Harem Pants ?!?

I can see all the Turkish sisters I know silently chuckling to themselves…I can see all the hip Istanbuli urbanites shaking their heads and scratching their chins at the thought of peasent shalvar being trendy in fashion land.

Well…they are!

Here are the original Turkish shalvar



These are the pants that conservative Turkish women wear around the house when cleaning, they hitch them up over their skirts or peasent women in villages wear them when working in the fields. they are in no way cool or hip but they are comfy and utilitarian. I have a pair which were made for me about seven years ago. A friend of mine was returning to Turkey with her family and I always saw her and her mom shuffle around the house in them. I asked my friends mother if she could make me a pair as I had grand ideas of using them as a pattern for a Ottoman-esque outfit in black velvet paired with a long jacket. Needless to say they balked at the idea and thought I was potentially insane. Anyway, against their better judgement (because I would not cease my pesterings!) they made me a pair.

Unfortunately, to this day I rarely if ever use them as they are kind of bothersome. Ialmost never wear skirts anyway, let alone around the house… why not just grab a pair of sweats and be done with it.

But, I digress…

So they are popular and trendy this season and come in a variety of designs from the Turkish peasent style to more modified styles to the saggy bottom styles reminiscent of MC Hammer. 




Just a few days ago, I ventured in H&M and stumbled across a pair of the above type of harem pant. Not very baggy, not scary and not strange…They looked decidedly “normal” by Western standards.

They were also in a very light cotton fabric that is incredibly suitable for summer and came in a variety of colorful shades. I picked up a black pair and went into the dressing room, thinking if they fit they would be ideal with a pair of flats and a long black tunic, or under a light abayah.  Surprisingly they actually looked decent. You can choose to either tighten the drawstring giving you a billowy look from the knee down (as from the waist down to the knee they are slim fit and then knee down to ankle they are sort of billowly, no drop crotch or excessive fabric anywhere),Or you can leave them un-tied and they resemble you’re average pair of straight legged pants.

Either way, super cute. So I paid the $19.99 and bought them, they go great with several of my Shukr Tunics and several of my summery flats and sandles and will definetly be very cool under an abayah in the summers heat. I was expecting my husband to say they looked like Irani shalvar but they don’t so he did’nt, though he did say they looked cute <mashallah>.

I still have my original Turkish Shalvar…we’ll see if I get up the guts to wear them out, but it’s doubtful.


15 thoughts on “Harem Pants ?!?

  1. It’s hammer time! ROFL. Those ones with the big ‘flap’ going down look like some kind of incontinence aid! They have some ok ones here; though some just look like 80s tapered trousers; not a good look. But they have some ones similar to yours but with cuffs at the leg.

  2. Hmmm…interesting…I don’t really like the fashion ones, they look really strange to me.
    My mother in law wears the traditional Turkish ones around the house, and my husbands family in the village also wear them. They look quite comfortable, but, I’d rather put on some sweat pants or something.

  3. Pingback: History and the Harem Pant at Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

  4. Hi,
    My name is Mike and a friend of mine named Cathy made me about 10 sets of shalvar and did a fantastic job with them. I wear them to festivals and occasionally to flea markets. Yes, I get funny looks, but I don’t care! It’s been over 100 degrees here in San Antonio, Texas, so I”m definitely not going to wear thick jeans. Unfortunately, my friend Cathy has moved out of Texas and I have no one to make the shalvar for me any longer. The ones I have are holding up quite nicely. Once in awhile, I have to get the elastic replaced in the waist. I enjoy them and my friends are used to me wearing them all the time. Sometimes they will ask me “What Happened, you’re not wearing you big, baggy pants today? That’s if I’m wearing shorts or dress pants. Anyway, I love my shalvar!

  5. In Layla Majnoon there are very beautiful styled dresses to wear with salwars. I find them very beautiful if you can put together a stunning top that fits the contours of your waste, with a pretty flowing hijab, wow!
    I have a similar outfit that everyone loves. You must wear a pretty knee-length dress with it, though and not a tight top.
    Wallahi they might even be more practical since you can ensure your legs will be shown, as when a skirt rides up a little.

  6. Hi, I stumbled upon your site while I was searching around for the turkish shalvar pants. A friend brought a pair back from Istanbul for me and I just love them and would like to have another pair. She had mentioned that these pants are becoming trendy in Europe. Really they are just comfortable and I think neat looking.

  7. Thank you for reminding me how wonderful shalwar can be in the heat. I am from the desrt ereas in the US . No person in their right mind wears jeans in the heat. Ladies wear long gathered skirts made only of cotten. Jeans are for men to wear when they are branding cattle and riding horses. Jeans are not fashionable now anywhere. They are men’s clothing and so is the T shirt.
    I like cotton drawstring pants, any style loose. My favorite is a wide dropped waist which sits 1 inch below the navel. drawstring tied. with a caseing. Custom cut with darts to fit at the hip. Then set in legs at the hipline. Elastic at the ankle . Very light fabric.
    Jeans are horrid they pinch your crotch! , are insuferably hot , take forever to dry are constricting, dont bend with you! Salat? impossible .
    I’ll wear them on the ranch to go hunting or feed the horses … but they are not proper attire for ladies , especially Muslim ladies. Search> Fern Sawyer. >Alice Greeno. This is the culture that owns the denim pants you call jeans and everyone out West calls LEVIS after their inventors the Levi brothers. Cattle ranchers and cowboys, gold panners and rustics wear them for hard rough physical labor. Fashion they are not. Female attire they are not. Islamic they are not. Once you’ve worn a pair of shalwar you’ll never go back to denim. Utterly passe’.
    And can we have some bloomers made from Swiss batiste please.

    • Well sis, I do disagree with 90% of your comment…but, to each her own. Did you ever find Swiss Batiste shalvar?

  8. Assalaam waliekum.
    Harem pants are hideous when worn with short shirts or short garments. They were designed to be worn with long tunics, dresses, and any long garment. When they are worn something really short, they come off as “awkward” and they look fabulous with a tunic because the bulk is covered up.
    I have made harem pants, I love them however I have never worn them out with a short shirt. Also sometimes you can get away with a short garment/harem pants combo by different cuts and pleating instead gathering.
    This is just my thoughts on harem pants.

  9. The traditional pair in the second photo are really pretty, IMO. And look very comfortable. I’d wear them, though I’d go for a “manlier” solid color if I planned on wearing them out of the house. How would they be for someone who sits cross-legged most of the time? (My hips are finally starting to complain about that after 30 years.)

    Those new “fashion” ones, though? Hideous! You know what they look like to me? It looks like those women lost their pants or skirts, each grabbed a spare jacket lying around, and pulled them on upside-down. Does anybody else see it? LOL!


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