Gaucho Pants of the 1970s: The 18th Century Style that Gained Popularity in the early 1970s and Faded

Gauchos are wide-legged, mid-calf pants for women. They have a cuff that extends all the way to the ankle. Known as South American cowboy pants, they were in style from the early to mid-1970s. Like culotte shorts or skorts, gauchos were longer and meant to serve as a more formal alternative to skirts and slacks.

The French designer Yves Saint Laurent was the first to popularize a more masculine look for women’s clothing. His trouser suits and smoking tuxedo jackets were a big hit with fashion-conscious women after 1968. In the following years, trousers outsold dresses and skirts. The women’s liberation movement, which accepted unconventional roles for women, contributed to the boom. Gaucho pants became more common after bans against wearing pants at formal events and work declined significantly. Argentine and Uruguayan pampas cowboys wore pants like these. In the 18th and 19th centuries, gauchos achieved mythic status for their riding skills and fierce independence. Though somewhat unusual in cut, the gaucho pants reflected the growing interest in ethnic looks and world cultures in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Fashion writers praised them as a modern alternative to skirts.

Gauchos first became popular in the fall of 1970. In the August 30, 1970, issue of the New York Times Magazine’s twice-yearly fashion supplement, American designer Anne Klein offered Gray flannel gauchos. It didn’t take long for the mass-market apparel sellers to catch on. Often, they were worn with boots, another new trend in women’s clothing of the time. But gauchos had fallen out of favor within a few years. Mid-calf lengths break the leg line, and they seem to give the wearer a wider silhouette or shape than desired. Unflattering to most, they eventually became synonymous with some of the decade’s worst fashion trends.

#2 Ralph Lauren’s shawl collared sleeveless vest over culottes.

#3 Enid Rose in evening culottes by Anne Matthews, 1970s

#4 Models Mary Keates (left), Claudia Halle and Michelle Jaques wearing pinstriped business suits with skirts, culottes and trousers.

#5 A model wearing a tunic top and crepe wide-legged trousers.

#6 Mary Quant discusses the trimming for a pair of culottes.

#7 Mary Quant’s wide-legged trouser suit with waistcoat and cowboy hat.

#8 A model wearing halterneck culottes in a floral butterfly pattern.

#9 140 High school girls from 47 schools and 4 Boys, modeled their own clothing creations at the Sydney Hilton

#12 Models Keryn and Priscilla wearing skirts and culottes, 1974.

#13 Fashion model Ika wearing knee-length culottes and a wide-brimmed hat, UK, 5th April 1974.

#14 Hardy Amies designed culottes shown in London, 18th January 1973, On the left a shirt.

#15 British fashion designer Ossie Clark at a London studio with a model in one of his new outfits.

#16 Actress Joanna Lumley stands by a drawing of herself by Trevor Willoughby at a Royal Academy exhibition of ‘Stars on Canvas’.

#17 Jean Farquoson models a printed culottes and top in lightweight ‘Simplene’.

#19 Two Christian Dior spring fashions modelled in London

#20 Black and white snakeskin bolerc and matching snakeskin poncho hat worn by Doreen.

#21 British actress Imogen Hassall wearing white culottes and a mini bolero trimmed with silver and purple paillettes.

#22 A model wears a belted, fake fur, and Gaucho pant.

#23 A young woman wearing culottes attached to a tabard-style top with a butterfly motif, in London’s East End, 1970

#54 A model wearing a shirt and culottes in fine cotton from the Diorling Spring Collection.

A model wearing a shirt and culottes in fine cotton from the Diorling Spring Collection.

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