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Please to Meecha, Bombacha!

A new kind of trouser has travelled upriver to the West in the last few years, and entered the mainstream. The first ripples came in the guise of the harem pant, ballooning from the waist; yards of fabric gathered at the ankle. Gradually the form took on a different silhouette, less billowy in the leg, and the new trouser shape became inelegantly known as the ‘drop crotch’. As I own a few pairs, curiosity lead me on a journey to discover the origins of these comfortable trousers. 

In South America it is more traditionally known as the bombacha, or the gaucho, and the trouser takes its name from the South American equivalent of the cowboy. Today they are worn for riding or for outdoor work that requires sturdy garb. The trousers are long, loose and baggy, and are usually tucked into boots to create the look more familiar to us on the runway. Some modern versions of the bombacha are cropped just past the knee for practicality. 

Traditional guachos

Loose, comfortable trousers have been worn throughout history by both men and women around the world.

Loose, comfortable trousers have been worn throughout history by both men and women around the world. A similar style of trouser has long been worn in South and Central Asia, where they are known as shalwar kameez. They are also part of Turkish folk costume, and are called şalvar in Turkish, while historically Persian horsemen wore a version of the pants called sharovary. In the mid nineteenth century French Zouave soldiers wore trousers very similar to the drop crotch – these men were recruited from a tribe of Berbers in Algeria. I in fact bought a pair of heavily embroidered traditional blue trousers still worn today by the Tuareg, a Berber people, when I was in Morocco a couple of years ago. (You can see these here.)

Besides my souvenir Tuareg trousers, I own several pairs of loose, baggy pants in the bombacha style. These are what I wear when I am working or mooching about at home – I find them both comfortable and a little more elegant than tracksuit pants. (Tracksuit pants belong on the track – I’m sure I’ve declared that more than once before!) Mine are all made of softer fabrics however – silk blends and cottons – I’m certain they wouldn’t last the distance if I really was a cowgirl. 

Picture Credits

The background images were taken in the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco when I was holidaying there a couple of years ago. Guacho trousers (left) and (right). Fashion image here

Bombachas by Zandia, Spring/Summer 2010

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