In season 4, episode 18 of the popular ’90s TV show “Friends,” Jennifer Aniston’s always stylish character Rachel Green accidentally meets her boyfriend’s parents, wearing a lace-trimmed nightgown that she plans to wear for an intimate date night at home. She then spends the night trying to make her lingerie the “next big thing in fashion”. She wasn’t entirely wrong. Twenty years later, wearing lingerie as a jacket is not only common, it’s encouraged. Halter dresses have become a year-round staple, while corsets, bodices and corseted dresses have become part of the fashion line. Now, thanks to the industry’s love of nostalgia, a new intimate-inspired trend is set to emerge in the next six months: the lantern pant.
Hear us out. Yes, literally, baggy pants can feel a little dated. With early origins in Asia and Turkey, they were an important part of Western clothing in the early 19th century, worn in cage-style skirts. The item didn’t appear in public until the American Suffrage Movement, when women began swapping their long skirts for lantern pants (named after women’s rights advocate Amelia Brummer) in protest. Today, the fashion house continues to be unique in its drawer style.
Oscar de la Renta showed a pair of romantic pink satin for his Spring 2001 collection, while just last month Alessandro Michele gave away a pale yellow mini with a faux-fur cape and leather motorcycle gloves at Gucci’s Cosmogonie show. Then there were the wavy knee-highs that appeared a few days ago in Louis Vuitton’s early spring 2023 collection. These sheer biker shorts by Nensi Dojaka had an updated feel, while Anna Sui recreated her retro boudoir silhouette from the 90s with a pair of loose halter shorts, offering the best of the new season’s lingerie style trends.
The style has proven equally popular on the catwalk. The indie brand has gained a cult following with its popular Fairy Dress, and Mirror Palais is launching a vintage-inspired iteration for spring 2022. Complete with a ruffled hemline and ribbon detail, this lightweight poplin fabric has all the key features of the traditional style – without any of the dated feel.
“Fashion history is something that I’m very invested in and it shows me how to design,” says Marcelo Gaia, founder of the buzzy brand. “So the decision to showcase a 19th century pantalette in this collection felt very natural. The pair I designed is just a remake of authentic vintage [bloomers] and we didn’t complicate it further. We kept it very pure and almost as historically accurate as it could be. But we really made it feel very modern through the styling.”
To do this, the designer sourced through Toots Vintage while asking herself, how would Carrie Bradshaw wear 19th century lingerie? The answer? High heels, of course. “It’s the kind of piece that evokes fantasy and makes people feel like they’ve traveled back in time,” he explains of the enthusiastic response from his client base since the style’s release. “It’s great to see how [the client] will reinterpret the fashion of the last 100 years.”
For most luxury lingerie brands, vintage styles are at the heart of their brand DNA. Years ago, Kiki de Montparnasse collaborated with Caroline Vreeland on a line of solid silk embroidered lantern pants, while brands like Fleur du Mal and Agent Provocateur have produced styles over the years, many of which have a more bedroom feel but can still be worn as ready-to-wear with the right accompaniment The creative director of Agent Provocateur, Sarah Provocateur, has been working on a number of styles for years.
“Today, there’s very little in the lingerie world that hasn’t been done before,” says Sarah Shotton, creative director of Agent Provocateur. “It’s always very exciting for me and my team to look back at past lingerie styles and spin them and bring them forward in a modern way. I especially love deconstructionism and appreciate the beauty of the craftsmanship of vintage or antique pieces.”
According to Gaia and Shotton, the secret to creating the look today is paying attention to proportions and fabrics. “Find lantern pants that fit at the waist, float at the bottom, and then pin back with a ruffle at the top of the thigh. For a more modern look, try French shorts and bottoms that look great with a corset or camisole-they retain the spirit of the original lantern pants but have an updated attitude,” says Shotton. “Luxurious fabrics like silk or light tulle help keep you comfortable and make you feel fabulous.”
But ultimately, as with any vintage fashion, Gaia urges shoppers to go the secondhand route whenever possible. “As a brand, we’re big supporters of [buying] vintage, and we tell our customers that if our pieces are out of your price range, but you want to embrace the micro trend and they’re available in your size, I would encourage you to check out Etsy or Depop as alternatives.”