Cargo Comeback!

The sun is shining today, which is not something that happens a lot lately here in Wellington.  Sitting outside taking in the warmth of the sun’s rays, I was enjoying my morning lattè and flicking through the pile of glossy magazines brought back from the States by my adoring hubby on the weekend (so spoilt, I know).  Anyway, while marking pages and dreaming up blog ideas I started thinking about glorious spring –  how I could hardly wait for it and then of course this led to the inevitable “what about my wardrobe?”  Argh panic! 

I know I have written about cargo pants before but it was only a little post about shopping and given my penchant for a good pair of cargos, I’ve decided to re-visit the topic because I want to show you how important cargo pants are to your wardrobe – your spring wardrobe that is.

 As seen in Vogue Australia November 2002

I guess many of you may have thought that cargo pants were passè, even gauche.  Well I’m here to tell you that they’re back and they are looking better than ever.  Designers are taking their lead from master cutter Nicolas Ghesquiere.  We are seeing cargo pants in many new interesting cuts and finishes.  I’ve seen them (and bought them) in flared ankle, a tied ankle even capri length.  Some have been finished with drawstring waist and belt loops and some even have embroidery down the legs.  They can be made out of just about any fabric you can think of, thereby making them as comfy as a pair of tracky-daks but without the daggy-factor.  I believe that cargo pants are as essential to every girl’s wardrobe as jeans.  Seriously I do!  Yes jeans are fabulous and without doubt, super important to our wardrobe, but not all are cut for comfort now are they?  Try sitting on a long-haul plane journey in jeans and you’ll know what I mean.

Sass and Bide silk cargos – on my wish list.

I have loved cargo pants from day one and I have always owned at least one pair in my wardrobe since 1998.  My first pair were of course, khaki, made of raw silk and purchased from Sportsgirl for the exhorbitant sum of $89.95 – back then that was a lot of money.  I wore them right up until the seat wore out in them.  Such a sad, sad day when I finally had to part with them… 

All Saints (top left) on stage in their baggy cargos.

In 1998,  cargo pants became mainstream when British girl band All Saints took to the stage wearing baggy cargo pants with trainers.  For several seasons now this ubiquitous garment has been available in just about any high street store.

If only we could all look this hot in our cargos… Jennifer Anison shows us how it’s done.
Paris Vogue’s Emmanuel Alt wearing cargos – the ultimate in chic – if they’re wearing them in Paris, then shouldn’t we all be wearing them?

Carrie Bradshaw in cargos and Manolo’s.

Nicolas Ghesquiere brought cargo chic to the house of Balenciaga back in 2002 when he sent models down the runway in silk le dix cargo pants in khaki and pink.  I remember these Balenciaga silk cargos – they broke the mould and sent the cargo upscale – the haute cargo, if you will.  Trends show that it is the fabric shift and design nuances that have helped bring the interest in cargo pants back.

Balenciaga Prèt-a-porter Spring 2002.

Cargos look best in khaki, white and black but there is also some that are orange and red and they are gorgeous, it’s a shame that more designers don’t make them in vibrant colours.  I hear that they do exist, but I am yet to find them in my part of the world.  If you know where I can find them in more colours, can you let me know?

  For your first pair, you should buy khaki – what else?

I remember seeing pictures of Jennifer Aniston in gorgeous Maharishi cargos back in 2002.  These pants were suddenly a hot style item thanks to these pictures.  I’ve been able to find a picture of Jen in her Maharishi cargo pants – the same pair she’s owned since 2002.  It’s gives me a sense of solidarity knowing that someone like Jennifer Aniston still wears favourites and doesn’t throw them out just because she can afford to buy new ones at her leisure.  I have been known to wear clothes until they are so worn out that they are full of holes and even after I’ve patched them up and they are beyond repair, I turn them into gardening and house painting clothes.  I just find parting with favourite clothes unbearable and I refuse to get rid of them until they are not even good enough to be used as a rag.  My best friend Kirsty will back me up on this – she has seen me wear my favourite clothes until they basically fall apart, for as long as she’s known me, (remember those blue and green batik Esprit shorts Kirst?)

 Jennifer Aniston in her beloved Maharishi cargos.

Women’s cargo pants are more draped, especially when constructed of silk and that is why they can be worn in the evening dressed up with a stiletto.  They are also multi-generational, which is to say they can be worn by women of all ages.  The right pair can be extremely flattering on a woman.  These days we are seeing the cargo pant being cut a lot like our favourite pair of jeans.  Case in point, the skinny cargo pant (see below).

 Impure Minds

Cargo pants are so basic, so versatile. They’re masculine pants but when worn on a woman, they are given a feminine twist by nothing simpler than the shape of her.

 Sarah Jessica Parker in cargos as seen in UK Elle, September 2000.

While flicking through some old Australian Vogue’s for research on this topic, I found a fantastic article; “How To Wear Cargo”.

1. Forget high-tech trainers and combat boots, instead, dress up cargo pants with sky-high stilettos.
2. Consider khaki the new neutral and brighten the look with summer pastels.
3. Do wear cargo pants slung low on the hips.
4. This is not a G.I. Jane moment, do not wear cargo head-to-toe.
5. Soften the look with ethnic and romantic tops.
6. For an easy weekend option, invest in a khaki parka.
7. Mix and match cargos with denim by day or sparkly vintage tops by night.
8. Don’t borrow from your boyfriend unless you have his cargos tailored to fit.
9. Swap the 90’s nylon versions for soft, slouch cotton drill.
10. Do customise them: taper the legs, add a drawstring, or crop the length.

And that was how it was done.  I don’t think much has changed, do you?

How cargo pants were worn in Paris and New York in 2002 – not much has changed.

Look, I know that cargo pants are not the most stylish or elegant piece of clothing out there, but for my money, they keep me from feeling like I’m getting too old to wear something that I might see on a person half my age, and most especially, as comfort is key, you just can’t go past them.

Sass and Bide cargos as seen in Madison magazine, May 2009.

I might just add that their only down side, is the ridiculous amount of ironing they require!

Ciao for now,

Sources:, Vogue Australia, Madison Australia,, British Vogue, Garance Dorè.

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