Like a trusty pair of sweats, paper bag pants are the comfy-cozy wardrobe BFF you need after one too many cookies. Unlike your favorite pair of sweatpants, however, you can actually walk out in public wearing them without looking like you’re fresh off a 3-day Netflix binge.
The paper bag waist often gets a bad rap for being boxy and boyish. For those with a limited fashion education, that might seem like a disparaging reputation, but a seasoned style pro isn’t so easily intimidated. That’s not to say they can’t be done wrong (and trust me, they often are), but with the right cut and top pairing they can be a sleek, standout piece.
Before we go any further, let’s just clarify what a paper bag waist actually is: a high-waisted cut with gathered fabric that slightly spills over a belt. To paint an even simpler picture, imagine a paper bag that is tied off at the top with a ribbon… bam.
Instead of going overboard with a mini skirt or shorts with this tricky waistline, stick with trousers instead: they offer a breezy and sophisticated look along the lines of runway-worthy resort wear. Perhaps something Diane Kruger or Karlie Kloss would wear to a yacht party in Cannes or strolling up and down the streets of Monte Carlo.
When scoping out your own pair of paper bag waist pants, select a cut that hits right at or just a few inches below the natural waist (you’ll be able to manipulate it a bit either way with the belt). The flare of the trousers should be just enough to catch a breeze, and not enough to double as a parachute. With length, consider what shoes you’ll be pairing these pants with most frequently before you make a final decision, and how much you want those shoes to show.
Picking the right top here is crucial, and I’d advise taking one of two routes: firstly, you can pick a crop top that hits above the waistline to expose a sliver of midriff. Sleeve length here doesn’t matter so much as neckline does, and I’d advise something structural to offset the looseness of the trousers. On the other hand, you could pick a fitted T-shirt to tuck in underneath the trousers, adhering to the same sleeve and neckline suggestions as before. (Pro tip: Pick a simple navy and white striped version for a polished, nautical-inspired feel).
Brave enough to try out the paper bag pants? Try them out for yourself, and let me know how you’d style ’em in the comments below!