits. The high waist is very flattering to the waistline ad the loose, airy design is very comfortable to wear even in hot temperatures. These pants are a great option for summer business and semi-formal wear.

Vintage 1970s

Vivicastle Women's Boho Comfy Stretchy Bell Bottom Flare Pants (FF43, Multi, Large)

Everyone was wearing high waisted pants in the 1970s, an era of polyester and disco music. Flaring bell bottom jeans in high waisted designs were the look of the decade. You can still find pants in this style in vintage shops.

Even some newer styles of pants are made in the 1970s style to copy the former trend. Now, this look is vintage and that means it’s timeless. In other words, you won’t be out of style when you wear this style of pants.

Zoot Suits

Dreamgirl Men's Zoot Suit Riot Costume, White/Black, Large

The zoot suit has an extremely distinct, baggy look. This design first appeared in the 1930s as an adaptation of the drape suit that was so popular with the former King Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, at the time. The baggy zoot suit was made with high-waisted pants that were very wide in the hips and legs and hung in baggy folds, the “drape” look.

The legs of the pants are made to be a little bit long, with fabric pooling around the bottom of the ankles. This suit is meant to look baggy, almost as it if doesn’t quite fit. Somehow, this was an extremely hot style in the 1930s and 1940s.

Pants made in this big, baggy style have remained in fashion. A similar style appeared in hip hop culture of the 1980s and you will still find big, baggy, high-waisted styles in menswear from time to time.

Wearing Different Types of High Waisted Pants

Wearing high waist pants distance shot

There are many types of high waisted pants that look great on your body and work well with all kinds of different fashion styles. Play around with high waisted pants for casual or semi formal looks, for business wear or for a fun night out. Try all the different types of high waited pants and see how well this style can suit you.

FAQs

There are lots of types of high waisted pants and lots of ways to wear them. That means there’s a lot that can go wrong! So we got the answers to all the most frequently asked questions about high waisted pants to make it a lot easier for you to style them and wear them well. Knowing the tricks to styling high waisted pants will help you pull off any look you want to try.

Are high waisted pants bad for you?

Can wearing pants affect your body physically in some way? They can definitely affect the way your body looks but…can pants do something to your health? Actually, yes. Sometimes, the clothing you wear has an actual physical effect on your body…including high waisted pants.

High waisted pants, if they don’t fit you properly, might put pressure on your abdomen. This can cause heartburn. Tight high waisted pants can also affect your breathing if they put pressure on your diaphragm. Over time and if you wear pants that fit this way frequently, this can weaken your core muscles.

Can high waisted pants be altered?

Little changes can be made to pants. The waistband can be adjusted to be a little smaller, the hem can be shortened and other small changes are possible. Big changes to pants, however, usually can’t happen. High waisted pants are made to be high waisted, so you can’t lower the waistline or alter the fit to mean they are not high waisted anymore.

What can you wear with high waisted pants and jeans?

Wearing high waist pants in recline

How can you wear high waisted pants and look stylish while still flattering your shape? The thing that makes high waist pants and jeans so great is the way they emphasize your waistline. So in order to take advantage of high waisted jeans, wear something that will show your waistline!

Try cropped tops that allow your waist to show or wear a shirt that is tucked in. You can wear a long shirt if you like but add a belt to the outside of your outfit to make that cinched waist look for you.

Avoid tops that are too baggy or jackets that are too bulky when you have on high waisted pants. Cropped jackets, belted jackets and waist-length jackets and sweaters are your best bet if you’re wearing extra layers for the weather.

Are high waisted pants in style?

High waisted pants have been embraced by celebrities and trendsetters of all kinds so right now, they’re very trendy. High waisted pant styles have come in and out of fashion frequently in the last few decades. The style is now old enough to be considered vintage, which means that high waisted pants are never truly out of style.

This is now a classic look, so feel free to play around with high waisted looks at will.

Where should high waisted pants sit?

How high are high waisted pants anyway? To be high waisted, pants should sit at the natural waistline, right around the belly button, or above the belly button. High waisted pants can go all the way up to the armpits, theoretically. However, you shouldn’t wear your pants any higher than the bottom of your ribcage.

Sources:

Blue17 – Check Out How High Can Your Rise With High Waisted Fashion

Brag Vintage – A Brief History of High Waisted Jeans

Bustle – 8 Fashion Choices That Can Hurt Your Health

High Heels Society – The history of Capri trousers

PBS – How the Zoot Suit Got So Much Swag