Sweet Potato Seamstressing - beige linen joggers and chambray shirt

Beige Linen “Harem” Pants Inspired by Madewell + Why the term “Harem Pants” should be avoided

Sweet Potato Seamstressing - beige linen pants with pockets

Amid a flurry of weekend loneliness as my partner is away on a trip for her job, I whipped up these adorable linen pants using Pattern Emporium’s Harem Pants pattern, purchased with Indiesew’s summer collection package.  Before I jump into the details of how awesome these pants are, where I grabbed inspiration from, etc, I just want to note a disclaimer below. So keep reading!

Disclaimer: I absolutely LOVE this pattern. It’s easy to use, easy to modify, stylish, and versatile.  I’m so taken with this pattern, I want to make several more pairs of pants in varying colors and prints. It would be unfortunate of me, however, if I didn’t note that I’m not crazy about the term “Harem Pants” and I wish the designer chose a different name. First off, a harem according to the dictionary is, “(in former times) the separate part of a Muslim household reserved for wives, concubines, and female servants; the women occupying a harem; the wives (or concubines) of a polygamous man; a group of female animals sharing a single mate.” Now, I’m not the kind of American who has issues with Muslims or Islamic culture, and would never want to use my privilege to disempower groups of women of any culture. I don’t, however, think we should go romanticizing harems, as white Western women, especially since we likely know so little about what harems were like.  Second, as a white western woman, I have no connections with harems or the pants that the women in harems may or may not have worn. I do know, however, that it’s a culturally appropriative stereotype that I’d like to avoid. Anthropologie calls this style “joggers” and I’ve seen other bloggers use terms like “track pants.” Madewell doesn’t call them anything, which I know is not an option for an indie pattern maker but it is an interesting approach. Furthermore, there isn’t anything “harem” about these pants aside from the fact that we have an I Dream of Jeannie idea of what Middle Eastern women from 1000 years ago looked like that is probably wrapped up in all kinds of layers of misunderstanding and islamophobic and sexualized representations of Muslim women.  The fashion community is super guilty of these appropriations, and I know it’s easy to just keep saying “harem pants” then to explore the complicated orientalist ideas attached to such items of clothing turned commodity in our capitalist, consumer driven society.  I just ask that everyone reading this post think about the language you’re using and histories of culturally-specific words we attach to clothing. (I also feel the same way about terms like “tribal” “gypsy” and “native”).

Sweet Potato Seamstressinglinen pants, chambray shirtSo, not crazy about the title of these pants. But I do love the pattern and if you sew and want to save some money making your own, I totally recommend it. I adore how these pants fit and the pattern is so easy to use.  I was really inspired by the shore walk coverups by Madewell when I started making these pants, tassels and all. I knew that I wanted my tassel to be a different color than the drawstring, so there was that slight difference.

I went to the fabric store, bought linen in beige because I love light and airy looks all  year round and started to sew them.  Half way through I tried them on and cringed in the mirror. Half-way done in beige looked like something hideous my grandmother (who is a doctor) would have worn 30 years ago while doing surgeries. This was my own damn fault of course. “Beige?” I kept thinking, “Who on Earth sews boring beige pants?” I prevailed, however, and when I was through I realized that I was wrong. These incredibly versatile and adorable pants are going to be a summer staple for me, and don’t be surprised to see me wearing them mid-october. This is California after all.

Sweet Potato Seamstressing - linen joggers

I made a few adjustments: First, I took off about 3/4 of an inch from the pants width at the ankle for a more slender silhouette.  I thought about this for a long time before I did so. Because I’m petite in bone structure, I have a tendency to look like I’m swimming in anything too baggy. I also lopped 2 1/2 inches off the bottom before hemming them as they were much too long, even though I followed the height instructions.  The last little adjustment was that I completely French seamed the pants. You all know that I love French seams, so this shouldn’t be surprising. I also think it gives the pants a more tailored look, and is more durable for the linen.  I don’t like to cut corners too much when I’m sewing.

IMG_6158   IMG_6156

The pocket detail was definitely my favorite part of making these pants. There are so many pocket options in the pattern too! I chose the relaxed pockets, and I seriously think I’m going to start putting pockets on everything. It was so satisfying to see them come together.

Sweet Potato Seamstressing- beige linen pants with tassels

The other fantastic part about this pattern is that if you wanted to and were feeling extra creative, you could easily make it into a jumpsuit by attaching a bodice to the waist band.  I’m still a little hesitant to fully jump on this trend as I’m afraid I’m going to put all this energy into making a jumpsuit and 2 things will occur: 1. I’ll look like I’m wearing a onesie 2. by next year they’ll be out of style.  At least with these pants I have the satisfaction of turning them into shorts or using them as pajamas when no one is wearing them anymore.

Sweet Potato Seamstressing -summer beige linen pants

Lastly, how did I make those cute tassels? Well…Kollabora came out with the perfect tassel tutorial right as I was about to sit down to start writing about these pants. Turns out making tassels is really satisfying.

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4 thoughts on “Beige Linen “Harem” Pants Inspired by Madewell + Why the term “Harem Pants” should be avoided

  1. Lindsey

    First: AMEN on your statement about the term Harem Pants. Second: I love this version. Can you talk a little bit about the linen you chose? 100% cotton? Weight? Type? I am nervous to try these because I don’t want to end up in a crispy, paper bag. Thanks!

    • elana

      Thank you, on the disclaimer. It’s nice to know other people feel this way! As for the linen, great question. I didn’t put too much thought into it at the fabric store but I did chose I light weight, soft linen. I held the material up in front of a mirror to make sure it had a lot of drape before I bought it too, as I also didn’t want to end up looking crispy! I also only used interfacing on one half of the waistband.

    • elana

      Exactly, I have no idea! I think it is the elastic but I just don’t feel like that’s enough to qualify them. Thanks for the solidarity on the disclaimer.

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